BS/MD Programs: How to Prepare

Many students and parents are interested in 7 and 8 year direct medical or dental programs. These programs allow students to go through undergraduate and graduate education without having to re-apply for admission to the graduate school. They tend to be very competitive and attract candidates away from Ivy League schools. In this article, we will first outline specific programs, determining if BS/MD programs are right for you, strategies, and then tips on applying.

Specific Programs

There are ~50 BS/MD programs in the nation and some website have attempted to compile them (http://www.minimedicalschool.com/BA_MD_programs.html, http://www.ivyplanners.com/documents/BS-MD-IvyPlanners.pdf). The academic competitiveness of schools offering these programs ranges significantly, but a common feature is that BS/MD programs are always more difficult to get into. Having seen thousands of student apply through Synocate (www.synocate.com), we will offer a framework for deciding if these programs are right for you.

Are BS/MD Programs Right For You?

Many high school students are still discovering their academic passions and it comes through great teachers, AP/IB courses that they love, or friends and family. Reflecting back to our time at Stanford, many college students are still discovering their passions well beyond college. And that is okay!

Students who are successful in gaining admissions to BS/MD programs are those who have experience that points them in this direction. Initial introduction to the medical or dental fields are useful but not enough for students to be truly successful and have conviction that this is what they want to do with their lives. Summer programs, school clubs, and sustained volunteer work are good way to gain exposure. We have a list of over 600 activities that you can filter by type here: www.collegekazam.com.

BS/MD programs will often require a letter of recommendation from a science teacher and will heavily favor SAT II subject tests in the sciences. They will look closely at AP/IB scores in respective subjects and often have more rigorous interviews than normal programs. The average SAT/ACT and GPA is typically several standard deviations above the mean for the overall school. Finally, BS/MD programs do not exactly guarantee admission to MD programs - student still have to perform and score a minimum benchmark on the MCAT and maintain a GPA to be matriculated. Usually this benchmark is much lower than the requirement for outside admission, but it is worth noting.

So when thinking about whether BS/MD programs are right for you look within - can you see yourself dedicating your life to this? More importantly, if all of the external forces around you disappeared, what would you do with your life? What do you find yourself thinking about in your free time? Would you be a doctor if you did not get paid to do it? These are the types of questions that can help you get to the answer within your heart.

Strategies

Having worked with thousands of students at Synocate (www.synocate.com), we see a few trends in programs and types of students who apply to BS/MD programs. There are two major strategies for BS/MD programs: all-in and diversified.

All-In Strategy

The all-in strategy is much less popular and means that the student is completely focused on BS/MD programs. This strategy involves students applying to 10 or more programs with some safety schools included. In the BS/MD category, students will often include the top programs like Boston University, Brown, and others, as well as some target and safety options.

Normally, this strategy works for students with very high scores because we have to be sure that we will be accepted to at least one target or "safety" BS/MD program. There really is no safety BS/MD program so usually students who take this approach have a ~4.0 unweighted GPA and 95% percentile+ SAT/ACT.

Although it shows conviction to apply to mostly BS/MD programs, it does not prove anything more than a strong essay and a great story would. We recommend this strategy very rarely to students who express innate conviction, have excellent experiences to prove that over 4 years, and very solid grades.

Diversified

The diversified approach fits most students who are serious about medicine but do not want to lay out their career path. In other countries like the UK, it is normal to set out a career path in 10th grade or by 12th grade, but the US education system allows for flexibility. In fact, some universities boast that ~70% of their students change their major at least once (http://sites.laverne.edu/careers/what-can-i-do-with-my-major/).

Whether or not you agree with career flexibility, the diversified approach allows students to apply to some BS/MD programs and other target schools as a general major in Humanities & Sciences or Engineering and still have the option down the line. In essence, it delays the decision until acceptances, if there is a decision to be made at all.

Within a few minutes of talking with a student, it becomes clear how strong their conviction in the sciences is and it even more clear when reading their essays. The most important thing a BS/MD applicant can do is prove their interest with at least 3 activities or experiences in high school that show that this is what they really want to do with their life.

The diversified approach suggests students to apply to ~5 BS/MD programs (usually the top programs) and then a remaining 5-10 schools more generally, the latter of which should include safety, target, and reach schools.

Normally, we find that if a student is admitted to one BS/MD program and several reach schools more generally, they will be able to decide on their interest genuinely instead of on the perceived program strength. It does get tricky if a student is accepted to target schools and a BS/MD program that was not their first choice.

Tips

Beyond proving conviction with activities and experiences, students can increase their chances by writing essays that show true introspection. We can see directly through "engineered" students by reading essays that look more like resumes than a thoughtful response to "why medicine" essay questions. Taking some time to deeply think about yourself, your strengths, and why exactly you like medicine can be helpful. Third, students should take some time to understand the average class dynamics and if they are an academic fit. Most BS/MD programs are very rigorous and a strong undergraduate GPA and MCAT might be more beneficial for a student with average grades.

BS/MD programs are a semblance of the international perspective on education - a gateway directly to a career. They have their pros and cons. Students should first qualify themselves for these programs by looking at their academics and the strength of evidence that medicine is a lifelong commitment. Once that is qualified, determining an admissions strategy as outlined above and the exact approach is helpful. Finally, admission to a BS/MD program does not guarantee anything in life and students can always learn and grow through a strong undergraduate program and apply for medical school.