What Are the Pros and Cons of BS/MD Programs?
- An Introduction to BS/MD Programs
- Advantages of a Combined BS/MD Program
- Disadvantages of a Combined BS/MD Program
- What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?
If you’re a motivated high school student considering a career in medicine, you have several different options to think about. Maybe you’ve even researched your options for undergrad and med school and begun to toy with the idea of a combined BS/MD program.
These programs can be a great choice for a select group of students, but require careful consideration, as they’re not for everyone. In this post, we’ll discuss the primary advantages and disadvantages of choosing a BS/MD program so that you can make the best choice for yourself.
An Introduction to BS/MD Programs
Combined BS/MD programs allow students to complete a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree and then continue directly into medical school for a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. Students apply for the program in their senior year of high school and are accepted for the entirety of the program, thereby eliminating the separate application process usually necessary to progress from an undergrad college or university to a medical school.
In BS/MD programs, students benefit from knowing in advance that they’ve already been accepted to med school, gain access to resources available only to students in their program, and sometimes even complete their degrees in an accelerated time frame. For high school students who know early on that they want to pursue a career in medicine, a combined BS/MD program may seem like a great idea.
Nevertheless, these programs aren’t without their faults. BS/MD program participants sacrifice choice by committing to two schools at once, and they can sometimes miss out on the undergrad experience or the life lessons that come from finding your way through undergrad. Settling on a BS/MD path should be a choice that’s weighed very carefully.
Advantages of a Combined BS/MD Program
Only Apply Once
When you choose a BS/MD program, you simplify your journey into the medical field by applying only once, during high school. This process combines your undergraduate and medical school applications, thereby removing the need to apply to medical school later.
Although these programs are highly competitive, securing a spot means that you won’t have to go through the med school application process after your undergraduate studies. Some BS/MD programs might even exempt you from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), saving you additional preparation time and stress. Most students who take the MCAT spend no small amount of time preparing for it, so not having to take it will be a major weight lifted off your shoulders further down the line.
More Flexible Undergrad Course Selection
Many students who go into undergrad with the intention of continuing on to med school feel pressure as early as freshman year to compile a transcript that highlights their commitment to the sciences. They may even be hesitant to take many humanities or social science courses, as their focus is on showcasing readiness for med school.
While BS/MD program participants still have to take certain premed courses and meet minimum GPA standards, they no longer have to worry about impressing an admissions committee. Therefore, they can choose their other classes with fewer concerns. Ultimately, some argue that, in this way, one can become a more well-rounded student—and doctor—as a result.
Greater Resources Available
In any formal program of study, there are available resources that are exclusive to program participants, and BS/MD programs are no different. When you enroll in one of these programs, you will find yourself part of a unique community. Of course, the size and spirit of that community will vary widely according to which program you attend, but in general, you can expect to be part of a smaller community within a larger school environment.
Some BS/MD programs, like Brown’s PLME Program, offer a selection of enrichment activities, such as study abroad opportunities, chances to observe practicing physicians, research opportunities, and professional development.
Even if your school does not have extensive enrichment activities specific to your program, it may be easier to find some opportunities, like research positions, simply due to your status as a BS/MD student.
Finally, some BS/MD programs offer an accelerated path through undergrad and med school. These allow you to complete your undergraduate degree in only three years, thereby allowing you to graduate from med school after seven years of postsecondary education, rather than eight.
This accelerated pace can save you money because you will pay for fewer years of education and become a doctor with real earning potential one year earlier. You will also save (on a much smaller scale) on application costs, since you will not need to complete separate applications for med school.
Disadvantages of a Combined BS/MD Program
The most obvious disadvantage of a combined BS/MD program is the relative lack of options available to you. While there are over 100 medical schools in the U.S., there are far fewer med schools that participate in BS/MD programs.
If you’re considering a BS/MD program, you’ll have to attend one of the medical schools that partner with a BS/MD program. You may have to set aside your preference for a research-heavy program or med school geared towards family practitioners if you can’t find a BS/MD program that will cater to these preferences.
Restricted Choices for Undergrad
As we mentioned above, there are over 100 medical schools in the U.S. There are also over 7,000 undergraduate institutions. This leaves a ton of choices for a student who is choosing schools individually. When selecting an undergraduate school and med school separately, you will be able to choose each based on your very specific preferences and priorities.
When you apply for a BS/MD program, you need to find one program that fits you well both as an undergraduate and as a med student. You cannot pick and choose. More specifically, you will not be able to choose a med school that is best suited to the interests you discover during your undergrad studies, since you’ll already be committed.
Finally, you will not be able to pursue a dual degree while in med school, such as an MD/PhD.
Another obvious disadvantage of BS/MD programs is their extreme selectivity. Admissions are among the most competitive in the country. While many Ivy League schools accept as few as 5-6% of applicants, only 4% of BS/MD program applicants are accepted overall. This means that you often have a higher likelihood of being accepted if you go the traditional route and apply for undergrad and med school separately.
Additionally, due to the extremely low acceptance rates and the typical requirement for program-specific supplemental essays, applying to these programs can significantly add to your workload and time commitment during the fall of your senior year.
Less Life Experience
Finally, when you are choosing a BS/MD program, you are usually only 17-18 years old. You do not have the additional few years of undergraduate education and the life perspective gained during those years. Although you might think you know exactly what you want to do with your life, you simply don’t have the same insights that a student graduating from college has.
It’s crucial to remember that once you commit to a BS/MD program, you are more or less locked into a career in medicine. You must be certain from a relatively young age that you want to pursue an MD. Although it’s possible to drop out of a BS/MD program, it’s highly discouraged and even looked down upon due to the limited number of spaces available to begin with. You may find yourself feeling locked into an academic path that doesn’t suit your ultimate goals.
BS/MD programs are a wonderful choice for a student who discovers from an early age that his or her life’s path includes a career as a doctor. But, like most things worth working for, you must be willing to make some sacrifices to pursue a BS/MD program. Ultimately, only you can decide if one of these unique programs is right for you.
To learn more about BS/MD programs, read these popular CollegeVine posts:
- Timeline: Applying for BS/MD Programs
- BS/MD Programs vs Premed: Which is Right For You?
- CollegeVine’s Top 22 Combined BS/MD Programs in 2023
- A Beginner’s Guide to 7-Year Med Programs
- How to Write 7-Year Med Program Essays
- How to Survive Your 7-Year Med Program Interview
- Summer Activities for the Prospective Premed Student
- Are Combined Undergraduate/Graduate Programs Right for You?
What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?
While predicting exact acceptance rates for BS/MD programs can be challenging due to their highly competitive nature, understanding your chances of getting into the undergraduate portion of these programs is more straightforward. Remember, it’s crucial to include regular undergrad programs in your college list, as all BS/MD programs should be considered “reach” schools, given their selectivity.
Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Check out CollegeVine’s free chancing engine, an intuitive tool that considers factors like your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data, to predict your odds of acceptance at over 1,500 colleges across the country! Check it out to get a better sense of where you stand in the competitive college admissions landscape.