Reading:
Set on postgrad medicine? Consider Arts.

Set on postgrad medicine? Consider Arts.

1 July, 2020

I have seen countless university peers embark on a traditional Biomedical Science Pre-Med pathway, only to be rejected come admissions time. Many of these students weren’t genuinely interested in a Biomedicine degree in the first place. As if 3 years of hard work and misery wasn’t enough, with no backup plan in place, these students now begrudge over the few research-related career prospects.


Think it won’t happen to you? The odds aren’t in your favour.

  • Given the sheer size of the Biomedicine/Pre-Med programs (600+) at leading institutions, the overwhelming majority of students (80%+) don’t end up studying medicine.
  • With over 10000 students at each of the biyearly GAMSAT sittings, and graduate programs taking in just over 1000 students per cycle, the odds aren’t good. This is even ignoring students in guaranteed and provisional pathways, or have already attained a competitive GAMSAT score in previous sittings.
  • If a career of further study and laboratory work doesn’t interest you, read on.

There has to be a better way, and indeed there is. See how a degree in a non-science discipline such as Bachelor of Arts, can lead you right back to a career in medicine.

“Arts? That’s completely irrelevant to medicine, I didn’t even know you could study that to get into medicine.” You’re right, it has nothing to do with medicine, but it could just as easily be your pre-med pathway. Allow me to explain.

ADMISSION BACKGROUND

“No preference is given to graduates with particular Bachelor degrees. The GAMSAT Consortium encourages individuals from diverse educational backgrounds who will bring to the profession a variety of talents and interests.” GEMSAS Admissions Guide 2020 (p.16)

A not well-known fact: GEMSAS accepts a wide range of undergraduate degrees.

GEMSAS does not care:

  • Where you completed your undergraduate degree (equal ranking between all universities and institutions).
  • What your undergraduate major was in (equal ranking between all majors).

COMPARE THE PAIR

Consider the following two students, Tom and Sally.

NameDegreeUniversityGrades (GPA)
TomBachelor of ArtsDeakin6.8(/7)
SallyBachelor of BiomedicineMelbourne6.15(/7)

Tom and Sally graduated high school with similar marks, whilst they both aim for postgraduate medical school entry, they chose to take different paths. At the time of application, Tom’s grades are higher than Sally’s.

Here’s the catch: Sally averages 6 hours of study per day, whilst Tom only studies occasionally, spending his free time working and socialising. Yet, with Sally’s GPA, she must gain an extra 9 GAMSAT points to rank evenly with Tom. Depending on which GAMSAT distribution curve you’re looking at, 9 GAMSAT points could be the difference between a 50th percentile score and a 90th percentile score.


Whilst many students debate the ‘fairness’ of this valuation, one thing is for certain – this marking scheme is here to stay, at least at the time of writing. This criterion is published for all students to understand and strategise around.

With careful analysis of the fine print within medical admissions, we can draw some important conclusions:

  • A student struggling within a prestigious course with harsh grading scheme would put themselves in better academic standing if excelling within a less prestigious course.
  • With the admissions process becoming increasingly competitive each year, high performing students have missed out on fine margins.
  • Any increase in GPA is advantageous from an admissions standpoint.

HOW YOU CAN BENEFIT FROM A NON-SCIENCE DEGREE:

  • Higher marks (hopefully). This is the most crucial point in medical school admissions, how you think you’ll rank academically should be a critical guiding factor in choosing an undergraduate program.
  • Time. It’s no secret, you’ll likely have more relaxed contact hours. Spend this time wisely, I took opportunities to volunteer, participate in extracurriculars and hold down 2 different hospital jobs. How you allocate your time could help you gain a valuable perspective on the realities of medicine, also, something to help you shine through when you reach the interview stage.
  • Backup plan. With more than 10 thousand students at any individual sitting of the GAMSAT, the odds are increasingly stacked against the prospective medical school applicant. It would be foolish to not consider a backup plan. If you were to graduate from a science degree without making it into medicine, the unique opportunity it would offer would be roles within science-based research. If this does not excite you, pick an undergraduate program that would lead to a better Plan B (commerce, engineering, design?).
  • Enjoyment. Specialise in a degree you are passionate about. Time and time again, students perform well in the subject matter they are interested in. Generally, you’d probably have a more enjoyable time at Uni as well (best years of your life, remember?).

CAVEATS

  • The advice in this blog post mainly pertains to students who want to be in the best academic standing for medical school selection.
  • If you currently enjoy and excel within your degree, and are confident good results will continue, it may be wise to stick out the course. Your choice in degree was likely well suited, and you may already be on the right track to achieving a highly competitive academic ranking.

FINAL THOUGHTS

It is promising to see, that some provisional programs from old institutions have begun to integrate this advice. The University of Sydney now offers a provisional program promoting the pathway from Bachelor of Arts to Doctor of Medicine. I hope that we will see an increased representation of non-science backgrounds within more and more medical schools throughout Australia.

Of course, analyse to see if this advice applies to you.

Good luck.

Related Stories