One option for attending medical school is to get accepted into a BS MD program or BA MD program. This blog post will go over a lot of information about both options so that you can determine whether applying to a BA MD program or BS MD program is right for you!
BS MD programs allow high school students to apply for an undergraduate and medical program at the same time. This means that BS MD students directly enter medical school for their Doctor of Medicine (MD) after completing their Bachelor of Science (BS) without undergoing the medical school application process. Both degrees are usually conferred by the same university, although some partnership programs offer degrees from different institutions (e.g. Rice/Baylor Medical Scholars Program).
While most BS MD programs follow an 8-year track (4 years of undergrad followed by 4 years of medical school), some offer accelerated 7- or even 6-year pathways. However, accelerated pathways are becoming increasingly rare as it is more difficult to cover necessary material in a shortened timespan.
Students accepted to a BS MD program must complete the necessary premedical coursework that is expected of most pre-meds. However, BS MD programs typically offer greater flexibility in course and major selection. Most programs require students to maintain a minimum GPA in these courses (e.g. most schools require a minimum 3.5 GPA throughout college). Bypassing the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is another potential advantage of a BS MD program. While some programs require students to score a specified minimum to fulfill conditions of matriculation, others waive the exam entirely.
A BS MD program can be very beneficial for a motivated high school student interested in medicine, offering an early-assurance, direct pathway to medical school. However, due to the early commitment and restrictive nature of these programs, students must weigh potential drawbacks carefully in considering whether or not to apply to BS MD programs.
We outline some pros and cons of BS MD programs & BA MD programs down below:
- Reduce the stress of the application process: with a guaranteed MD acceptance, students will forgo having to go through the medical school application process and any associated costs (which can total thousands of dollars).
- Reduce the stress of studying for the MCAT: studying for and taking the MCAT is a substantial barrier for a majority of pre-med students. Many combined BS MD programs do not require an MCAT or waive MCAT requirements as long as you are doing well in your premed coursework. Some BS MD programs do require a minimum MCAT. For example, WashU’s University Scholars Program in Medicine requires a minimum MCAT score of “equal or above the 97th percentile.” So do your research on each program before you apply!
- More freedom: Students in a BS MD program may feel a greater sense in freedom in selecting their extracurricular activities and commitments because they don’t have to worry about what medical school admissions committees think. For the right student, this can be intellectually beneficial and provide a less stressful and more independent education.
- Mentorship and networking: many BS MD programs admit a very small number of students with extensive resources and mentoring from faculty available to those admitted. This presents a benefit for students who might otherwise get “lost in the crowd” in a large, collegiate student body.
- Locked into a career: students who apply to BS MD programs are only 17-18 years old, without the additional years of experience from undergraduate schooling (and potentially post-graduate experience). It is already difficult to decide on a medical career in college; for a high schooler, this decision is even more uncertain.
- Locked into an undergraduate, medical school: not all medical schools offer BS MD programs, and those that do often have very competitive admissions. Students admitted to BS MD programs are likely to receive offers from other prestigious universities as well. As such, BS MD programs can limit one’s educational path and number of options as opposed to choosing an undergraduate and medical school independently.
- Preparedness for medical school: the freedom offered by BS MD programs may be harmful for students if not productive with their time. There are also concerns about whether accelerated programs harm students’ preparedness for the rigors of medical school. From our experiences, most high schoolers who adamantly want to pursue medicine and matriculate to combined BS MD programs do become great doctors!
#1. Aim for a high GPA and standardized test scores
BS MD programs are extremely competitive. Admitted students typically have GPAs at or near 4.0 with equally high standardized test scores on their SAT or ACT. The typical BS MD program acceptance rate often lies in the single digits (e.g. Brown’s PLME program accepted 94 students out of 2641 applications for an overall acceptance rate of 3.6%). Furthermore, considering the academic rigors of medical school, it is no surprise that BS MD programs look for students who have demonstrated their prowess in school. Before applying to BS MD programs, make sure you have competitive grades and test scores!
#2. Have strong healthcare-related extracurricular activities
In addition to metrics, successful BS MD applicants often pursue a well-rounded list of extracurricular activities that showcase their commitment to medicine while distinguishing themselves from others. While there is no one set of activities that guarantees acceptances to BS MD programs, we recommend students explore the following:
- Volunteering/Community Service – medicine is an altruistic field, and BS MD admissions committees want to see that you care about your community and are willing to volunteer your time to help others. Keep in mind that a longer period of involvement is more impressive than a lot of hours in a shortened time frame, as the former further demonstrates your commitment to a cause.
- Medical/Clinical Experience – BS MD programs want to see that you have explored healthcare and what it is like being a doctor. It is a good idea to shadow physicians and try to work in clinical settings so you can speak to the day to day realities of a career as a physician.
- Research – medicine is applied science, so research on one’s application will be looked upon well. Look up research internships and/or programs offered by universities near your school and apply to them. If you are able to produce evidence of your productivity, consider submitting your work to a scientific fair or competition. For example, winning competitions like Intel’s Science and Engineering Fair, Regeneron Science Talent Search, and/or the Google Science Fair will be a substantial boost to your application.
#3. Write compelling essays
Your BS MD application essays are an important way for you to tell a story and convey your motivations for pursuing a career in medicine. Furthermore, your writing can reveal important insights about your maturity, your character traits, and the way you think about the world. While BS MD supplemental essays are different than medical school secondary essays, writing the two successfully requires a similar strategy.
Read our blog post on Medical School Secondary Essays: 5 Tips to Nail Them & Essay Prompts for more help on this topic!
#4. Collect strong letters of recommendation
While your essays speak to what you think about your application, your letters of recommendation provide an objective third-party view of what others think about you. Therefore, it is very important that you build personal relationships with your teachers and request strong letters of recommendation to support your application. Besides excelling grade-wise, make an effort to get to know your teachers outside of class time. Ask questions about the material you are learning and take advantage of opportunities to demonstrate your character. Besides a strong letter, you might also win a life-long mentor!
For letters of recommendation, it’s important for your letter writers to discuss:
- Your maturity and awesome personal characteristics
- Your interest in medicine
- Leadership abilities
- Contributions to your community
- Academic record and study skills
Letters of recommendation are extremely important, so contact us if you have any questions!
#5. Practice, practice, practice for your interviews
For the past 10 years we’ve advised students for BS MD and BA MD programs, doing well on interviews with admissions committee members is extremely important.
While only some undergraduate programs necessitate mandatory interviews, nearly all BS MD programs require applicants to interview on-campus in order to be considered for admissions. And as a younger student, it will be especially important for you to demonstrate your maturity and preparation for a career in medicine during your interview.
If you’re interested in a mock interview, look at our interview packages here.
Read our blog post on 4 Common Medical School Essay Questions and How to Answer Them for specifics on how to ace interviews!
A BA MD program is a BS MD program but with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) instead of a Bachelor of Science (BS). Both are 4-year undergraduate degrees, but a BA focuses on more liberal arts subjects and coursework. For example, an example of a BA major would be English, while BS majors tend to be in STEM fields (Biology, Chemistry, etc.) Most pre-medical dual degree programs offer BS MDs due to the close relationship between science and medicine, but a BA MD program may provide a more well-rounded and broad education prior to medical school.
- Northwestern University- Honors Program in Medical Education
- Brown’s Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME)
- Rice/Baylor Medical Scholars Program
- Baylor2 Medical Track Program
- Case Western – Pre-Professional Scholars Program in Medicine
- Washington University in St. Louis – University Scholars Program in Medicine
- Penn State’s Accelerated Premedical-Medical Program
- Boston University – Seven-Year Liberal Arts/Medical Education Program
- University of Rochester – Rochester Early Medical Scholars
- University of the Pittsburgh – School of Medicine Guaranteed Admissions Program (GAP)
- Rutgers University – 7-Year BA/MD joint degree program
- University of Illinois – GPPA Medicine Program
Blog post written by Kevin Li and Dr. Rachel Rizal