Have you wanted to be a doctor since you were a kid but hate the thought of applying to med school? Well, there’s a cure for what ails you: BS/MD programs.
What are BS/MD programs?
BS/MD programs allow high school students to apply to college and medical school at the same time. If you get accepted to a BS/MD program, you take undergrad courses at a university and have a spot reserved at a participating med school. Typically you have to maintain a certain GPA, take pre-med classes, and score well on the MCAT to keep your spot at the med school.
The standard length of a BS/MD program is eight years -- four years for undergrad and four years for med school. However, there are accelerated programs that are six or seven years. These programs require you to attend classes during breaks and take on higher course loads during the regular school year.
Some colleges offer Early Assurance programs, which are similar to BS/MD programs but have some key differences. For one, Early Assurance programs are meant for students who have already been accepted to college. Basically, you only apply to colleges during high school. Then, after two years of undergraduate studies, you can apply Early Assurance to med schools, securing your spot earlier than if you were to apply during your final college term.
The similarity between BS/MD programs and Early Assurance programs is that you know sooner that you will be going to med school; the difference, however, is that BS/MD programs are an all-in-one application whereas Early Assurance requires an application to college and a separate application to med school.
What are the pros and cons of participating in BS/MD programs?
BS/MD programs are not for everyone--and that’s okay! College is a time for self-discovery, and many students are accepted to a major that they later change. However, for those who are absolutely sure that they want to have a career in medicine, BS/MD programs are a great way to streamline the process of becoming a doctor.
No stress of wondering if you will get into med school
More sense of purpose and can focus more on undergrad courses
Taken more seriously by doctors and faculty for internships and shadowing
Possibility of entering medical field earlier than traditional med students
Less “free time” and freedom to explore different subject areas
More intensive coursework, especially for accelerated programs
Career path is restricted to medical field
6-8 years of your young adulthood are spent in school
Keep in mind that these are the general pros and cons. Individual programs grant different exceptions, and many encourage students to take gap years after undergrad and before they go into med school. So if you think that you will want to explore different majors during college, you are not immediately eliminating the possibility of going through a BS/MD program. In some cases, students have fulfilled their pre-med requirements and pursued additional majors. Still, BS/MD programs are meant for students who are absolutely serious about becoming doctors.
With regards to academic freedom, Stephanie Olbrych, interviewed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), said this about her BS/MD program at Case Western Reserve University:
During my four years prior to medical school, the security and freedom I had in the PPSP allowed me to major in Spanish, something I was interested in and thought would serve me well in my future career. The program also gave me time to take advantage of CWRU’s Integrated Graduate Studies (IGS) program where I earned my Master of Public Health, with a concentration in global health, alongside my degree in Spanish. I consider myself very fortunate that I had the opportunity to take advantage of the amazing programs at CWRU, and that I was able to tailor my education to my professional interest.
Another student, Jayson Baman, who was also interviewed by AAMC, spoke of other advantages to participating in a BS/MD program:
One of the biggest advantages of being in a BS-MD program is the familiarity you develop with the medical school while still an undergraduate. Because physicians and researchers know that you are serious about medicine, you often find it easier to secure internships or shadowing positions. You can start developing a network beginning with the relationship you have with the advisors in your program.
Which colleges offer BS/MD programs?
Dozens of colleges offer BS/MD programs, but these programs often have different requirements for undergrad GPA, MCAT scores, pre-med courses, and pace of study. AAMC has compiled lists of schools over the past few years. There are also other online resources that attempt to provide a complete list, since programs open and close each year.
These are the BS/MD programs* in Texas (all of them are 8-year programs):
*There are other BS/MD programs in Texas; however, those programs restrict who can apply.
What is the BS/MD application process?
The application process is more rigorous, as you would expect. Not only are you applying for undergrad but you are also seeking admission to a med school. While you don’t have to take the MCAT -- at least, not until you normally would have to, if at all -- you have to provide more evidence that you truly want to become a doctor.
In other words, you have to write more essays, and you have to interview with not only the undergrad institution but also the med school. Indeed, med school staff will be determining if you are a good fit and ready for the commitment. And the competition is rather stiff, because the most advanced and accomplished students are the ones who are most interested in BS/MD programs.
What is the likelihood of getting accepted to a BS/MD program?
Not much. Seriously. BS/MD programs usually only accept a handful of students. And the freshman profile for these students is quite remarkable: high SAT/ACT scores, exceptional GPA, top 10% class rank (or even the top ten of the class).
Even with those basic numbers covered -- i.e., even if you do have a great academic profile -- you still have to compete with students who have vast amounts of extra-curricular experience. If you haven’t shadowed a doctor, completed undergraduate research in biology or chemistry, and led one of the many health professional clubs at your school, don’t expect an acceptance letter.
For these programs, it really matters how you plan your entire high school career. If you just thought of applying to BS/MD programs without doing the prep work, even if you have good grades and scores, then you will be wasting your time. There are no safety schools when it comes to BS/MD.
Overall, what should you know about BS/MD programs?
BS/MD programs, while challenging to get into, still offer great benefits. The key is that you have to plan early to be competitive when applying. If you think that you will change majors or that medicine is only one possibility for your future career, then you should probably apply the standard pre-med route.
For those who do plan on applying to BS/MD programs, make sure that you get as much extra-curricular experience as possible. It will be a given that you have good grades and high test scores; what really sets applicants apart are all the experiences outside of class and how applicants present themselves through essays and interviews.
College application season is upon us! Need help selecting colleges, working on your resume, or drafting your essays? Have no fear! B2A is here to help with our college admissions services. Not sure where to start on your college admissions journey? Still in high school and want to plan correctly for BS/MD programs? Set up a FREE consultation with one of our directors.