Aoife Walsh: It can be tough getting a place in medicine, but there are plenty of routes to consider
While entry to medical school can be highly competitive, there are many options for those determined to pursue this area of study.
CAO and HPAT
The most direct route is at undergraduate level, through the CAO. Five colleges in the Republic offer it: TCD, UCD, RCSI, UCC and NUI Galway. Cut-off points in 2017 ranged from 734 and 725. Students who have only one science subject in their Leaving Cert have the option of doing a six-year programme at NUI Galway, the RCSI or UCD.
Along with Leaving Cert results, students must sit the HPAT entry test. The deadline for registration for HPAT is January 20 and the test takes place on February 24. Applicants will need their CAO number to register for the HPAT, so it will not be possible to do this until CAO opens in November. Mature students may also apply in this way.
Those who have achieved a minimum 2.1 in their first undergraduate degree, in any discipline, may apply for graduate medicine at RCSI, UL, UCC and UCD through the CAO. Offers are based on results achieved in the GAMSAT test. The GAMSAT is a little different from the HPAT as it contains a section on scientific knowledge and students would benefit from preparation. GAMSAT testing will take place in March. Research has shown that students who studied a non-science related field, such as arts, in their primary degree, perform no worse than classmates from a science or engineering background. Graduate medicine fees are subsidised by the government, but students are liable for a large portion. However, a number of financial institutions provide products to finance this course, which include a four-year moratorium on payments.
Applications for medicine in the UK and Northern Ireland must be submitted to UCAS by October 15. Students will need to take a test for entry, likely to be the UKCAT, BMAT or HPAT UK. Registration for UKCAT, the required entrance test for Queen's University, has closed. It is still possible to apply to take the BMAT, as late applications close on October 15.
There are many opportunities for school-leavers to study medicine through English in Europe. These courses often have lower entry requirements, lower fees and are recognised by the Irish Medical Council. Organisations such as medicalpoland.ie and Study Medicine Europe facilitate and support students to find and enter these courses. Medicalpoland will be holding interviews in Dublin in April. Other universities that offer medicine through English include the University of Groningen and University of Maastricht in the Netherlands. They were both listed higher in the university world rankings last year than any Irish university. While these two courses do not qualify applicants to practice medicine, both institutions offer a follow-on masters' degree that qualifies graduates to practice medicine in Europe. For more information, see eunicas.ie, medicalpoland.ie and studymedicineeurope.com.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin
Q I am in sixth year and am trying my best to balance study, homework and college preparation. I feel a bit overwhelmed by all the deadlines and dates which I must keep track of and I am terrified I may miss an important deadline. How can I ensure that I keep on top of it all?
A For many students, sixth year is the first time they must manage such a large number of responsibilities and this can be challenging. To my knowledge, all schools encourage students to use homework journals from the first day of first year. I am also aware that, by the time many students reach sixth year, they see it as something needed by younger students only. It's time to take out this diary again and make full use of it. This will allow students to keep all important dates, deadlines and tasks in the one place. Use this book to write down all your homework, but also to mark deadlines on the day they are due. For example, "RSR (research study report) draft due today". In addition, take an hour or two over the weekend to write in any open days you wish to attend and all CAO deadlines, and any other important deadlines. Once you have done this, you will have your entire list of important deadlines in one place. You will also find important and relevant dates on this page every week.