What Are BS/MD Programs?
Each year, a new crop of pre-med hopefuls research undergraduate destinations that will enable them to stand out to their dream medical schools. The pre-med student’s quest for a fitting undergraduate program carries more weight than the typical incoming freshman, as every decision they make at this early stage will influence their future medical career. For students who have researched and planned for medical school in advance, there exists a less-traveled road within the education field. Combined BS/MD or BA/MD programs, also referred to as direct medical programs, allow students to move directly from their undergraduate program into a doctoral medical program following one comprehensive admissions process. These programs typically follow the standard medical school format of eight years, while a few accelerated programs are as short as six years.
The Big Difference
BS/MD programs allow accepted students to bypass the stress of applying for medical school after earning an undergraduate degree. While students who pursue the traditional medical school path are faced with completing the pre-med classes before tackling the application process again for medical school, those who join a combined BS/MD cohort have the ability to focus on undergraduate studies without this uncertainty looming.
Who Is a Candidate?
Direct medical programs are known for their selectivity, with an average incoming ACT score of 32. The size of these programs enforces their elite status, typically admitting less than 30 students into an incoming cohort. Ideal candidates for these programs are students at the top of their class with extremely high SAT/ACT scores and noteworthy extracurriculars. Most competitive applicants have been published in medical journals or have demonstrated exceptional research aptitude and leadership through summer research camps.
Advantages of Combined Programs
Beyond the obvious relief in securing an early seat in medical school, many direct medical programs allow students to bypass the MCAT or simply achieve a minimum threshold score to move to the medical portion of their education. This requirement is vastly preferable to the anxiety caused by needing to achieve an impressive MCAT score before tackling the tedious medical school application process. Additionally, direct admit students are able to gain a familiarity with medical facilities years in advance of their traditional peers, who don’t gain the same level of access until medical school is begun.
In the long run, the networking potential and internship opportunities alone can be an advantage. In BS/MD programs, medical doctorates typically continue at the same school as the undergraduate program, or at a partner school with a strong affiliation. One such program is the Washington & Jefferson College/Temple University which begins undergraduates at Washington & Jefferson College and has them finish at Temple University for medical school. This provides applicants with the stability of spending the entirety of their education in one location, allowing lasting connections to be built.
Disadvantages of Combined Programs
Although avoiding the substantial stress of applying for medical schools is a plus, the expectations within these programs are not a breeze. Many schools require certain stipulations be maintained to keep the med school transition intact, such as achieve a threshold score on the MCAT or maintain a high GPA.
Additionally, a high level of commitment is required by dedicating to a profession earlier than a traditional student. There is no room to change majors or explore alternative career paths outside of choosing a medical specialty.
Finally, the admissions process alone may be a deterrent to some, as it requires on-site interviews and extensive essays. It is recommended to research and write each school’s supplemental essays early, preferably beginning the summer before senior year.
An even smaller subset of direct medical programs are accelerated programs, allowing students to progress through their medical education in seven, or even six years. Accelerated programs such as University of Missouri—Kansas City School of Medicine, allow students to save on their educational funds by spending fewer total years in school. This compression requires intense dedication, often attending classes throughout the summer. Accelerated programs are designed for students who are intensely focused on the outcome of their education and prefer to finish their degree in the shortest amount of time possible.
The Bottom Line
Pursuing any of these BS/MD programs should be carefully researched and planned in advance. It is recommended to indicate advanced interest in these programs by applying before their early action deadlines, which typically arise in early November. Ambition and perseverance on the forefront can yield a substantial reward by securing direct medical admission. These specialized programs offer noteworthy advantages for those fortunate enough to earn one of their sought-after seats.
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