BS/MD Programs: What Makes a Good Applicant?
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At just over 5%, Stanford University had the lowest overall acceptance rate of any undergraduate institution during the 2015 – 2016 admissions cycle. Harvard’s was just slightly higher, at 5.3%.
Many consider admissions to BS/MD programs to be just as competitive as gaining entrance to top universities such as Harvard and Stanford. In fact, the numbers seem to suggest that acceptance into combined medical programs might be even more difficult.
The admissions process for BS/MD programs usually consists of two stages. In the first stage, the candidate finds out whether or not they were offered an interview for the program. It’s not until the second stage that they find out whether or not they were accepted. An average of 10% of applicants are offered an interview, but only 4% of total candidates are ultimately accepted.
In other words, BS/MD programs are difficult to get into. To really make yourself a competitive candidate, you need to have the complete package: strong academics, extracurriculars, and recommendations.
When applying to combined medical programs, you have to be academically solid in four main areas. First, a high GPA is crucial. Many of these programs implement GPA minimums in order to filter out the less qualified candidates. On average, the minimum GPA is around 3.5.
Second, class rank is also held in high regard. The ideal candidate would be in the top 5% of their class, but to be a competitive applicant, you should at least be in the top 10%.
Third, BS/MD admission officers like students who take many AP courses. They believe that this demonstrates competency in advanced courses and therefore projected success in college. Because BS/MD programs have medicine as their focus, AP science courses (chemistry, biology, physics, etc.) are given more weight.
Finally, on a similar note, science and math SAT IIs are required by many programs. These examinations are just another way for you to demonstrate your affinity for the sciences, an important quality aspiring physicians must possess.
While excelling at academics is a good method for applicants to demonstrate a good work ethic and competency in the sciences, an array of impressive and meaningful extracurriculars is often even more important. Any aspiring doctor should try to emphasize two things: an interest in medicine and a passion for helping others. Having good academics takes care of the first thing, and participating in a variety of extracurriculars addresses the second.
Because demonstrating a desire to help others is so important, it’s nearly mandatory to have a substantive amount of community service and volunteer hours to be a competitive BS/MD candidate. In addition, volunteering at a hospital or conducting research also shows a commitment to medicine and the study of science. Shadowing a physician, whether it be a primary care doctor or a specialist, helps provide credibility to the claims that you will undoubtedly make about your commitment to medicine in your program essays.
Outside of the hospital and lab, BS/MD applicants should strive to attain leadership positions in clubs and organizations. Finally, to make an application even more complete, several of these ECs should be in subjects such as biology or chemistry. These activities could include being an officer of Science Olympiad or excelling in American Chemistry Society competitions.
Letters of Recommendation
It’s incredibly difficult for admission officers to gain a comprehensive understanding of an applicant just by reviewing test scores, class rank, extracurriculars, and so on, which is why letters of recommendation are a crucial part of any application. For BS/MD programs, it’s nice to have at least one recommender who is a physician or someone from a healthcare-related EC. This recommender would be able to vouch for your passion for medicine and make you a much more appealing candidate.
A second recommendation letter should come from a science teacher, preferably a biology one. While a recommender from the healthcare field can help portray you as a student interested in medicine, a biology teacher can emphasize your passion for studying science. Both types of recommendation letter are key to a solid BS/MD application.
BS/MD programs are some of the nation’s most competitive undergraduate programs, so building up a strong profile with good academics, ECs, and recommendations is bound to require tons of hard work. However, all the effort you put in will definitely pay off further down the road. To learn more about the benefits of combined medical programs, take a look at this post.