How to get into medical school in Nigeria

Medicine is currently the most lucrative course to study in Nigeria, and the only course you are almost assured a job upon graduation. Due to this, it is the most competitive course to get into. 

Saving lives is a noble cause, and fighting against the ails that could hinder health is a rewarding experience. The closest thing to heroes we have in reality is doctors. Doctors fight against the terror of diseases and save lives with their arsenal of knowledge. When you look at how great the work a doctor does, it’s easy to fall into the dream of wanting to become one. Unfortunately, the haze of the beautiful dream of wanting to become a doctor often blinds us from the reality of achieving it. 

The road to becoming a doctor is paved with hardship and each step of the way is riddled with difficulty. You can only reach the finish line with dogged determination, hard work and perseverance. The first hurdle you may face on the path to becoming a doctor is gaining admission into the university as a medical student.

As I said before, it is extremely competitive and the chances of being accepted are quite slim. Does that mean it is impossible? Of course not. There are so many doctors in Nigeria and you can become one too but first, you need to pass the first hurdle which is gaining admission into an accredited medical school in Nigeria. In this article, I will outline all you need to know to get into your dream medical school. 

1. Have the right mindset 

Get your head out of the clouds and face reality. Studying medicine is hard and being a doctor is even harder. You need to have this at the back of your mind and reevaluate your choices. Are you sure you can cope with being a medical student and then a doctor? Is this the right path for you? These are questions you need to ask yourself. 

Before you answer these questions, you need to understand what studying medicine entails. Medicine in Nigeria is typically 6 years long but can be longer due to ASUU and NASU strikes. Some schools operate on a slow calendar which means you will study much longer in school. The workload in medical school is quite heavy, meaning you will have to cover a lot of coursework over a very short time. You will typically have to attend classes from 8 am to 4 pm almost every day. Exams are difficult, and the pass mark is 50%. 

When you’ve gone through medical school and finally graduated, you may think things will become easier, but you’re wrong. Going through medical school is the tip of the iceberg, and being a doctor opens you to a whole new world of hardship. Medicine is the most taxing occupation in the world. 

Putting all these into consideration, do you still want to become a doctor? You need to make this decision while you are still in Junior Secondary School, as your time in Senior Secondary School should be spent making yourself the ultimate candidate for medical school. However, if you’re already in Senior Secondary School, do not fret, because if you use the time you have left wisely, you will surely make it. 

2. Be a good science student

Medicine is a science course so you will have to be a science student in your secondary school (high school) to be able to get admitted into a medical school. From the moment you start Senior Secondary School, you have to have at the back of your mind that you’re aiming for the most competitive course in Nigeria, and to be successful, nothing short of excellence is expected of you.

You have to be a very good student, meaning you have to complete all your assignments, copy your notes and listen well in class. After school is not a time to play either, make sure to spend time with your books. However, don’t overdo it, just make sure you spend at least an hour or two studying at home. 

Being a good student also means you should know how to prioritize. You need to offer nine subjects that you will write in your WASSCE. Among the nine, the core subjects for medicine are English Language, Mathematics, Physics, Biology and Chemistry. You should focus more of your efforts on these subjects, not only because you need to pass them in your external exams, but also because these courses will serve as the foundation of most of the courses you will study in medical school.

3. Make research 

Diving into medical school applications without adequate research will only lead to you fumbling. You need to be sure of what you’re doing so things will go smoothly. 

There are certain decisions you have to make regarding your medical school applications which can only be done if you’ve made research and weighed the pros and cons. First, you have to decide the pathway you’re going to use to get into medical school. There are three pathways: 

  • You can apply to medical school straight after secondary school using your WAEC, NECO or GCE results. 
  • You can apply without WAEC, NECO or GCE results if you have passed A’level courses in Physics, Chemistry and Biology, or Zoology in place of Biology. 
  • You can apply through direct entry without the need for UTME if you have a bachelor of science in fields related to Medicine like Nursing, Medical Laboratory, Anatomy, Biology, etc. 

Each of the above pathways has its intricacies so you need to be sure of what you’re doing. If you’re going with the direct entry pathway, make sure to read through the requirements and study the courses that are accepted by your chosen university. Going directly from secondary school means you need to do very well in your WAEC and JAMB to stand a chance. Completing an A’level first may give you the advantage of being able to spend more time mastering the core subjects. Each pathway has its pros and cons, so you need to evaluate them properly to choose what’s best for you. 

It is also very important for you to research your university. There is a reason why people with very good WAEC and JAMB scores still find it hard to get into the medical school of their choice. The reason is simply due to a lack of understanding of the admission process. Nigerian medical universities, especially federal universities, admit students on three criteria; 

  1. Merit, which accounts for about 45% of all accepted candidates. To be admitted based on merit means that you meet and exceed all the requirements of the school.
  2. Catchment areas, which are states that are geographically located near the university. This means that indigenes of the state and neighbouring states where the university is located will be favoured over others, which account for about 35% of accepted candidates. 
  3. Educationally Less Developed States (ELDS) states that are less developed educationally compared to other states, and indigenes of these states account for about 20% of admitted candidates. ELDS includes states like Kwara, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Benue, Adamawa, Cross River, Kaduna, Bauchi, Sokoto, etc. 

When choosing a university, always make sure that you are an indigene of one of the catchment areas of that school. This greatly increases your chances of being accepted.

Another thing to put into consideration when applying to medical schools is the cost of studying, which is typically higher than that of other courses. Below is the breakdown of tuition fees in medical schools:  

  1. Federal universities: N65,000 – N180,000.
  2. State universities: N40,000 – N120,000.
  3. Private universities: N700,000 – N10,000,000.

Private universities are the most expensive but the competition is much less, mostly because not everyone has the budget for it. When choosing a medical school, make sure to choose the one you can afford. 

4. Make a detailed plan

Once you have completed your research and decided on the pathway and university you want to apply to, the next step is to sit down and make a detailed study plan. To do this, you have to first know the cut-off mark for your chosen medical school. Remember, the cut-off mark should not be your goal, because to be competitive, you need to score far above it. Then, evaluate yourself and determine your weak areas, which is where you will dedicate more time to.

It is a waste of time and energy to craft the best study plan in the world and fail to adhere to it. You may follow it religiously at the beginning, but later on, laziness seeps in and you end up discarding it. To make a good study plan that you can adhere to, here are some tips for you: 

  1. Start light: When starting, especially when you are not used to studying for long periods, do not make the mistake of putting too much workload on yourself. You may be able to keep up with a hectic schedule initially when motivation is high, but soon enough, your drive will die down and you will no longer have the will to study. To avoid this, start with a few minutes of study per day and increase the workload as you go.
  2. Get an accountability partner: It’s quite easy to fall into the lull of laziness when sticking to a study plan without someone breathing down on your back. Ask someone whom you respect to monitor your progress and ensure that you stick to your schedule. 
  3. Take breaks: A short break in between study sessions could go a long way in dispelling tiredness. Do not study for more than thirty minutes at a time before taking a break. 
  4. Reward yourself: As you set goals make sure to reward yourself when you achieve them. It does not have to be something significant, just a little snack, a short nap, or entertaining yourself with a movie will do. 

5. Write and pass WASSCE and JAMB

WAEC and NECO are universally accepted, but some medical schools also accept GCE and NABTEB as well. Make sure you know the requirements of your chosen school before registering for any of these exams. To be safe, always write WAEC and another one from the above, preferably NECO.

Every school accepts WAEC and NECO, and writing both will give you added security in case there are issues with your result like failing to pass or the results being withheld. As I mentioned before, the core subjects you need to pass are Mathematics, English Language, Chemistry, Physics, and Biology. As for additional subjects you need to write, follow the guidance of your secondary school. Strive for As in all your subjects. 

As for JAMB, your combination should be Use the of English, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. When filling out the JAMB form, your school of choice should be your first choice and to maximize your chances, your second choice should be the state university of your state. Aim for over 300.

6. Write and pass UTME

If you get invited to write UTME by your school of choice then it means your hard work paid off. You are now one step closer to getting into medical school. Research the cut-off mark of your school and ensure that you exceed it. At least score over 300. 

When studying for UTME, make sure to procure past questions to practice. If you can, reach out to current students of your school of choice if there are any tips they can share with you. 

7. Wait for admission 

After going through all the necessary steps, you are finally at the finish line. You don’t know what is on the other side, so use this time to have fun. It may be hard to truly relax due to the anxiety of waiting for the results, but try to because this may be the last time in a long time you may be so carefree.

If you pass, you’re soon going into medical school to cope with a relentless workload, but if you fail you’re in for a crushing disappointment that will not go away for a long time. So use this time to have fun and rest.

Conclusion

Getting admitted into a medical school in Nigeria may be hard, but with careful planning and thorough execution, you will make it. All you have to do is follow the guidelines in this article. 

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Habibat Musa

Habibat Musa

Habibat Musa is a content writer with MakeMoney.ng. She writes predominantly on topics related to education, technology and business. She is an English language major.

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