How to Get Accepted Into a BS/MD Program
The traditional course for any teen interested in becoming a medical doctor is to first apply to an undergraduate school with a solid program in the hard sciences. Majors for future MDs vary and, interestingly, the average MCAT scores of those majoring the humanities or social sciences are actually just as high as those concentrating in biology or health sciences. Regardless of major, undergrads must tackle a steady diet of biology, chemistry, physics, and math courses that are typically required for entrance into medical school. At the end of four years of study, armed with a bachelor’s degree and strong MCAT results, they begin the harrowing process of applying to medical school.
The journey chronicled above is typical for most but not all medical students; some make a bold choice directly out of high school and apply to a BS/MD or BA/MD program.
The following blog will explore
- What is a BS/MD program?
- Acceptance rates for BS/MD programs
- List of all BS/MD programs in the U.S.
- 5 tips for standing out on your BS/MD application
- Deadlines for BS/MD programs
- The pros of a BS/MD program
- The cons of a BS/MD program
Let’s begin with an explanation of how a BS/MD program works:
What is a BS/MD program?
A BS/MD is a combined Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Medicine degree program that is a continuous educational experience, without any separate application process to medical school. Sometimes BS/MD programs allow students to finish both degrees in seven years; others still require the typical eight years to complete (4+4).
Acceptance rates for BS/MD programs
Top BS/MD programs actually possess lower acceptance rates than are found in the regular undergraduate admissions process at notoriously difficult institutions like Stanford (4.3%), Harvard (4.5%), and Columbia (5.1%). For example, Georgetown University’s Early Assurance Program with Georgetown’s School of Medicine sports a 2.9% acceptance rate. The Ivy League’s only such program is at Brown via the university’s Program in Liberal Medical Education. Of the 2,641 applicants for a spot in Brown’s BS/MD Class of 2023, only 94 were offered admission; this works out to an acceptance rate of 3.6%.
Even universities that lack the overall prestige of the likes of Brown and Georgetown often have minuscule acceptance rates for their limited BS/MD spots. For example, Virginia Commonwealth University has a 3.1% admit rate for combined degree-seekers compared to an 81% acceptance rate for regular undergraduates.
List of all BS/MD programs in the U.S.
There are presently 57 BS/MD programs in the United States. Some are available through highly-selective institutions like Brown University, Northwestern University, Rice University, Boston University, and the University of Rochester. Many others are found at state universities such as the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State, Florida State, and UConn. For a complete list of BS/MD programs visit the Combined Medical Programs section of our Dataverse.
5 tips for standing out on your BS/MD application
As with any ultra-competitive college admissions process, you can be certain that most applicants will have transcripts and test scores that shine every bit as brightly as your own. As such, one needs to find ways to stand out from the crowd.
Tip #1: The best way to separate yourself from a pack of similarly-qualified applicants is to have ample clinical experience under your belt. One way to acquire such experience is to gain acceptance into a premier summer program for high school students that has a pre-med focus. Outside of formal programs, you can always volunteer at a local hospital, arrange for doctor-shadowing experiences, and find ways to interact with actual patients as much as possible—do whatever you have to do in order to get extensive clinical experience during your high school years.
Tip #2: Research experience can be every bit as impressive as a strong clinical resume. Ideally, a BS/MD candidate will bring both to the table. Research-intensive summer programs are one way to access supervised laboratory time, but there are also ways to gain research experience during the academic year. Talk to your high school teachers about additional experimental work you could do after school hours, query local university professors to see if you could volunteer to assist them in the lab, or even reach out to companies that conduct research who may be willing to host a highly-qualified high school student from their area. This isn’t a time to be shy – work your contacts: family members, friends’ parents, teachers, people at your place of worship that may have connections – getting research experience is truly that important to your BS/MD admissions prospects.
Tip #3: Avail yourself of all opportunities to take Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate coursework in high school. This is an obvious one, but we can’t stress how important it is to have taken the most rigorous science and math curriculum available to you.
Tip #4: Be prepared to answer the “Why Medicine?” essay that awaits you on your BS/MD application in a memorable way. This doesn’t mean that your personal narrative has to involve something as dramatic as a relative with cancer or another anecdote that tugs at the heart strings (although it certainly can). Most applicants will want to draw on their experiences from the previous two areas we discussed—hands-on experiences and a STEM-heavy course load—in order to weave a coherent story about why they are sure, at just 18 years of age, that a career in medicine is their destiny.
Tip #5: Nail the Interview. The BS/MD interview isn’t your run of the mill, 15-30 minute chit-chat session. Rather, it unfolds over a whole day or sometimes even a whole weekend. There is typically a social component to these interview extravaganzas so be sure to come across as personable, professional, and a team-player. After all, these traits are all highly-desirable in future physicians and the committee may be judging you even when are least aware of it.
Deadlines for BS/MD programs
Combined degree programs very often have earlier deadlines than those of regular undergraduate degree programs. For example, the Accelerated Medical Program at Boston University has a deadline of November 15. The New Jersey Institute of Technology requires all materials to be submitted by November 1. With such early deadlines, BS/MD applicants would be wise to put in massive amounts of effort the summer prior to senior year, completing as many components of each application as possible, prior to the rush of admissions season.
The pros of a BS/MD program
Applying to medical school can be a VERY stressful process. You will spend months your senior year studying for the MCATs while trying to maintain stellar grades in advanced science courses. The BS/MD route means the complete elimination of all med school admissions pressure.
Unique opportunities for undergrads
Many schools, particularly larger universities with their own hospitals, have pre-med academic tracks and a healthy selection of medicine-related clubs and volunteer opportunities. However, with a BS/MD program, such opportunities will likely automatically be a part of your collegiate life from day one. Chances for research, doctor-shadowing, and clinical experiences abound for members of these selective cohorts.
Streamlined educational path
Some programs will shave a full year off of your educational journey, saving you money on the front end (tuition) and getting you close to earning a salary on the back end as a practicing physician.
The cons of a BS/MD program
No “free agency”
When you take the security of a BS/MD admission out of high school you are making a trade. In that transaction, you receive peace of mind and the security of an (almost) assured trip to medical school. However, you are giving up your future free agency in the deal. Those who want to “bet on themselves” would enter a regular undergraduate program, finish at the top of their class, ace the MCATs, and then apply to the most prestigious medical schools in the country. This is far from a long-shot bet, given that any teen smart and accomplished enough to get into a combined medical program has already posted flawless grades in high school, near-perfect SAT scores, and boasts a litany of other accomplishments.
Committing too soon
As any future physician can likely tell you, human brains do not fully mature until we reach our mid-20s. Committing to a professional school track and entire career at age 18, before ever setting foot on a college campus is undoubtedly a risk. Unless you are 100% certain that your life’s mission is be a practicing medical doctor, you may be better off entering a traditional undergraduate program and applying to medical school down the road if it still seems like the right path four years from now.
If, in the end, you are certain that a BS/MD program is the best choice for you, then College Transitions has the expertise and experience to counsel you through the admissions process.
Dave has over a decade of professional experience that includes work as a teacher, high school administrator, college professor, and independent education consultant. He is a co-author of the book The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).