Medicine at Oxbridge - to apply or not?

(153 Posts)
wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 12:40:04

Hi all,
DS wants to study medicine. He has 10 A*s, 4As at AS and is taking 4 A levels. His UKCAT was 700. His careers teacher is keen that he applies to Oxford or Cambridge. DS is very laid back and relaxed, but unsure whether to give it a go or not. He is worried that - as medicine is so hard to get into - it could waste a choice.
So, could anyone answer the following questions:
1. Would a degree in medicine from Oxbridge be advantageous to his career?
2. Would the course be 'all work and no play'?
3. Would studying for the BMAT be a lot of extra work or would it benefit him academically?
4. Does Oxbridge produce better doctors?
5. He attends a state school and we both work - however - I have read stories that tickets for balls are around £100 each. As he would have to take a loan to pay the fees, I am concerned that there would be a lot of 'extras' which he could not afford. Is this the case?

I attended a RG university and do not know anyone who has been to Oxbridge. I would be very grateful for opinions regarding the above.

Dinocroc Sat 01-Sep-12 17:03:25

I went to Cambridge and studied medicine and it was brilliant. Certainly more play than work on balance. I managed to row and sing and work my way through some unsuitable men. I came from a state school that hadn't sent anyone there before to study medicine and they let me in despite not hitting all the grades ( remember when people got Bs ?!)The day to day living was cheap, many colleges have book grants, rent is cheap, most things are subsidised and there were even bursaries for people on full grants like I was( again, remember that?) . There are only three eight week terms a year for the first three years and so lots of time for holiday work to fill the bank account. I went to clinical school in London and found that much more expensive. I also think that there is a teensy bit of kudos attached to having been there when it comes to interviews and later job applications. Even though it's not politically correct to admit it. As to whether it makes better doctors though... Most of my contemporaries from Cambridge are a bit more academic/ research based than those from London . Most importantly he has to really want it though as the interviews are designed to pick up individual personality and drive ( as well as self awareness and humor) . Best of luck to him!

wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 17:11:20

Dinocroc - would he have to go to London for his clinical training? I understand that studying in London can be very expensive.

Three eight week terms - that would leave lots of time to get holiday work.

I take your point about him 'having to really want it'. He is very laid back in general - but determined when he puts his mind to something.

Dinocroc Sat 01-Sep-12 17:51:38

Nope you can stay there for clinical school, finishing six months earlier and starting house jobs six months ahead of those who go elsewhere. From memory there is space for about half the year to stay. I wanted to go elsewhere and friends of mine went to Oxford, Edinburgh, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester etc for clinical so there are lots of options other than London. My school told me I had no chance and that it was a waste of a place on the UCCA form, which was a good motivator for me wink

scottishmummy Sat 01-Sep-12 18:02:08

medicine is a good career if you have the academic and personal abilities
it's a job with people so need to be good at rapport
I don't necessarily think Oxbridge drs any better or worse,it's a demanding course but not all slog either. so do look at the different teaching style of the courses eg glasgow uni has problem based learning style. so maybe consider his learning style too

scottishmummy Sat 01-Sep-12 18:14:15

and of course. good luck to your son
do visits,Attend open days,look at prospectuses
hope he gets what he wants

wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 18:29:04

Dinocroc -DS is the opposite - his school is pushing him to have a go. Good to know he would have lots of choice where to do his clinical learning.

scottishmummy - he has lots of empathy and is good with people. He volunteers with people with brain injuries and loves it. He is 100% determined that medicine is the career for him. He has to complete his UCAS form by the 15th October so he hasn't long to make up his mind. He has been to see some med schools but not Oxford or Cambridge. He is very laid-back. Although it is more difficult for us living in NI.

I'm biased here (because I love my job) but has he considered dentistry instead of medicine? Much better work/life balance, less stress but still a wonderful job.

Tressy Sat 01-Sep-12 18:39:01

Just lurking. OP I think he should put it as one of his choices. With those grades it seems that he will have a good chance of getting an offer as long as he is equally as happy to go to one of his other choices.

Dincroc, you make it sound great fun. Mine is starting medicine but not at Oxbridge. First one that's got into medicine from her school in a few years too. Can I be cheeky and ask what grades you got? I know it was a while ago but just curious.

wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 18:41:14

Yes AK he did briefly consider dentistry. He decided against it as he thought that medicine would offer him more career pathways. He also decided on medicine for altruistic reasons. However his own dentist explained that she considered medicine, but decided on dentistry for the reasons you outline!

Iburntthecakes Sat 01-Sep-12 19:07:41

I'm also a Cambridge trained medic. The traditional teaching also includes the college supervision system which is a massive advantage in my opinion. It's several hours a week of small group teaching in addition to the lectures and speaking with graduates from other medical schools was more direct teaching than many other schools got. You have to like a lecture based system which I do despite sleeping through a lot of biochemistry due to rowing. I've also taught students from both Cambridge and other med schools who use PBL. PBL does seem to result in some gaps in my opinion although you often get Cambridge students focusing in on obscure detail that isn'tso important. That is a generalisation though and you can get good and bad doctors from all medical schools.
I do think it has been an advantage in my career however and taking a year out to do something other than medicine has also influenced and helped my career. If he is interested in research then it can be a big advantage due to networking opportunities and the fact he can do
his third year in a medical/science subject and get a BA. The only other thing is that the cambridge clinical course has also been extended to 3 years in line with other medical schools so it is an extra year of study in total.
The only other thing was I was directly asked in my interview at another medical school if I'd been offered a place at Cambridge. They didn't offer me a place but sent a letter suggesting i contact them if i didnt recieve any other offers. I think is because other medical schools may assume that Oxbridge is your first choice. Having said that I did also get an offer from somewhere else.
I'm also a state school student and had no problems fitting in. I'd agree with what others have commented on about costs.

Greatresult Sat 01-Sep-12 19:23:33

If you are in NI why not consider Queens Belfast? My DS seriously considered it and the campus is lovely. Really good reputation.

wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 19:32:02

Thank you Iburntthecakes for your valuable insight. I agree that spending an additional year getting a BA is a bonus. I know this happens at other med schools - but I don't think it is compulsory. It is great to hear that you value the college supervision system and another plus.

We have had a look at the financial support available and it is really impressive! I come from a working class home where we were encouraged to work hard. However, Oxbridge would have been considered 'out of our league'. Perhaps I still harbour some of those insecurities - it is really encouraging to hear that you had no problems fitting in. Thank you!

wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 19:35:17

Greatresult -he will put Queens down as a choice. I went to QUB and enjoyed it thoroughly. I don't know if league tables are important , but they are quite low and Oxbridge are at the top.

panicnotanymore Sat 01-Sep-12 19:45:53

He should decide for himself based on what HE thinks of the place. Mums need to know when to step back...

Best way for him to decide whether he will fit in (and fitting in is by far the most important thing) is for him to go to an open day, meet people, read the prospectus, and look round accommodation etc. Not everyone likes Oxbridge - I had straight As too, but didn't apply as Oxford was too near home, and everyone I met at Cambridge was freaky weird (apologies to those who went there....).

Dinocroc Sat 01-Sep-12 19:57:35

Hello Tressy I got AAB which gave me major worries when I found out everyone else's grades at freshers week smile . That said I always had no problem keeping up with good 2:1 s and even a sneaky first in my ethics dissertation at the end. You have to consider the push and education private schools provide in comparison to schools like mine .The playing field levels out massively when all that is removed. The people I met there were really friendly and inclusive, regardless of their background , some really inteesting and quirky and it makes me sad when I speak to some friends who never applied because of their presumption that it is snobbish. TBH I found London medical school much more cliquey public school hockey club but then that's just my experience

Knowsabitabouteducation Sat 01-Sep-12 19:58:17

I think the challenge is writing a personal statement that speaks to all four places he applies to.

scottishmummy Sat 01-Sep-12 20:06:30

queens is great uni, have you considered the Scottish unis
good luck

wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 20:33:25

Knowsabit - writing his personal statement will be a challenge , but even more so for students who are unsure which course to do. At least he is sure he wants to do medicine.

Yes scottishmummy he is considering Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh. His careers teacher advised him that their selection process is an unknown entity. I know they don't hold interviews. Edinburgh also has good bursaries so financially it would work out well.

Greatresult Sat 01-Sep-12 21:17:24

Aberdeen and Dundee most definitely interview. Edinburgh does not (unless it's changed for coming year).

mellen Sat 01-Sep-12 21:20:55

There are forums that describe the admission process to different medical schools in detail - the student room and new media medicine for example.

wehaveonlyjustbegun Sat 01-Sep-12 21:37:35

Have heard of the student room but not new media medicine - willl get DS to have a look.

Thanks to all for giving their perspectives - DS has learnt a lot from reading the responses - especially regarding bursaries! He should have went along to Oxbridge open days but left it too late to get a place. But he has received lots of insider's info from this thread.

Sincere thanks.

Tressy Sat 01-Sep-12 21:37:45

Thanks Dino, I've heard, even in this day and age they do allow a grade drop here and there for those from lower achieving schools.

BesideTheSeasideBesideTheSea Sat 01-Sep-12 23:09:53

Med schools aren't allowed to ask any more if you've applied to other universities, it also gets blanked out when your application gets sent out to read. It's on the list of banned topics, although you can talk about it if the interviewee brings it up. Unless its changed in the 4 years since I was last on the interview panel, but I doubt it as it was getting more strict

Yellowtip Sat 01-Sep-12 23:12:27

DS1 is about to start at Oxford in October. His sisters - who are also there - know plenty of medics. The all work no play thing depends entirely on the individual. The medics do have to work hard, clearly, but not to the exclusion of all else. In fact at interview the tutors are very keen to establish that the student has extra curriculars that he intends to pursue precisely to provide relaxation and change.

Your DS's 10A*s will put him in a strong position at Oxford to get an interview, unless he fluffs the BMAT. The GCSEs are adjusted for school, and the A*s are totted up as a percentage of the total number of GCSEs taken. The score is then fed into a computer and mashed up with the BMAT score. That decides who gets an interview and each candidate gets an interview at his first choice college plus a second interview at a randomly selected second choice college.

As far as finances go, Oxford must be one of the cheapest universities to attend, balls or no balls. (even a high priced ball - £175 - amortized over the year amounts to peanuts tbh). The Oxford Opportunity Bursary scheme is extremely generous and there has just been a huge, eye-watering donation been made to support less well off students, above and beyond the OOB scheme. In the light of these, college choice matters little, financially.

Your DS needs to get his skates on really, unless he intends a gap year. Take care with the PS. It isn't a factor in dtermining an Oxford interview but it will count in the selection process and be a basis for discussion at interview. But it will count in the initial selection process elsewhere. in other words it needs to be aimed at both audiences, which can take some skill.

BesideTheSeasideBesideTheSea Sat 01-Sep-12 23:12:36

Oh, and med schools don't 'cull' the bottom of the year even if you pass exams. If you pass you continue on to the next year. If you fail, depending on how many and how badly and which medical school, they will offer an exam resit, resit the year or say after much discussion your not suitable, but that tends to happen if you repeatedly fail exams and miss lectures etc

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