Meet Radha. Radha is an 18-year-old student at a college-oriented public high school on the West Coast. So far, she has earned perfect grades and near-perfect test scores, 1510 on the SAT and 36 on the ACT.
Since she was a freshman, Radha has known she wants to attend medical school and become a doctor. She is laser focused and knows this is exactly what she is supposed to do with her life.
Radha’s parents have been helping her by doing some research about college and medical school programs. They have found out about a combined program — something called the BS/MD or Bacc/MD program (also known as BSMD, or BaccMD). Because of the time and headache, it will save her in the future, Radha’s parents strongly encourage her to apply for a BS/MD program as her best option.
What are BS/MD programs?
You may be wondering what the BS/MD program is. A BS/MD program allows students to apply to BOTH college AND medical school while still in high school. If you are accepted into a BS/MD program, you will combine and earn your Bachelor’s of Science degree (BS) then continue into that college’s medical school for your Doctor of Medicine (MD). Not all BS/MD programs are created equal. Let’s take a look at some of the options available.
Instead of applying for medical school after your junior or senior year of undergrad, you can get the entire application process out of the way in high school. As a student in a BS/MD program, you are asked to commit to one school for both your undergrad and medical school education. BS/MD programs will typically last the same amount of time (eight years) as the “traditional” medical school path.
An accelerated BS/MD, sometimes called a BaccMD, program is one that is completed in less than eight years. These programs are commonly done in seven years, but some can be completed in as little as six. Typically, the undergraduate portion, not the medical school portion, is shortened. This means that students may combine certain required classes or take classes year round without breaks. Just like the BS/MD program, you will move onto medical school right after completion of your undergrad, but you may be a few years younger than your colleagues.
When you research these programs, you may see terms like “3×4”, “4×4”. These are common terms used to describe BS/MD programs. A 3×4 is an accelerated BS/MD or BaccMD program that lasts seven years — three years to complete your undergrad and four years to complete medical school. A 4×4 is a BS/MD program that lasts eight years — four years to complete your undergrad and four years to complete medical school. Here is a list of all the six, seven, and eight-year BaccMD and BS/MD programs that currently exist.
How Early Admissions / Assurance Programs are different from Bacc/MD
Make sure that you don’t confuse BS/MD and Bacc/MD with Early Admissions. Early Admission programs are medical schools that you apply for during your sophomore year of your undergrad as opposed to your senior year. Early Admissions Programs share the benefit of knowing early that you will get into medical school, but that is where the similarities end. Your acceptance into medical school is not directly linked with your acceptance into your undergrad program. For example, you could get into Harvard for your undergrad, but that doesn’t guarantee you acceptance into Harvard Medical School. With a 3×4 or a 4×4 program, acceptance to both your undergrad and medical school are directly linked.
If you are not accepted into a BS/MD program, an Early Admissions Program could be a good alternative. You will have an extra two years to make sure that you are certain that you are heading into the right career path, and you will be able to graduate without the headache of trying to apply for medical schools your senior year.
Do you need help finding the right program for your son/daughter? Find out how YOU can help them here!
Quick guide for parents and students
Below you’ll find a summary of common questions and answers for BS/MD program. Very useful for parents.
How is the application different than normal college?
There are a few major differences between a BS/MD application and the traditional path. Students will first need to apply to get into their preferred schools. Once accepted, your son or daughter will need to apply again to get into the BS/MD program. This second application is more extensive. It will typically include a personal statement on top of a further look into the types of classes that were taken by your student in high school.
Note: Your son or daughter will go through an intensive interview process before they are accepted into a BS/MD program.
What matters in BS/MD admissions
It’s not only the application that will be different for your son or daughter when applying for a BS/MD program, what the schools are looking for will also be different.
— Grades and Class Types
Let’s take a look at Brown’s version of the BS/MD which they call PLME. In 2017, there were 2,432 applicants. Of those applicants, only 96 were accepted. That is roughly one out of every 25 applications or less than 4 percent — as compared to traditional medical school admissions where closer to 41 percent of applicants are accepted. (According to AAMC.org, in 2018 there were 52,777 applicants for traditional medical school. Of those, 21,622 were accepted.) Clearly, these programs are reserved for the absolute best of the best. Because of that, students that get accepted will typically have a GPA higher than 4.1. This means that you will want to make sure that your son or daughter is in the top 5% of their class. It is more realistic that they will need to be in the top 2% to get serious consideration.
Keep in mind that his or her grades alone will not be enough when it comes to gaining acceptance into a BS/MD program. The universities will also look very carefully at the types of classes that were taken during their high school tenure. Competitive students will have taken the most rigorous coursework offered at the school. Students that are applying will have taken AP courses and exams. Having a few college credits under your child’s belt will also make their application stronger.
— SAT, ACT — but No MCAT
If grades are the most important aspect of a BS/MD application, good test scores come in a close second. Programs will be looking for a minimum of 1,400 on the Critical Reading and Math portions of the SAT or a 30 on the ACT. Most BS/MD programs will want the written portion of the ACT to be submitted as well. In order to be near the top of the competition, you will want to make sure that your son or daughter has close to a 1,500 on their SAT or a 33 (out of the maximum of 36) on the ACT. Make sure that you and your child know what test their preferred school requires.
At this point you are probably thinking to yourself, “I get it, you need to be smart, but what else goes into this?” What other factors help separate the smart students who get accepted from the smart students who do not? Let’s take a look at what goes into the rest of the perfect BS/MD applicant.
–Patient contact, healthcare-related volunteering or shadowing
Another important part of your son or daughter’s application is their shadowing experience. Programs want students that know what it is like to be a physician, and one of the best ways that they can show they have this knowledge is to shadow a doctor.
A fairly common question is how do you find a doctor to shadow? Here is an article that I have written on that topic. BS/MD programs do not care what kind of physician you shadow so if you cannot find one in your child’s particular field of interest, do not worry. Similar to the volunteer work, there is no specific amount of time that medical schools require you spend shadowing to improve your chance of acceptance. With that being said, it would be in their best interest to get as much shadowing experience in as possible.
— Non-healthcare-related volunteer work
Showing compassion is something that all 3×4 and 4×4 programs want to see out of their applicants. How do you show in an application essay that you are compassionate about others? By writing about your volunteering. The specifics of the experience of your son or daughter does not matter as much as long as they are out there helping other people.
Showing volunteering on the BS/MD application is an art form. Schools will want more than a general estimate of how long your child volunteered and how many hours a week they contributed. BS/MD programs will want to know the impact your volunteer experience had on your motivation to become a physician. Behind grades and test scores, volunteering is probably the third most important component of the application.
A lot of the top candidates will have some sort of research experience on their application. Usually, this experience will take place the summer between their junior and senior years of high school. Your student should look to volunteer their time at a local university working for a professor in the science department.
These opportunities to get involved in research are very limited, so your child should start looking for them the January before they are planning to start — at least six months in advance. Try contacting the professors and ask if they need any research help. Explain to them that you are trying to apply for BS/MD programs and you can provide them with whatever help they may need.
–Showing Leadership and More
BS/MD programs are the most difficult medical programs to get into. They will want their students to be much more than just a shining academic. Beyond the aforementioned extracurriculars, you will also want to show them who you are as a person. This means show: maturity beyond your years, strong leadership qualities, both a passion for the medical field, and compassion for others. These other factors can be a little more difficult to showcase. Maturity and leadership can go hand in hand. You son or daughter can show maturity through their commitment to clubs and volunteer experiences. Hopefully, by their longevity within these opportunities, they will be able to move into more of a leadership role. Passion and compassion can be shown through volunteering as well. If a student is able to land themselves a volunteering opportunity within the medical field, they can show that they are passionate about becoming a physician and that they care about the well being of others. That kind of experience cannot be beaten.
Helping your child find the right program
Getting into a BS/MD program is significantly more difficult than taking a traditional path, and is not for everyone. A student who considers this approach must be ready for the substantial difficulties and adversity that is inherent in the application process — rejection is inevitable, and your son or daughter must be emotionally capable of handling this. Because of this, make sure that your child is applying to the right programs to prevent substantial disappointment in the application and acceptance process. Keep in mind that not every program is right for every student. There are some programs that will only accept applicants from the state that the university is located in. There are some programs that will waive the MCAT for potential students, and some that require a minimum score on the MCAT. Every BS/MD application has different requirements and a different process. Make sure you know what each potential school is looking for so each application can be specifically tailored. A common interview question that is asked is, “Why are you interested in our program?” If your child can figure out what his/her answer will be to that question before they start applying, they will make themselves a stronger candidate for that school and it will make the application process easier.
What happens if my child isn’t accepted? What next?
If your son or daughter wasn’t accepted into a BS/MD program, don’t start to panic yet. You should still apply via the traditional medical school admissions path. If you need further assistance, please give me a call at (714) 403-5500.
As soon as Radha learned about what a BS/MD program was, she knew that it was the right option for her. She and her parents found out what goes into the application process and how it is different than a “traditional” medical school path application. Through their research together, they also learned what mattered when it came to making her stand out from the rest of the crowd. They picked a program and a focus that was right for her. Luckily, because of all of her hard work in her four years in high school, Radha was able to get accepted into a BS/MD program. She didn’t get into all of the BS/MD programs she applied to, but she got accepted into one.