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Student Life

Does age matter?

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 01 January 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:040138
  1. Peter Cross, freelance medical journalist1
  1. 1London

With new graduate entry programmes opening up throughout the world, Peter Cross tries to find out the best age to go to medical school

A 53 year old man was offered a place on St George's Hospital Medical School's graduate entry programme this year. What age should medical schools recruit students? Should they get them young before the ink on A level certificates is dry and rote learning easier? Or is it better to make prospective doctors weather for years, to allow them to gain worldly experience?

This issue divides the United States from mainland Europe, and the United Kingdom is straddling somewhere in the middle. In the United States, prospective medical students need a degree before they can enrol. In France, almost all medical students start training straight after their secondary education, and mature students are almost unheard of. The term “mature student” suggests that medical students coming directly from secondary education are somehow immature; can this be right?

In the past, UK medical schools were keen to recruit school leavers. Things are changing; we live in the age of the consumer, so communication skills and the ability to get on with others are perhaps considered more important than they once were. Gap years are becoming …

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