BACKGROUND: Little is known about factors influencing applicants' choice of medical school, yet it is important that both the academic and non-academic needs of medical students are satisfied, and that medical schools attract students suited to the courses provided. Relevant evidence suggests that there are five main factors influencing choice: curriculum; reputation of the school; personal contact; location; and facilities. Aberdeen has the particular challenge of being the most northern medical school in the UK.
METHOD: To address this challenge, and learning from the literature, a medical school open day was developed to showcase the medical school, the wider university and the city of Aberdeen.
RESULTS: The main messages from this small study were that interactive events were more popular than static displays, and that applicants preferred to interact with student representatives rather than just hear about student life, suggesting that the opportunity to ask questions and hear the 'uncensored' version of what being a student is like are important.
DISCUSSION: There are some generalisable messages about what prospective students want from an open day, which along with the prospectus and the website can contribute to informing choice. Further work is needed to identify what is critical in terms of first point of contact, and how much this influences the choice of medical school.