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Choosing your 5th choice on your medical school application

Updated: Aug 7, 2022

Congratulations for taking the plunge towards applying for medical school! It can be daunting, scary and confusing! Not only is there a maze of multiple processes you must complete when applying for medical school - open days, check; UCAT, check; personal statment, check - but you also have to do all of this before your non-medical applicant friends! This makes the whole experience very overwhelming. An easily overlooked option when focusing on your medical school application is that sneaky little 5th choice you must decide for, if you do not get into medicine, or choose not to take your offer.

Medicine is a competitive degree to get into there's no denying that! It is also not a degree for everyone and one where you may find yourself changing your mind (which is completely OKAY!) so it is important to take this fifth option seriously, as it could be the gateway to your future career. Here are some top tips to take into account when considering that all important 5th choice:

1. What are you passionate about?!

This would be a choice that may seem obvious but may be harder to appreciate. As medicine has been at the forefront of your mind, you may not have considered other things you are also passionate about if medicine isn’t the path you take. What I found helpful when picking this 5th choice was writing down things I found were interesting to learn about, alongside things I would look for in a job. Having a broad basis of what I’m hoping to achieve from my career made the process of choosing that 5th option a lot easier.

2. Where do you want to go?

Choosing your fifth option course is important, but so is choosing the university you wish to attend. Take time to consider this carefully, and then when the decision is made look thoroughly through the degrees offered - unlike medicine they may have more niche options which spark your interest or joint honours/placement years and so much more to consider.

3. Would you choose to do graduate medicine?

If medicine isn’t the path you find yourself on straight away, is it something you may wish to do in the future after completing another degree? In this case choosing a related degree such as biomedical science may be beneficial. However, if not, and you choose to go down a different route, you may have a wide variety of courses and careers to look through and consider. Do not feel pressured to stick to one niche due to your medical school application as it is likely you will have multiple interests.

4. Open days

A “back-up” choice is still a choice - see it as a viable future for you. Whilst it is likely you may choose a course at a university where you have applied for medicine - going to an open day and seeing the department for your fifth choice can help you decide if you are happy with your decision should you end up on this course, as it is important you know you will be happy wherever you attend.

There are lots to consider when making that fifth choice, and whilst it may not be your number 1 option, it may just end up being your true passion in life so dont disclude it. You never know it could be your calling! Evaluate all choices equally and dont be too hard on yourself, take time to go over these options whilst also taking time to focus on you and your mental health as it is a big decision, and always reach out for support if you are struggling in any capacity.

Written By Leah Brooks

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