Your Fifth UCAS Choice

Last updated: 29/08/2021

You are allowed to select four medical schools in your application when you apply for medicine via UCAS. You are then given the option of a fifth choice, which can be anything except medicine.

What’s the point of a fifth choice?

Many people use this option as insurance to fall back on in case they do not receive any offers to study medicine. There are two possibilities as to what your fifth option may be:

A microscope, syringe and blood sample. A science-related course is a great fifth UCAS choice
  • A science-related course such as biomedicine or pharmacy
    This seems to be a popular option as you can potentially apply for medicine as a graduate after successfully completing this type of course.
Film or history as fifth UCAS choice
  • A completely unrelated course such as film or history
    This is your university application, so feel free to make choices that suit you best. If you do not want to pursue medicine right away if you are rejected first time around, you could choose a different subject as your fifth choice. Bear in mind, if you think you may want to apply for medicine again in the future, that gaining entry to medical school as a non-science graduate is more challenging.

Your personal statement, which is very likely to be focused on medicine, may be influenced by the decision you make about your fifth choice. Usually, if you apply for a related course, universities are happy to consider you using the same personal statement that you used for your medical applications. However, it is always worth checking with your fifth choice whether a medicine-focused personal statement is suitable or whether they would accept a separate personal statement more specific to the course in question.

If you have a secret passion for learning Italian or fashion design, your medicine personal statement is unlikely to reflect this. So using your medicine statement is a risk in such cases. Check with the course administrators whether you can submit a separate personal statement to them for their course. If not, perhaps you would prefer to take a year out and reapply, pursuing a new direction.

Abigail – St George’s, University of London
‘After much deliberation on whether I should pick a completely unrelated subject as my fifth choice, I decided to be practical and chose neuroscience as it would have been an ideal platform to do medicine as a graduate should the situation have presented itself. I have always been interested in how the brain works and felt that it was a course I would have enjoyed pursuing. Researching the entry requirements and selecting a suitable university to apply to didn’t take as much time as I thought it would and I felt a lot more secure after deciding to put a fifth choice down.’
Desh – University College London
‘There was some conflict among my friends who were applying to medicine as to whether it was worthwhile putting down a fifth choice. In the end I chose to apply for biomedical sciences at King’s. While I didn’t take up this offer it did feel like it had been a sensible choice had I not achieved the minimum grades needed to get into medicine. I felt like this would give me a solid grounding in medical sciences that would be useful if I decided to go for a graduate medicine route. Having a fifth choice is a good safety net if things don’t go as hoped. Invest a little thought in your fifth choice and pick something that you could imagine yourself seriously considering if your medical applications doesn’t work out.’

What if I don’t feel the need for a fifth choice?

You may have various reasons for taking this viewpoint. For example:

Various reasons for not feeling a need for UCAS fifth choice

A fifth choice is not compulsory so ultimately the choice is yours. It is a safety net for many applicants and gives you an alternative if things go wrong with your application, or on results day if you do not get the grades you need. Most people do put down a fifth choice and there is nothing to be lost in doing so.

What if I’m confused about what to choose?

Your careers advisor will be a great point of contact for more personalised advice. Look up courses related to medicine at universities you like or through general course search websites. Common choices include, but are not limited to, biomedical sciences, biochemistry and psychology; chemistry, biology or an allied health profession course.

Carefully consider how competitive the courses you are applying to are and how useful and relevant they would be if you wanted to use them as platform for graduate medicine.

Ultimately, give your fifth choice serious thought, thinking carefully about the potential scenario of not getting into medical school. Be honest and realistic with yourself and, if in doubt, it is safer to pick something you may be interested in rather than taking a gamble and leaving the option blank.

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