What’s Wrong with Guaranteed Acceptance to Medical School? 3 Surprising Downsides to BS/MD Programs

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By: Ryan Kelly

A guaranteed ticket into medical school, you say? With no MCAT? No lengthy personal statement? No letters of recommendation or secondary essays?

You might be saying, “Sign me up!”

Sorry, pre-meds; there’s no helping you here without a time machine.  BS/MD programs are only for high school students about to fill out their college applications this fall.

Let me introduce you to a category of programs that accept you to  both your undergraduate (baccalaureate) and medical degree (MD) in one fell swoop. We call them BS/MD  programs.  They seem to promise many positives - who doesn’t want a guaranteed spot in medical school? - but they’re not right for everyone.

To understand whether these programs are a good fit, we’ve made a chart to compare the “normal” path to medicine with the path for BS/MD  students.

What’s the Difference?

BS/MD Programs

Traditional Medical School Path

Guaranteed medical school acceptance
Yes No
Total time to complete both degrees 6, 7, or 8 years
(program dependent)
8 years
MCAT No
or only a minimal score to pass on to med school
Required
Medical school applications No Yes
Medical school application fees (~$3,000-$5,000) No Yes
Medical school application essays (60+ pages) No Yes
Medical School Interviews No Yes

 

Don’t these programs look sweet? Look how much stress you avoid! Look how much time you save! Look how many application fees you recover!

How could there possibly be a downside? Well, we’ve come up with three. BS/MD programs are solid, but they’re not right for everyone.

 

Con #1 - BS/MD  programs are even more selective than medical school.

Although it seems that no one gets into medical school, a full 43% of all students get into a U.S. allopathic medical school. That number bumps up to a full 50% when you look at students who either get into an MD or DO med school.

On the other hand, very few students get into BS/MD programs. For example, Brown’s PLME program received 2290 applications last year, but its incoming class was only 61 students (that’s about 37 applications per spot!). Not only are there not limited spots available, but these programs also represent a tiny sliver of the overall pool of prospective doctors in the U.S.

 

Con #2 - BS/MD programs may have ties to less selective medical schools

Many BS/MD programs have ties to less selective medical schools, such as Drexel or University of Missouri - Kansas City. You won’t find these schools listed on the U.S. News and World Report Rankings (which ranks the top 90 med schools in two categories: research and primary care). On the one hand, if you graduate from any U.S. medical school, you will have an excellent chance of becoming a doctor. On the other hand, you may be able to get into a better medical school by going to college first.

Think about it. If you’re competitive enough to gain admission to a BS/MD program, then you’re competitive enough to get into an awesome college as well. And if you’re able to do well on the SAT or ACT, then odds are good you will also do well on your MCAT. And as a result, you’re going to be a part of that 43% anyway, so you may as well want to take your shot at getting into a better med school by going the traditional route.

 

Con #3 - BS/MD programs may leave you less ready to enter - and succeed in - medical school.

Despite all the stress, the application process to medical school is good for you. It forces you to focus your interests, express yourself in writing and speaking, and know your strengths and weaknesses as a candidate and human being. Studying for the MCAT prepares you well to succeed on the USMLE’s (the series of exams for gaining admission to residency programs). In short, applying to medical school is good for your maturity.

Coming out of these BS/MD  programs, the start of medical school can be a rude awakening.  You’re now competing not just with your BS/MD classmates, but with the general applicant pool who has worked harder than you and just survived the brutal application process. They’re ready for the battle. Will you be?

This argument especially holds true for BS/MD programs that offer fewer years to complete both degrees: students graduating from such programs are even younger than their medical school peers and may be even less ready for the emotional and mental strain of medical school.

 

Unexpected Pros to BS/MD  Programs

Some of the pros are obvious: the guaranteed spot in med school, the lower stress from the application process, and not having to take the MCAT. But what are the not-so-obvious pros?

Pro #1 - Freedom

This might seem strange, since the whole idea of the BS/MD program is to choose your career before you start college.

But once you’re accepted into a BS/MD, you can enjoy a special kind of freedom that’s unavailable to every other pre-med. Just think: while most of your friends spaz about application essays, hustle to secure letters of recommendation, and lose sleep over their MCAT, you’ll be in upperclassmen paradise.

As a junior and senior, you’ll be able to explore diverse academic interests without the hassles and stress of the application process.

Pro #2 - School Pride

Right, so you’ll be stuck in place, but you’ll know this from the beginning. Since you know your future fate (or at least the next step), you’ll be able to build a solid foundation at your current institution.

You’ll have plenty of time to make connections with faculty and alumni, secure important research and volunteer positions, and explore the opportunities available to you as a future medical student.

As friends graduate and enter the unknown, you’ll already be several steps ahead and several layers deeper into your medical school experience.        

Pro #3 - Special Perks

Many BS/MD programs offer special advising to their students and opportunities to rub elbows with medical students and doctors. Some sponsor special guest lecturers to talk to the program, while others have extra money to help sponsor projects to make an impact at the school or in the community. These special perks can be nice ways to tailor your undergraduate experience.

 

Applying to a BS/MD program? Leave a comment with your questions or concerns about this unusual and intriguing path!