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Why do some 99.95 ATAR students choose Provisional entry for medicine?


There are broadly two types of medical courses for school leavers: “Direct Entry” (for example at Curtin, Adelaide, Monash, WSU, Newcastle, UNSW, and JCU) and ‘Provisional entry’ (for example at UWA, Flinders, UniMelb, USyd, UQ, Griffith and Bond).

‘Provisional entry’ is also called ‘guaranteed entry’ or ‘assured entry’ or ‘Chancellor's scholar pathway’ and even misleadingly as ‘direct entry’ (by UWA).

There are many disadvantages of provisional entry programs which are discussed in other blogs on this site. They are generally designed to benefit the university, while the direct entry programs are far better for you.

So why do some high ATAR students choose these provisional entry programs?

There may be several reasons:

  • They may have performed poorly in UCAT which is the requirement for most ‘direct entry’ programs. For example, many such students with high ATARs, but poor UCAT scores, end up at UniMelb, USyd, Griffith or Bond
  • They may have performed poorly at interviews (such students end up at Griffith/Flinders for example, where there is no interview; or at USyd where the interview is just a formality; or at UniMelb where the interview is after completing your first degree - a big risk!). Do you really want to go to such unis where some of your colleagues are likely to have been 'rejected' at interview (so lack personal skills)?
  • By capping the number of ‘provisional entry’ pathway places, these universities artificially create an impression that, due to the score required being very high, the pathway must be good, which tempts many students. The universities have created this pathway to go some way towards compensating for the generally far weaker cohort of their graduate entry pathway students.
  • The ‘herd effect’, that is, students doing what others are doing instead of making independent decisions based on rational analysis. There is a lot of misinformation, partly perpetuated by the ‘sandstone’ universities that the ‘provisional entry’ pathway is better (yes, it’s better, but for them, not you!).
  • They may not be aware of the significant risks and disadvantages of the 'provisional entry' pathway.
  • They are lured by other factors such as the prestige of the university (it has no influence in medicine) or that this pathway produces 'better' doctors (a myth perpetuated by these universities). Another factor is that they are unsure of medicine as a career: if so, the best way to find out is to jump right in and test it, rather than completing an irrelevant degree. If you find medicine is unsuitable, you can always quit with ample credit for the courses completed and transfer to other programs. Yet another factor is that the uni close to their home: what they fail to realise is that in medicine, you go the uni campus only for the first two years: rest of the time is spent in hospitals!

Many very high ATAR students who 'choose' (rather than 'compelled' into it, due to being denied the 'direct entry' option), regret their decision later on in life, once the reality of the matter dawns on them.

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