Becoming a doctor is a long and complicated process. To streamline the journey, several medical schools now offer high school students single-application early admission pathways, known as Direct Medical Programs, accelerated programs, or combined bachelor (BS or BA) and medical (MD or DO) degree programs. These programs enable 12th graders to apply to and gain admission to an undergraduate college and partner medical school simultaneously. For many students and their concerned parents, these programs provide relief from the uncertainty of the traditional drawn-out med school application process.
Though combined BA/MD programs are highly competitive, they also offer many benefits. By allowing students to work in a clinical rotation while completing their undergraduate degree, these accelerated programs decrease the time required to become a physician, they eliminate the medical school application process, and they often either do not require applicants to take the MCAT, or they have a score cutoff that’s lower than that for their general matriculant. BS/MD programs provide pre-meds a streamlined experience, allowing participants to avoid stressing about achieving straight A’s or balancing extracurriculars and research time.
There is a wide range of options when choosing a BS/MD program, but the main differences between programs are, first, the length of time it takes to complete them (lengths vary from six to eight years in total) and, second, whether the program is associated with an accredited medical school. While an accelerated timeline may be desirable for any number of reasons, such programs are often also more difficult because students complete their education in less time.
Things to consider before you apply:
Stand Out by engaging in activities that you enjoy.
In addition to high grades, BS/MD programs also look for extracurricular activities that demonstrate a passion for medicine. Leadership positions, community service work, and extracurricular activities are essential. Volunteering at a hospital or medical research facility is encouraged as a way to stand out from a large pool of similar applicants.
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BS/MD candidates need to bring both strong clinical experience and research experience to the table. Research-intensive summer programs are one way to gain laboratory experience, but there are also ways to gain experience during the school year. Consider asking your high school teachers if you can do extra experimental work after-hours, contacting local university professors to see if you can volunteer to assist them in the lab, or even reaching out to companies that conduct research to see if they host student interns.
Don’t be shy! Make use of your contacts: family, friends’ parents, teachers, people at your place of worship who may have research connections. Research experience will greatly enhance your BS/MD admissions chances.
Take rigorous high school coursework.
An exemplary high school transcript is critical for admission to Direct Medical Programs. Applicants must be at the top of their high school class and have outstanding academic achievements. Northwestern University in Chicago, for instance, only admits students who are in the top 1% of their high school classes to its BS/MD program.
Aspiring Direct Medical Program students should excel in science and also have excellent grades in English and mathematics. any Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate coursework your high school offers. Though schools like to see well-rounded students who thrive in the humanities as well as the sciences (and often require students to take several liberal arts classes once enrolled), it is particularly important to have taken the most rigorous math and science curriculum available in your high school—especially chemistry and biology classes.
Ensure that you have test scores close to the top percentile.
Generally, the best BS/MD program only admits students with an ACT score of 33 or higher.
Prepare for the BS/MD program interview.
Most BS/MD schools interview applicants. Depending on your profile and background, you can expect a panel interview, conversational interviews, or multiple mini-interviews. You may also be asked to complete a CASPer situational judgment test, during which you’ll be asked how you would respond to a variety of hypothetical situations.
Even if you follow these guidelines it is still extremely difficult to get into a BS/MD program. In 2017, SUNY Stony Brook’s program accepted only five students — out of 800 applicants. Also, know that many state schools prioritize or, in extreme situations, only admit applicants from their state. Other states prioritize kids from underrepresented backgrounds. Finally, many of these programs require students to spend six, seven, or even eight years at a single institution, so it’s important to consider the quality of both the undergraduate and medical schools.
Colleges and Universities that have BS/MD programs include:
1. Brown University Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME)
3. Temple University Pre-Med Health Scholar Program
5. University of Pittsburgh Guaranteed Admissions Program
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