Context: Increasingly, medical schools are considering mature applicants, including graduate entrants. At present, the majority of mature students are in their early or mid-20s and are entering medicine immediately or soon after completing a first degree. However, 'older' mature students, who have worked in other occupations for a number of years, are also applying to study medicine. Although it is likely that these students have particular needs, their experiences of applying to study medicine and related decision-making processes have not been examined in detail to date.
Methods: Participants at three English medical schools took part in in-depth interviews examining their pathways into medical school. This analysis uses the findings from interviews with 15 older mature students.
Results: This study demonstrates how older mature students' decision-making processes and experiences of application processes are heavily influenced by their personal circumstances and backgrounds. Their choices are constrained geographically and in terms of their identity, and also by perceptions of the openness of some medical schools to their applications. There are negative implications for some students who are unable to secure places at their preferred 'local' schools.
Conclusions: Although the choice of medical school may be limited for this group of applicants as a result of their pre-existing personal circumstances, medical schools are perceived to differ substantially in their willingness to consider older students from varied working and educational backgrounds. The ability of these applicants to join the medical profession may partly depend on geographical location. The provision of a central information facility outlining institutional requirements and preferences would be a useful starting point, although it would be unable to address the broad and complex range of issues that face older mature students.
© Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2010.