Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 22 Apr 2010

My high-flying son has been rejected by three medical schools in Scotland. Is this anti-English? Ironically, we live in Essex but are Scots.

Hillary's Advice

I didn’t think it could be, but I was wrong. Look closely at Edinburgh University’s website and the bias is spelled out in the small print. The university gives ‘additional weighting’ to applicants for some courses depending on where they live.

Whatever you think of this, and a lot of people think very poorly of it, the fact is that there is growing pressure on places at all popular universities and it makes sense for parents to help their children take the most strategic approach possible to their applications. In this case it might have meant somehow procuring a suitably Scottish home address for the applicant. In other cases, different tactics can pay off. I know of one mother who says she successfully steered her well-spoken but grammar school-educated son into Cambridge by researching all the student data she could find and then pointing him towards a posh college in obvious need of more state-educated students to broaden its student intake.

But it is not at all unusual for good medical school applicants to be rejected by all the universities they apply for. The demand for places is extraordinarily high. Determined candidates often apply again the following year after using their gap year to gain relevant experience by working at some menial job in the health service. And many are successful, not only because they are more thoughtful and mature, but also because they have shown real commitment and have plenty to talk about in their interviews.