Studying Medicine

Step by Step: Applying to Med School in South Africa

A large number of Google searches relating to this topic directs to my blog. I have been working on this post for a reasonable amount of time (most of if in my head) and I hope this will help. Note that if you are an international student (in other words, not South African or her neighbour) or a student with a prior undergraduate degree, this advice might not sufficiently answer all your questions. If you are a medical student and would like to add to these, feel free to let me know!

how to apply to med

Step 0: Decide to study medicine

This is not as easy for some as it is for others. As I have said before: don’t believe for one second that it has to be a dream you have cherished since you could talk.

Nevertheless, consider your options carefully. Know what med school is like. Forget the idea that it is glamorous. Realise that you will be entering a war zone. Realise that you will be dealing with HIV and TB and violent trauma centres. Realise that you will work long hours. Realise that in South Africa, doctors are no longer the “rich and famous”. Realise that passion is a big component, but that it is not enough to sustain a successful career. Realise that you will be required to complete internship and ComServe and that it, too, may not be as exciting as you think it will be at the age of 18. Also, read this really good post by Hopeful Doc about reasons NOT to go into medicine. Be open-minded.

Pros and Cons of Med School, by The Health Scout (click for source)

Step 1: Visit the university’s website

This requires some of your own initiative and sleuthing. Not all South African universities have equally user-friendly portals for prospective students (not an isolated phenomenon: it goes for a lot of North American and European universities too). Stellenbosch University has a good portal,, which guides you pretty much every step of the way. They also have their prospectus online. The University of the Free State has a reasonably easy-to-navigate system. Point is, you need to check this out yourself. I’m just giving guidelines.

Things to find on the website when you find it:

  • admission requirements – small degrees of variability do occur among the different institutions
  • language requirements and language policies (for example parallel medium vs T-option vs single medium teaching)
  • online applications: whether or not these are available may significantly impact your timeline for applying
  • closing date: note that application deadlines for health sciences are as a rule different than the deadlines for other programs! For the majority of institutions the 2014 deadline is 31 May.
  • student life – if you you haven’t had the opportunity to visit the campus in person, use the website and social media to get an idea of whether you will enjoy the particular institution.

Step 2: Have the right subjects

This is pretty much non-negotiable, and is the reason I always tell Grade 9s to keep their doors open when they choose subjects. Science, for example, keeps doors open. To the best of my knowledge, all medical schools in South Africa currently require applicants to have Mathematics, Physical Science (the Physics AND Chemistry component) and Life Sciences (a.k.a. Biology) as Matriculation subjects, and they will not compromise on this (as well they should not).

Furthermore, high marks are required for admission to the degree. As such, you should be aiming for averages in all subjects (especially, but not limited to the pre-reqs) of above 90%. It is still quite possible to get admission with averages of 80-89%, especially with good co-curriculars, so don’t freak out.

Have the wrong subjects or poor results? If you are convinced that medicine is the only career for you, you can still fix it by doing a year post-matric to get your prerequisite subjects done. Also investigate bridging courses and Extended Degree Programs.

Step 3: Have good co-curriculars

South African medical schools (as all medical schools, I assume) require students who are talented in multiple facets of their lives and are able to multitask and handle fast-paced lives. The irony is that med school does not allow all that much time to continue these co-curriculars. Nevertheless, the assumption is that a student who does academically well while juggling non-academic activities, will perform well at university.

Have at least one sport or cultural activity – preferably one you can do well at (unfortunately not all schools have equally wide varieties on offer). Debating, a musical instrument, team or solo sports, all of these and many more are acceptable.

Step 4: Leadership

This is something that is also of importance to medical schools and requires a bit of foresight. Serving on the leadership structure of your co-curricular activities kills two birds with one stone. There are other opportunities too though, and they need not be confined to school-based activities. Think religious-affiliation leadership (e.g. Sunday school teacher) or teaching at winter schools.

Step 5: Community Service

This is an oft-neglected, but extremely important, area. That you show an active interest in community building is extremely important to your future medical school. It does not have to pertain to healthcare: it is the ability to interact and care and give of yourself that is important to them. That said, don’t underestimate the value of healthcare-related activities, such as hosting Christmas parties in long-term hospital wards. Long-term projects and especially projects that you started and brought to success can provide an extra boost.

(Personal experience: I served on our school’s Interact Committee and was part of the society for four years. We interacted with children at the nearby hospital, organised fundraisers, visited elderly homes and orphanages. It took maybe three hours of my week, at most five during busy planning phases. You don’t have to inundate yourself, you just have to show that you have done something actively.)

Step 6: Shadowing

This is VERY subjective. From what I can gather, shadowing is a big thing in the USA. Your choice school may or may not require proof of shadowing – mine did not, and I did not shadow either (although perhaps my service activities in hospital helped). However, if you do have time to do so, I would strongly recommend a period of shadowing. Not only can this help you understand your future career and whether it is a good choice for you, but it could earn you a nice reference letter.

Step 7: Application

DO APPLY IF MEDICINE IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO. Do not let anyone convince you that you will not make it and therefore should not apply. It is YOUR future. You will have a whole set of documents the university requires. Basic application forms, past school reports, those kinds of things. I say: GIVE THEM MORE. Whenever I have applied to things – university, conferences, Semester at Sea, bursaries – I have always submitted more than they asked for. I don’t know if this is wise when actually applying for a job, but in all these other settings it has never failed me. The worst they can do is not read the extra documents, right?

So, I ALWAYS include a cover/motivational letter. Not all South African medical schools ask why you want to do medicine; but who says that knowing your reason won’t help?

I ALWAYS include a Curriculum Vitae. Why? Because the forms they give you to complete has one little line for co-curriculars, for example, and that just does not suffice. I don’t submit a long and irrelevant CV, but I submit one that paints me in the best possible light.

Applying to medical school means selling yourself. You have to make the admissions board WANT YOU AT THEIR INSTITUTION. And, sometimes, a few duly completed forms just does not do that very well.

All institutions will require you to apply for second and third choices. Do not place another healthcare field (occupational therapy, physiotherapy, etc) as a second or third choice. Very few institutions look favourably upon that, because it appears that you do not know what you really want to do. Also, the Allied Health Sciences do not appreciate being a second or third choice. There is no real evidence as to what is a “good” second and third choice to write down. Some say it should be something related, like a Bachelors of Science in Human Life Sciences. However, if (touch wood) you are NOT accepted to medicine, the second or third choice should be something you actually want to do. So… choose accordingly.

Apply everywhere. This is user-dependent, but if medicine is the ONLY thing you want to do and you worry you will not get admission, APPLY EVERYWHERE. Or at least to as many as you can afford – most applications carry an application fee upwards of ZAR200.

Step 8: Reference Letters

This goes with the CV-thing. Not all schools request reference letters, but if you can get a good one, then by all means submit it. I would not suggest more than two letters, unless the school specifically requests a specific number. It is not necessary to get a letter from someone in the healthcare profession: it is far more important for it to be someone who knows you and your work-ethic well. One can smell a waffled reference letter miles away and it only does you harm.

Step 9: National Benchmark Tests

South African medical schools don’t have SATS or MCATS, but they do have NBTs. Some schools have additional tests they want you to write. Be sure you register for the RIGHT tests – you will need to write the AQL and MAT for most healthcare-related fields. Get a good balance between testing early or late. Writing later gives your the opportunity to have more confidence as you progress through maths at school, but reduces your chances of writing a second time should your results be worse than expected.

Just a pointer: NBTs do matter quite a bit with admission (not all institutions admit this, but it is a casual observation my peers and I made when we got our NBT results). However, studying into the early hours of the morning is not going to help you a lot, because a lot of the testing is based on problem-solving ability. In other words, the testing material will be quite different from what you are doing in high school, and they have a good reason for that. Study a little beforehand, but more importantly, get good sleep hygiene going in the weeks beforehand and train your brain with problem-solving challenges rather than rote math exercises.

Step 10: Wait…

The waiting game is hard, especially since you probably have a lot of other things (EXAMS) causing anxiety at the same time. If you get your results and you are wait-listed, stay on the list. I know someone who was 100th on the waiting list and managed to get to the front!

That said, if you get accepted to more than one school, try not to take too long to decline those spots you will not use. Remember, there are people waiting on those lists!

If you are not accepted, try not spew hatred on social networks. I know it sucks, and it is acceptable and expected for you to be upset. If medicine is still what you want to do, there are ways to get to it. Do a post-matric, or a B.Sc. Keep trying.

I hope this helps. I am happy to answer any questions either in the comments or via email (although in the comments it serves to help other readers too).

More posts on this topic for you:

How does medical school in South Africa work?ย Nine non-traditional things to do in preparation for medical schoolย Why didn't i get into medical school?


132 thoughts on “Step by Step: Applying to Med School in South Africa”

  1. LOL at clinically useless phrases like currant jelly sputum. Your advice is great. I didn’t know people also considered South Africa for med school. I know the Carribeans is more popular it would be really exciting

    1. Oh no, I wasn’t writing this from an American perspective. South Africa offers MB.ChB not MD so it is not very commonly attended by American students. It is commonly attended by South African students ๐Ÿ˜‰ hence the bit at the beginning about foreign students ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Even though this post doesn’t apply to me, it’s especially interesting to read about the similarities and differences from the process of getting in over here in Canada. It’s so crazy that you guys have to go in right out of high school! Definitely pros and cons to that.

    1. I always like reading about different systems as well. Going in straight out of high school is quite hectic. Financially it is more viable but I definitely think from a maturity/wellness aspect your system might work better, and perhaps I would have preferred it. It just isn’t tenable in an under-resourced setting such as our own.

  3. Hi I want to study medicine but I need to bridge some of my subject because I don’t met the requirement /the point for medicine so can you be able to help me.

    1. Hi Vusi,
      You will need to find out from the medical schools you are interested in what their options are. Stellenbosch has an Extended Degree Program specifically for cases like yours, and Wits has a bridging course, but every university is different. Call, email or go on their website and I am sure you will find the required information. Good luck!

  4. good evening thanks for such helpful words but I would also like to know about how do you apply for a BSc or post-matric .. and in whivh varsity?

    1. Hi Zamabhele, you can apply to any varsity, just the normal way that you would apply to any degree. If your ultimate goal is to apply to med school, then I would apply to do a BSc at the same school where you want to study medicine. If not, you can apply at any university you wish. Post-Matrics are a bit more confusing and you will need to talk to each university separately about that, as they all have different guidelines for post-matrics.

  5. i wanna learn merdical school but the prob is i didn’t finisg school my parents didn’t afford to pay my fees….i am at gud at school nd i want to go bac to school here in South Africa,i want to start from grade 10….wat shud i do how do i get a school to learn

    1. Hi Sithandokuhle. What are you doing at the moment? I would strongly suggest going to your nearest FET college and enrolling in Grade 10 studies. Many FET colleges allow you to do Grade 10 and 11 in one year, so you can finish Matric within the next two years! If you are struggling financially you should ask their bursaries office if they can help you with a bursary. Just make sure that you do Math, Science and Bio! I am so glad you want to do medicine, and because you have struggled in life you will also be able to have empathy with your patients one day. You can do it – good luck!

  6. I’m a 32 year old physical training instructor in the military and I do part- time as an aerobics instructor for virgin active. I want to study medicine because I believe there is a huge relationship between what I do currently and being a doctor. I did accounting at school and I’m a Bcom drop out. How do I prepare myself for medical school?

    1. Hi Mzi, I think it’s so great that you want to pursue medicine. I think your first point of order should be to ensure that you have the correct high school subjects. If you don’t have HG Math, Science and Biology, then you should enroll to do Maths, Science and Life Sciences (through UNISA is a good idea because then you can continue working while you do it). Once you have those sorted, you can start the application process. You might also consider getting some volunteer experience somewhere, but I think your life and work experience will already be beneficial to your application. Good luck!

    2. Hello, I’m currently a student going to grade 11 and I have all the required subjects needed to enter into Med school. I want to go into Ob/Gyn or general surgery, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to cope or if the many years and hours of work will pay off. Do you have any advice for me?

      1. Hi Zaah – it’s great that you have a plan! OBGYN and general surgery are both great fields, but as you correctly say, they both have heavy workloads. Look, you must keep in mind that your mind may change as the years go by. Many medical students change their minds about specialties several times through their studies, and that’s okay. So at this point, you shouldn’t really be asking yourself if you’ll be able to cope with those specific specialties, but rather if you will be able to cope with medicine, and if you WANT to do medicine. Those are hard questions to answer, and I’ll think about them a bit, in order to answer them properly. I may even write a post about it! Good luck ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Thanks for the great info.
    What will happen if I apply for medical school for 2016, am accepted, and at the end of this year do not feel mature enough to leave home? I live 6 hours away from Cape Town.
    Can I postpone my studies for a year or will I have to reapply and will it be a disadvantage if I do take a year off? I would use this year to perhaps study first year bach of science through unisa.
    Any advice?

    1. Hi Loren – that’s a really hard question. The first thing I should tell you is that you will probably never feel ready. I didn’t, and neither did my friends when they started med school. Similarly I didn’t feel ready to start clinical work, or student internship, and the night before I started working this year I nearly had an anxiety attack.

      As high achievers we are used to feeling prepared for everything, but the more you push yourself, the more you will have instances of feeling totally unprepared. And that’s okay, but it takes some time getting used to.

      But to answer your question: As far as I know, South African universities don’t allow deferring acceptance to a subsequent year. It would be best to contact each university separately and ask them their protocol, but I strongly suspect that not taking your acceptance would result in you losing your spot and having to re-apply.

      Whether or not you take the “gap” year is up to you. It works for some and not for others, but I would strongly suggest researching it thoroughly. If you’re undecided by the time applications are due, just submit the application, so that if you do decide you want to study immediately you have the opportunity.

      You’re at the cusp of big life decisions and it is daunting – I hope this helps somewhat. You’re always welcome to ask more questions if you need!

  8. Hey there!

    I am an African student completing my IB (high school) diploma somewhere in Europe. I’d like to study medicine in UCT starting 2016 however I feel my chances are slim :/. I’m planning to not only meet their minimum requirements but to go well beyond that. Nevertheless, what year are you doing now and which university are you in? And if I may ask what were your scores, the ranges will do for your finals and NBTs. And another concern is scholarship and the fact that I’d like to live on campus. I was considering my government or maybe the
    Mastercard scholarship. By the way what is the criteria for residence allocation? If you have any idea.

    Thanks in advance

  9. Hey barefoot I would like to say its a privilege to have someone like you who helps both – citizen and foreign – hopeful medics ๐Ÿ™‚ you are the only one in sa. Im a 20 yr old who desperately wants to study medicine. Which bachelor of science must I take that will make me creditable to enroll to mbchb after 1st year ? Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ oh and I saw you on thestudentdoctor network

  10. I am in my 3rd year studying psychology and am interested in studying to become a general practioner/surgeon. I did pure maths in matric but not science. In my degree I have done stats too. Would I get into this field?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Nadia, I think they may insist on some kind of science. The best would be to contact the admissions offices and find out, there might be a bridging course in science that you can do.

    1. Hi Madima. I’m unfortunately not sure of the Zambian officials, but our universities generally seem to be up to date with the different SADC qualifications. I think you should contact the admissions offices and international students’ offices of the different universities and ask them. I just write what I know, but I don’t officially represent any of the universities. Good luck with your endeavour!

  11. Hello there sir. I’m a 1st year student at Wits University and I’m doing a BSc (Biological Sciences) majoring in Chemistry and Biology. My other modules include Maths and Physics. Can you please advice me on how I can get into medical school through this route? I’m not only relying in the Wits Medical school; I’m prepared to attend any other one if only I can know what to do, know all my options and alternatives. Thank you.

    1. Hi Moses. You may be surprised to find that I am not sir, but that’s no biggie. As I did not do a BSc I can’t offer you any first-hand advice, but from my friends I can tell you this:
      you should apply to med school every year while studying, as you don’t necessarily have to finish the entire BSc before applying. Definitely work your hardest – most medical schools only accept about 10-20 BSc students every year, so it’s very competitive. Try every possible university, but your chances are probably are best at Wits itself (most medical schools prefer to take BSc students from their own universities).
      The nice thing about Wits, of course, is the GEMP – which is also, from what I hear, extremely competitive.
      The only additional advice that I could find is to try to befriend an admissions counselor to the medical school. They can often offer your insider tips to getting accepted.
      It’s a difficult road, but not impossible. I have a guest post coming soon by a student who did BSc first, which may help more.
      Good luck!

  12. Hi, I am a grade 11 student and I would like to study medicine. I usually get above 85% for maths and biology and above 70% for science. I am a white male and usually hear about top academic achievers who do not get into medical school because of the racial kwota system. I play in our school band and I also play rugby. I really work hard in all my subjects. Is there any hope for me to get into medical school? What if I do not get in after I have a bsC degree?

    1. Hi Wian. I really wish I could say “You’ll totally get in” – but I know that with a shortage of med schools there is no level of certainty.
      You sound like a well-rounded individual, so you have that going for you. Are you doing any community service? If not, I would recommend it. It doesn’t have to be in healthcare, any type of community service will do.
      Another piece of advice I have is to get some extra science tutoring. Above 70 for science is good, but you’re competing against a MASSIVE field of students, so the higher you can get it, the better. If you can afford extra classes, do that. If not, get yourself a book with old papers (the Question Answer series worked well for me) and graft through it.
      As for what if you do not get in after a BSc… I don’t know. It’s such a scary prospect, I know that. I’m going to tout another post I wrote long ago, I don’t know if it will help.
      I hope this helps somewhat. Let me know if you have further questions!

  13. My name is Tuelo Mokgothu, a very young adjourned boy and at school I am doing science + technical subjects which are of the following :

    1. Physical sciences
    2. Mechanical technology
    3. Mathematics
    4. Engineering and graphics design
    5. Life orientation
    6. Setswana
    7. English

    Am I still able to apply for medicine without life sciences? My dream is to become a Doctor.

    1. Hi Tuelo – the best advice I have for you is to visit each medical school’s individual websites and see what their admission requirements are. I’m reasonably sure that most universities now do require Life Sciences, but perhaps there are some who only have it as a recommended subject and not a compulsory subject. If this is not the case, you need not give up on your dreams. You might simply take an extra year out to do the whole Life Sciences syllabus and write the matric exam for it. Good luck!

  14. hi my name is sisipho and I would love to study medicine but I didn’t pass maths that well but I did and im currently looking to study Bsc and Im hoping it will give some credibility .I don’t know help me and oh I passed well except for maths and its atrue stumbling block im stuck I don’t want to give up on my dream of one day becoming a neurosurgeon

    1. Hi Sisipho, you certainly don’t have to give up your dream! You may just find that it takes you a while longer to fulfill that dream. Doing a BSc will help a lot. Many universities do offer bridging courses, but you will have to approach each one individually to find out what they have on offer. Most universities also offer an Extended Degree Program for students who did not quite reach the requirements but have the potential to do so. Approach the admissions offices of each university directly to see what you are eligible for. Good luck!

  15. Hi ๐Ÿ™‚
    BRILLIANT website with excellent information that clarifies a lot of ‘grey’ confusing areas. You have lots of empathy and a good understanding of the system. So nice that you have taken the time to disseminate information to others. Well done and good luck with your career!

  16. i’m 19years old I finish school last year and I was doing physical science,life science, mathematics and accounting.becoming a doctor is my dream and I have to have it reality because l want to help people and decrease the rate of disease in south africa

  17. Hie, I’m a BSc student doing 2nd year. lm doing Biochemistry and Physiology as my major subjects with an intention of pursuing in the medical field particularly MBCHB. Would it be possible to study MBCHB upon completion of my BSc and will they creditation of some sort?

    1. Hi Alois, I’m fairly certain you will be able to pursue the medical field with such a BSc, but you will need top-notch marks. As for accreditation: it really depends. Usually if you study medicine at the same institution that you did your BSc, they might give you a few credits for first year subjects like chemistry and physiology. There is also the option of applying for the graduate entry medical program at Wits, which is a shorter course for students who already have another degree.
      Good luck with your journey forward!

  18. Hi. Thanks for all the amazingly useful info!! Can you please tell me how many community service hours I need in order to get into medicine. Thanks.

    1. Hi Alison – I don’t think any of the medical schools have a set amount of hours that they want. What they want is a concerted effort in the community – so, rather than 100 hours done all in one week, they like to see that you have devoted (just for example) two hours a week over your high school career to community service. So, essentially, it comes down to quality not quality: a prolonged effort rather than an item to tick off a list. Ultimately though, anything is better than nothing. So do what you can!

  19. greetings my name is Nontobeko Ngcobo .i really want to study physiotherapy because i love working with people by doing this kind of a job will help know that i have helped people .it would be my greast pleasure and joy for me to be accepted to any registered collage or university.thank for reading my comment.

  20. Hi Barefootmegz – am a solutions architect and i have been for the past 3/4 years or so, but i have always wanted to Study Medicine i just didnt have the funds, and now that i have saved enough money i would like to head back full time, i am 31 years old you mentioned Post Matric and extended degree programs _ what are these and can they help me if my grades are not good enough to get me into Medical school for 2017 ? Ofcourse i will do the extended Degree Programme or Post Matric in 2016 i am geared up to do what it takes i have just done my level 3 First aid course with St Jones ambulances also on a shadowing program at the Olivedale Clinic and loving it, i want to approach Chris Hani Hospital and get some clinic hours in over the December holidays – Please shed some light on whatelse i can do to better my chances and explain the programs please – also please send me a mail with your contact details

    1. Hi Gift, I’m so happy to hear that you are pursuing your dream once again. Remember that young people who have some experience in the working world have a very unique gift to offer to the medical world! I truly don’t know much about EDP, and each university’s EDPs are different. You would need to contact each university separately to find out more, I think.
      Post-Matrics are offered by many high schools (especially private ones), from what I understand; typically you could also enroll in a correspondence course (UNISA or other) to repeat subjects where you need better marks.
      Your first aid training and community service is great, and I think it’s good that you have those.
      I think the next thing you need to do is apply! And apply to every single university. I hope it will go well for you!

  21. Hi barefootmegz
    I’m currently in grade 11 and awaiting my report. I want to do a MBCHB degree when I leave high school but my problem is that I’ve been struggling a lot with the maths and physics for 2 terms this year I got a level 4 for them. Now I know that most universities want a minimum of a level 5, I just want to know do you think I should just dismiss the MBCHB dream and focus on something more realistic. I’m extremely worried that no university will accept me…HELP PLEASE

    1. Hi Nthabi. I’m sorry that you’re struggling so much. It is a sad fact that university acceptance processes are imperfect, and so many students who will make good doctors fall by the wayside because of less-than-perfect grades.
      I think it is wise of you to be realistic, and to consider a plan B for if you do not get admission. However, don’t get so caught up in that that you completely “dismiss the MBChB dream”. There are many people who do attain the dream by taking a longer route.
      Consider your options: what can you do to improve your marks? Do you have access to tutors?
      Alternatively, remember that extended degree programs are there for students who did not obtain the necessary grades. It will add a year to your studies, but that’s hardly a big sacrifice if medicine is what you want to do with all your heart.
      It is a difficult predicament, and I do hope you find your way!

      1. I am planning to work extremely hard next year. Next week I’ll be starting my volunteering at the regional hospital just to make sure that this is something I really want to do. I did do a bit of research and found out that from your suggestion maybe I could apply for the BSc and then transfer to the MBCHB if my marks are good enough. Thank you so very much for your response. I didn’t expect you to respond so thank you.

      2. I’m not always quick with replies but I do try ๐Ÿ˜‰ I hope you’re enjoying the volunteering? You sound determined: I look forward to hearing of your success!

  22. Hi ๐Ÿ™‚ ..aftr reading the steps to applying for medicne I realised that physics is actually very important..I’m really good in math for term3 I got100% nd my physics was 64%…physics is really giving me a hard tim….my physics was stl not well at all in my grade 11 report finale. I got 63% and mananged to get a distinction for maths 82%….I am worried that this low mark in physics might jeopardise my chances of even being conciderd anywhr for medicine….might I get accepted?

  23. Hi my name is andile ndaba and I am currently in grd11…I soo badly want to do medicine I am really good with maths but physics is really givng me a hard time..for term 3 I got 100% in maths and 64% fr physics…then in my final term I got 82% in maths and 63% fr are my chances gone for me to do medicne?..or is there any chance that my grd12 report might save me..thts if I do get bettr grades in physics…pls help

    1. Hi Andile – I’m sorry to hear that you had a hard time with physics!! I don’t think your chances are “gone” to study medicine, but you must know that it may be a bit harder for you. You might want to consider doing a year BSc, or alternatively doing an extended degree program, which adds an extra year to med school, and is specifically for students who did not quite meet the requirements for admission. Anyway: your chances aren’t gone. If medicine is what you want to do, you can make it happen, even if it takes a bit longer. Good luck!

    1. Hi Zolile – it is possible, but as far as I know you will need to do the full six years. Do you have a B.Cur? Because if so, you could also apply to Wits for their graduate-entry medical program, which starts in the third year!

  24. hi I am 35yr old have a NDip Fire Technology, a Basic ambulance assistant and currently employed as a senior firefighter. my dream is to study medicine can you please advice me coz am now planning 2 enrol Bsc biomedical science wth unisa for 2016 in order to increase my chances.

    1. Hi Josias; I’m sorry to say that I really have no experience with NDip Fire Technology; but I think that a biomedical science degree is probably a good place to start. But I definitely think it’s a good idea to speak to the admissions offices of various medical schools; because they will know these things a LOT better than me!

  25. Hi Barefootmegz, just wanted to say how wonderful of you to take the time out tp think about others, to help and motivate them. You are making a great contribution already. I’m sure you will be a great doctor and find the cure to some dreaded disease. All the best!

  26. Hi barefootmegz

    I am a Software Developer by Profession, I have an IT Diploma and I am also studying with Unisa on something else. I am 34 turning 35 years. I have always wished to be a Doctor but I think the excitement of Technology when it was released around 1994 has taken me away from my dreams. I have been a software developer for 18 years now and I feel like I have reached a Ceiling. Itโ€™s my second year now trying to learn something new and the technology is growing towards the same direction which I master. I have been involved in online Communities to help those starting the Career (Software Development) and have made partner with online forums to share my knowledge on articles. Also approached by publishing houses for technical authoring a book.

    I think now itโ€™s time I follow what I wanted to follow, I would like to do medicine. I did Science and Biology in high school and also Mathematics which I messed up but I did ok on Science and Biology. Chemistry was my favourite.

    I know that if put mind to something I get it done. I would like to apply for to study medicine. As long as I still hold my employment funds are not an issue for me to pay for my studies. As a working professional what can one do to make this transition of studying and working at the same to be possible.
    Can you kindly advise me , I am from Pretoria


    1. Hi Vuyiswa. What an awesome life story!Technology is a fantastic field (my dad is in it) and very useful in healthcare also.
      Anyways, I’m excited for you about your decision to take medicine further!
      Please read this post, where I interviewed a medical student (she actually graduated December 2015) about her path to medicine.

      Unfortunately, medicine is only offered to be studied full-time, and as such you likely wouldn’t be able to keep a job at the same time. Perhaps you could get away with doing consulting with flexi-hours; but I think realistically you’ll see some reduction in available funds. I think the post I linked to might benefit you – let me know if you have further questions after that; I can even put you in contact with the woman who wrote it.

      All of the best!

  27. Hey, I am a high school graduate who applied to different varsities last year. See, the thing is, I performed averagely- if there’s such a word. I got a level 3 in Maths and 4 in Science and decided to upgrade those results this year. I really wanna lift those results to a level 6/7. I have tutoring. Do you think it would be acceptable in varsities for MbChb? I got rejected by 3 unis last year and got accepted for nursing but my heart wasn’t exactly there. Can you please enlighten me about upgrading as an option and if I chose wisely so. Your insight thus far has been fruitful

    1. Hi Mimi, do you mean that you plan to write those subjects again? If so, I absolutely think that it is a good idea! It will show universities that you are serious about it, and that you are able to put in the good work in an effort to do something you really want to do.
      While you do this, do try to find time to do some extra-curricular activities that will also appeal to the universities.
      Good luck!

  28. Am a ZAmbian with 0 level results MATHS ;1, ENG 3, BIOLOGY;2 science(physics & chem) 2,Geog 2, GMD;5 and metal work 5. I have just Completed my deploma Clinical oficer general Aged 22. Can I be acepted at stelenboch medical university. As undergraguat student.

  29. Hey there,
    I finished matric last year with 65 in maths and 73 in physical science, 67 in Eng and 90 in Life science. I had decided to do a rewrite this year in maths nd physci so I cud get better marks (90%-100) in order to stand a better chance on entry… is this a good idea ?
    I never applied for the 2016 intake since I thout I cud use 2016 as a correctional year. hence it’s not late to apply I guess ??

    1. Hi there,I was in matric in 2015 and I’m interested in doing medicine at either at UCT or Wits in 2017.
      My marks are as follow:
      ZULHL. -85%
      ENGFA. -70%
      MATH. -75%
      LIFE. -82%
      BSTD. -83%
      LFSC. -84%
      PHSC. -81%
      I heard that the competition for spaces is stiff ,my question is that do I stand a chance of being accepted in those institutions in 2017?

  30. Hi, thank you for the info. I have a unique case, Im 29 years old, I have a National Diploma in Marketing, I did Mathematics, Business Economics, Biology, English, Afrikaans and Accounting. I always had a passion for being a doctor but thought its impossible. I have decide to persue my medical career, please can you give me advice, I want to know about the fees and any other extra info that you can give me. I have volunteered at local clinics and the hospice so I am very familiar with the environment. Please help me with advice. I know I have a long and difficult road but being a medical doctor is my dream and my passion.

  31. Thank you barefootmegz

    For the valuable reply. My private startup just got a huge project that will last for a year. I think what will come out of that will be enough for my family survive for 4 years and also pay for the fees. This means that i can full time go to School Full time and also do some other consultant work to push for extra years.

    I will let you know how the Application goes, i will use this Blog as a guidance, i am doing well in Mathematics Upgrading as we speak ,i am writing in June, i will apply at Sefako Makgatho and Pretoria University in April. for now i will prepare the info that is needed.

    Thank you again for writing this Blog it is helpful.

  32. hi
    i want to study medicine but my grade 11 report is not that good
    will i stand a chance?
    oh and about the tests i should write ,what are they based on…if not in high school work

    1. Hi, it’s really not possible to say without further details, but if you are certain that medicine is what you want to do you should apply. If you don’t get in, consider doing a bridging course of some sort or even going back to get better results, and then try again.
      The NBTs are loosely based on school work but not such that you can study for them. They are mostly based on critical thinking, therefore being able to apply your core knowledge to new concepts.

  33. Can you study medicine at medunsa if you already have a Bsc degree and BscHons ?
    Do you perhaps have medunsa contact details , I have tried the numbers provided on the website but they are not much help ?

    1. Hi Porai, unfortunately I don’t know any more about Medunsa than what is already on the website. I assume that a BSc and Hons will be considered for admission, but I don’t know anything of the logistics. I’m sorry I don’t have better advice to follow; I hope that you will find your way!

  34. hello there.i am doing third level BSc (molecular and life sciences) majors physiology and biohemistry at university of Limpopo,i have applied for Wits GEMP,i have a very good academic record with an average of about 72 for all my modules to date,what are the chances of me being accepted into medical school..

    1. Hi Moichela. I really don’t know what your chances are, only because I’m not involved in any of the processes, but your record sounds solid! So apply apply apply and best of luck!!

  35. Hello my name is Nina and im currently in grade 11 ive done 40 hours of community service at the provincial hospital so far and i was wondering how many more hours should i do and also where else can i do my community service? i would also like to find out which scholarship and bursaries i could apply to and if i can apply now and if applying in grade 11 is better, or if i have to wait until my final matric results to apply for a bursary. Also youve mentioned letters of recommendation? who else can i get letters of recommendation from? also if Afrikaans is really important as i am not as good in it as i am at my other subjects. Thank You.

    1. Hi Nina. 40 hours sounds good, but you can do more if you have time or if you really want to. If you have an opportunity to start your own small initiative for a community project that might look good on your CV, but only do things that you enjoy, otherwise it’s a waste. As far as I know you can’t really apply in Grade 11 anymore, although your Grade 11 marks are weighted quite heavily. Your June Matric results should suffice for bursary applications, although most of them will want your final results when they are available. Most places won’t consider you for a bursary before you’ve received a provisional acceptance to a university. Get letters of recommendation from someone who knows you well. A school teacher, a sports coach, or someone from the community service you’ve done. It’s also a good idea to give people a basic idea of what you need in the letters. Afrikaans is important but not THAT important. Bio and Science and Math are more important. Do your best, but don’t let it demotivate you. Good luck!

      1. Hi! My name is Lia- i’m currently in grade 11 in pta. I was also curious if i stand any chance at getting into medicine? My subjects are the usuals with science at 85% and math about 82 and biology 88… my one friend had an overall of about 92 and still did not get a place…to add i also do lots of afterschool activities.. i have been shadowing (about 52 hours so far at a general surgeon) so i am totally sure this is what i would like to do one day! Still i have my doubts.. nowadays these universities does not give you a place even if you have like 130%! What more can i do to improve my chances? Thanks for the insightful article btw!

      2. Hi Lia – it sounds like you’re doing plenty to better your chances! I think if you can get your maths mark up a little more you would increase your chances. Not that it’s a bad mark, but I always get the impression that Math and Science marks are quite a bit more important to the universities. Maybe invest in one or two tutoring sessions?

        It’s hard to say exactly what determines admission, because I also had friends whose marks were similar to mine, and whose after-school activities were similar to mine, but did not get in. I think there is an element of randomness in the selection too, because all universities want students with a diverse array of interests and activities. But it sounds to me like you’re doing everything you can to get in!

        Your shadowing sounds good. Don’t forget to get a letter of recommendation from the surgeon, it will help a lot! 52 hours are plenty. Have you done some community service as well?

  36. I really want to become a surgical doctor here in South Africa one day but the problem is I got level 3 on mathematics and level 4 on the other subjects …I wanted to upgrade my matric results but my parents don’t have enough to pay for my fees. Can anybody help me please because I really want to be a surgical doctor…please help

    1. Hi Edmond. How about applying to nursing or a physician’s assistant program, and then after you graduate you apply to medicine?
      I know it’s a hard road you’re walking, and I hope you will find your way.

      1. I really appreciate your encouragement thanks!! No i have not done much community service at all… i’ll definitely make that my next priority! One laaast thing i promise, i know you must be growing tired of all these questions- how many years of studying until you can actually perform a surgery? And…is the math only to support the chemistry subject? Because i was under the impression that you don’t have math as a subject while studying medicine?

      2. Sorry Lia, not tired of questions, life just got a bit busy. You start assisting in surgery from as early as your third year, but you are only allowed to take the lead on surgeries during your internship (the year after graduating). These include c-sections and, if you show enthusiasm, some other minor surgeries.
        Most universities don’t have math during med school anymore, although many would argue that they should keep it for the critical thinking that it provides. I’m not familiar with the syllabi of all the medical schools, though.

  37. Hi:) really am wanting to do Medicine and am pleased to hear that I can still pursue my dream whatsoever. Cause I did Accounting and but I know I wanna do medicine now- driven by passion. Thank you hey for the information.

  38. Hi there

    My name is Tshepang Denzel selokela.

    i must say, i really find the infomation very motivatiional since i see am not the only one with more similarly situation. I am cureently doing my 1st year in UJ, studying Bsc(3years)
    human physilogy and biochemistry.My only dreams is to bring change in people’s life as i did with some of my friends with social issues at their homes. I really want to be a doctor not only cause of the title “Dr.”,but i really like that feeling when you see people really appreciate your help .Nothing soothes my heart than helping and hear a person say thank you .So please help me i want to be come a doctor my application didn’t succeed last year. How can i ensure i get into medicine after completion of this degree or during the degree’s period of study?? please help i dont really have another dream/goal


    1. Hi Denzel. I’m glad you’re finding the information useful, and I’m sorry you’re having a hard time. Applications are always tough and there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. However, if your application was not successful last year, you will need to try something different. What can you add to your application to show that you have grown as a potential doctor? Try to add some community service or other outreaches to your CV. Good luck!

  39. hi thanx a lot for the infor it helped me a lot cuz m also intrested in studying medicine in South Africa

    1. Hi, do you mean as an entry requirement to med school? It’s not a set requirement as far as I know, but having done community service definitely gives your application an advantage.
      If you are referring to the post-graduate community service, it is only required if you wish to practise in South Africa.

  40. hi, I have cleared MBBS and am currently doing final year Masters in radiation oncology in Bangalore, India . I want to pursue career in that field in south africa. Please let me know how to proceed with this. How to apply for job in this field ? are there any crtiterias to satisfy ? any national exams to clear thorough ? how to get registered in soth african medical council.

    1. Hi Arun – I’m not the right person to ask in this regard, because I’m still in internship. I think you will be better off finding out from the South African Health Professionals Council (HPCSA). Good luck!

      1. Back again for advice- sorry! I managed to push my maths up to 85 and my science to 87.. im still worried about not getting a place so i researched my other options- I found out about the BCMP degree and wanted your advice about it. Apparently you can do that programme for 3 years and then try again for medicine and walk in as a third year! I’m just worried they will not accept again and then I’m stuck…? What do you think? -Lia

      2. hie am a Zimbabwean just finished my advanced level and l have got a B in maths C in chemistry and a D in physics l wanna do medicine or pharmacy am not sure if l will ne admitted here in Zimbabwe
        so do l have any chance thre in SA

      3. Hi Geoffrey;
        Unfortunately I would be a bit concerned about Physics and Chemistry, and would recommend trying to upgrade those marks.Just as in Zimbabwe, South African entry requirements are quite strict. As a SADC country you will be considered for South African universities, but there are very few spots available to foreign students to begin with – unless you have residency here. But apply everywhere, and hope for the best.
        Good luck!

  41. Hi Im currently doing Btech nursing Science at Cput and im in my 3rd year now going to my 4th. I was wondering how it would work if i had to graduate with this degree, and apply to a university, say uct; do i have to start over the 6 years or at wits, do they accept the Btech degree in nursing to study medicine and how many years will the studies be? I have been passing every year above 75% and my marks is pretty good, so will this be an advantage even though i did a Btech?

  42. Hi, I’m in matric and I really want to study medicine.
    I’ve met all the minimum requirements but that’s the problem… I’ve just met them. I’ve gotten vague “we need to see your final results” feedback and it makes me a little anxious so I was wondering if you could please elaborate on the degrees I could take in order to take the long route to reach my goal? I really love medicine and I’m willing to try everything.
    thank you

  43. Hi, I am a grade 11 learner that wants nothing more than to become a doctor and to specialize in a certain field after that. My Maths average is above 85% and my Physics average is above 90%. My English average is also above 85%. Do you think that with a good NBT-exam score and some community work in the vacations that I will be able to get in for medical school? Sincerely, T
    PS: Does the overall average matter? Mine is 88%. Or is it just Maths, Physics and English?

    1. Hi Tails. I’m sorry it’s been this long. On the off chance that you don’t have an answer yet: with those marks, you certainly stand a good chance. Give it a shot! Overall average does matter, but they do pay special attention to Math, Physics, and Life Sciences. Good luck!

  44. Hello Doc.
    My name is Okeke Micheal. I currently am a B.Sc Biochemistry holder from a University here in Nigeria. I want to study medicine in South Africa. How do I apply and how many years of study am I expected to do before graduation?

  45. Hello Mam

    Thank you very much for everything you shared. My name is Anele I’m 22 years old , I have always wanted to be a doctor but my grade 12 results were not good at all so I decided to go do marketing but still my heart is not at peace with , I still wanna be a doctor. I still have a heart of serving other people im also intrested in research on the cure of different diseases . Is it OK for me to apply for 2018 this while upgrading my maths and science? And also is it OK for me to go help at a nearby healthcare center just to get a bit of understanding what I’m going to be working with in the future? Or its too late ?

    Thank you ๐Ÿ˜Š

    1. Hi Anele – it is not too late! I think it’s a great idea to upgrade your marks and help out somewhere. Apply, apply, apply! And remember, sometimes you won’t get in on the first try. If your heart is in it, keep trying. Good luck!

  46. Hi All
    I have a BSc Biomedical Science through UNiSA, i am skeptical about applying to Medicine becouse of the degrading encounter when one posses a degree from unisa compared to Tuks , Wits etc since Unisa is a distant learning institution.

    1. Hi Somnandi – if you wish to do medicine, apply! Getting a degree from UNISA is not easy. You don’t get to attend classes and you have to have a lot of discipline to study every day; so don’t allow anyone to make you feel degraded; you are deserving of respect just like everyone else. Good luck!

  47. Am a black male in SA. Want to ask if I will be eligible for an Medicine offer in medical schools in SA,Maths 79%,English 83%,Physics 86%,life sciences 82%,Agriculture 82%,Accounting 82%…I am taking a gap but would like to know if I may be accepted.

    1. Hi Donald. Your results are fairly good, and I do think you have a fair chance. You could consider rewriting Maths and/or Life Sciences if you really want to improve your changes, but I certainly think you have a chance. Apply to all schools and remember to have some community service in your application too. Also talk about your gap year in your application, because they will be interested to see your personal growth during this year. Good luck!

  48. My brother wants to study medicine,we are in Mtata we orphans ,bt my brother has good marks .I would love if we can get help .I think he did well last year and qualifies for opportunity to study

    1. Hi Nomvula,your brother is very lucky to have such a supportive sister. My recommendation is that you approach WSU for some help or guidance. They should have financial assistance available, and may be able to waiver the application fee for you. Best of luck!

  49. Hi, my NSC results for maths and physics are 58 and 60 and this year I’ll be doing a Bsc degree in Biological sciences. I wanted to know if I’ll be accepted for medicine if indeed I do pass my first year well? Or will my final results still be taken to consideration thus failing me?

    1. Hi Nyiko. It is always difficult when the final results are lower than desired, because they do have a tendency to haunt you. You will need to do exceptionally well this year – more than passing, try to Cum Laude. In that situation, you may find that you could be accepted. It will be difficult, but it is possible! Good luck!

  50. Hi, thank you for your post.

    I am currently in matric and my gr11 results exceed the usually admission requirements needed to study, although i know there is no way of knowing whether i get accepted or.

    So i have been looking at my option, i am considering Forensics and Gentics or Microbiology as my 2nd and 3rd choices but would like to find out whether these are stable careers to go into in South Africa because my passion is life sciences and i have already obtained over 100 community first aud hours and intend on helping out at my local hospital.

    Also please could you explain eaxactly how extended courses work?

    1. Hi Whitney! Good on you for taking a mature approach to your studies.
      I actually don’t know much about the careers you mentioned – in fact, for the most part I’d suggest that Forensics, Genetics and Microbiology are fields rather than careers, and that you may have a variety of careers available within each one. I know that Forensics is quite small in South Africa, so it could be a little risky in terms of career opportunities. On the other hand, it may give you the opportunity to become a real game-changer in the field!

      My honest recommendation is to find people in those fields – maybe through a university or a career counselor – that you can shadow and ask lots of questions! The sciences DO tend to be stable to go into, but there is a very fine line to tread between not choosing a field that is completely saturated because it is so big, or a field that is so small that there aren’t many jobs available either. But like I said, these are just my thoughts, and I think a career counselor might be better at giving you good advice!

      Not having done an extended course myself, I’m not 100% sure how they work, except that in medicine they usually consist of doing your first year in two years. Each university has its own version though, so chatting to their admissions office might be your best port-of-call.

      I’m sorry my answers aren’t great, but I hope this helps a little. Good luck!

  51. Hi.:) Thank u so much reading this has actually given me hope and a boost in confidence and has helped me realise that I can persue my dream of becoming a doctor and that there are other routes to becoming a doctor I appreciate the time and patients you have taken in answering all theses questions (although none were mine and I didn’t even know I needed to know their answers) but you have really shead light on my damp and depresses mood as reading what you have say has really help me and given me hope (I know I said this a lot but its true ) thank you ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ธ๐Ÿ˜ธ

  52. hi
    i am a 27 years old lady doing an amended senior certificate, trying to improve my marks. but the certificate is not yet accredit. the only way to get in is by age exemption. i don’t feel great about it. i want to be in medical school in 2019.

    what i want to know is., will i be considered at all when i am applying.

    if not is there any other way?


    1. Hi Wilma, yes you will be considered, but you’ll be considered in the pool of older students with diverse backgrounds, and you’ll probably end up being interviewed.It is a harder route, but it’s not impossible. I know of people who got into med at 30, some even older!

  53. Hi
    I hope you can guide us, my daughter is wanting to go into the mental health industry. She is in grade 9 and is needing to choose subjects for next year. What subjects would you recommend. Would she need to study MB ChB, first before specializing in Psychiatry Any help would be appreciated.

    1. to be honest, I’m really not sure. The HPCSA reserves the right to investigate anyone who has committed a crime or ethically questionable act while a doctor/med student. But I don’t know what the procedure is when the criminal record exists before enrolling as a student. I’ll try to find out for you.

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