So you know you want to be a doctor, and you’re wondering how to go from high school to medical school? While it’s a long road, it’s definitely doable! There are a few different ways to go from high school to medical school, but the most direct route is to apply to a BS/MD program. In this comprehensive guide to BS/MD programs, we will cover everything you need to know about applying to a BS/MD program- including how to prepare in your early years of high school.
Table of contents
- What is a BS/MD program?
- How Competitive Are You as a BS/MD Applicant?
- Pros and Cons of going from High School into a BS/MD Program
- What are the Benefits of BSMD Programs?
- What are the cons of doing a BSMD program?
- Debunking Common Myths about the Disadvantages of a BS/MD program
- What is it like being in a BS/MD program?
- High School Performance and BS/MD Program Acceptance
- Test Scores and GPA Matter for BS/MD Programs
- Since All BS/MD Candidates Are Exceptional, Here Is How You Can Stand Out
- Make Your BS/MD Personal Statement Matter
- Own Your BS/MD Interview
- Score Amazingly on Either the SAT or ACT Exam
- Act Toward Becoming a BS/MD Candidate and Future Physician
- 4 of the Most Common Questions High School Students Ask about the BS/MD Application Process
- How to maintain sanity, stay on track, and focus on personal development while preparing to apply to BS/MD programs
- Now You Know Everything You Need to Know Before Making a Decision and Applying to a BS/MD Program- What Next?
What is a BS/MD program?
BS/MD programs give high school students the opportunity to get accepted into an undergraduate university, complete their degree, and proceed directly into medical school without having to apply again.
BS/MD programs are also sometimes referred to as Accelerated Direct Medical (or Direct Med) Programs.
These dual-degree programs are partnerships between undergraduate universities and local medical schools to provide high school seniors with conditional acceptance into medical school. The two degrees, Bachelor of Science (BS) and Doctor of Medicine (MD) are offered to students who successfully graduate through both undergraduate schools as well as medical school. Typically, these programs last anywhere from 6-8 years (in contrast to the traditional 4 years of undergraduate + 4 years of medical school), and they’re specifically targeted towards students who’ve shown a great deal of interest in medicine throughout their entire high school career.
How Competitive are BSMD programs?
Given that some of the most difficult BS/MD programs have an acceptance rate of nearly 2%, these universities are looking for students who have known for quite some time that they are interested in medicine and can really show it. Most students who are serious about getting into these programs don’t just wake up one morning of their senior year and make a spur-of-the-moment decision to apply. On the contrary, many know before they even step foot into high school.
Since these programs are known to be some of the most competitive programs in the country (for some perspective, compare acceptance rates at Stanford and Harvard at 5% to the near 2% stat above!), and there are a great number of things to know in order to be a competitive applicant- all of which we will cover in this guide, so don’t worry about scouring the internet compiling the long list of things you need to know before applying.
How Competitive Are You as a BS/MD Applicant?
Now we will cover exactly what you need to do to prepare for a BS/MD program.
Let’s start by diving into the pros and cons of going the BS/MD route as well as some common myths surrounding the drawbacks of a BS/MD experience.
What are the Benefits of BSMD Programs?
- Extensive Connections
- Great for Scholarships, Grants, and Summer Programs
- Personal Attention and Moral Support
- Special Seminars
- More Academic Flexibility
On the positive side, you save a lot of time and stress in the medical school application process by only having to go through the exercise once. Plus, you’re entering into a more personalized learning environment when gaining admission to these programs.
Accelerated programs are great options because they’re structured in a way that allows you to fulfill your pre-medical requirements in a shorter period of time. You’ll get a solid foundation in a shorter period of time, meaning you can start medical school sooner.
When someone thinks about the pros of a BS/MD program, the obvious perks usually have to do with conditional acceptance to medical school. There are, however, numerous other perks that are in some sense more valuable than conditional acceptance. To help shed some light on those topics, I’ve used this blog post to speak more about those perks and help you get a better understanding of their value.
They’re important because they help widen your insight into medicine and open up your field of opportunity, which will thus provide you with a more fulfilling college experience and ensure you find the best medical school.
When you join a BS/MD program, you are opting to join a group of some of the most talented and accomplished students across the country. Knowing and interacting with these students is going to provide you with some great connections that can come in handy whenever you need any help or advice. If I ever have a question or a worry, the first people I always go to are our upperclassmen in my program; they’ve got the experience to give me valuable advice and the personal investment in me (being that I am one of their BS/MD peers) to make sure I reach success.
Not only are the students a great resource, but so too are the faculty of the program. Most program coordinators are extremely well-qualified professionals who have extensive connections in the medical field. In my experience, any time any one of us BS/MD students needs help locking in a research position or getting some shadowing experience, our program faculty is always there to help us get in touch with the right people by extending their contacts to us.
It’s not easy navigating your way through college and finding opportunities in your field of study, but with these BS/MD programs, you’ve got a great support system that’s always there to help you through the process.
|| Read: Medical School Application Help
Great for Scholarships, Grants, and Summer Programs
If you mention in any application you write, whether that be for a special scholarship, grant, or summer program, that you’re a BS/MD student, it will definitely benefit your application.
In the selection committee’s eyes, your enrollment in this program is indicative of your value. If you also add a letter of recommendation from one of your program advisors, it’ll be the perfect “cherry on top.” It’s one thing for you to mention the honor of being a BS/MD student, but it’s another for a qualified professional to confirm the unique qualities and capabilities that got you selected into such a prestigious program and that will also be of use in your scholarship, grant, or internship.
Personal Attention and Moral Support
Being in a BS/MD program, I feel that no matter what problem I come across, I will always have someone to talk to and help me work it out. The program faculty are personally invested in the well-being and success of you as a student (since they basically hand-picked you from hundreds of students), so they’ll always find a way to make extra time for you. Whether it’s helping out with scheduling issues or calming you down after you’ve gotten a bad grade, the faculty goes above and beyond to help you feel at ease. They’re exactly the moral support you need when you’re away from home and don’t have a family to rely on for that same sense of comfort and relief.
This same idea of personal attention, though perhaps less of the moral support aspect, also applies to other staff members of the university and medical school. Say that you’re interested in shadowing a specific surgeon or getting involved with research under a renowned professor. Many times, these well-known professionals don’t allow undergraduates to work under them simply due to their lack of experience. If, however, you mention that you’re a BS/MD student, they might just make an exception for you. They will at least take the time to respond to your email or interview you because they know that BS/MD students are some of the most hardworking, committed, and passionate students, and don’t want to let such an outstanding student slip through the cracks without at least taking the time to get to know them.
While special seminars may not be something that every single program offers, many do, and it’s definitely one of the most rewarding parts of joining a BS/MD program.
Through these seminars, not only do you get to meet and form connections with renowned medical professionals, but you also get to learn more about the field of medicine. There are so many different paths available to you when you enter into medicine; not everyone sticks strictly to clinical practice. But as a freshman just entering college, you may not know that.
The typical image of a doctor is of someone in a white coat who sees multiple patients from day to day. And while this is the starting point for nearly all doctors, this isn’t necessarily the only thing they do for the entirety of their career. Several doctors shift part-time to clinical work and at other times take on more administrative responsibilities or research efforts. Others completely leave clinical work and move on to study the involvement of medicine in fields such as public health, government, law, business, or computer science.
Regardless of the specifics, the point is that these special seminars will provide you with better insight into the field of medicine by giving you a chance to talk to doctors who have all taken different paths. Who knows, you may hear of a field you never even knew existed and then all of a sudden find yourself going down that path!
More Academic Flexibility
Even though you technically have the freedom to pursue any major or any activity you want to as a pre-med, most pre-meds tend to stick to science majors and science activities.
Why? Because they think it’ll be easier to help them later on with the MCAT, look better for medical school resumes, or simply because it’s just easier to plan out for scheduling purposes.
As a BS/MD student, though, you don’t have that same strain of having to apply and having to look impressive for medical schools. Thus, you are more likely to take a risk and try out classes in other subjects or get involved with different clubs. Undergrad is the time to take advantage of such flexibility and try out different disciplines so you can get a better understanding of what path in medicine you might want to specifically pursue.
That’s a lot of benefits to consider. If you need help weighing the different aspects of the ideal BS/MD program for you, check out this article on how to pick BS/MD programs and build your school list.
What Are the Cons of Doing a BSMD Program?
The promise of combined undergraduate/MD programs sounds great, but there are many factors that need to be considered before you decide to apply to or enroll in one of these programs.
- Early Commitment to a Career Path
- Early Commitment to a Specific School
- Lower Tier University Degree (Usually)
- Intense Course Loads
Early Commitment to a Career Path
On the negative side, students must make a serious commitment to their careers at a young age – even though their priorities and interests may shift over time.
Early Commitment to a Specific School
In addition to the up-front commitment to one career path, keep in mind you’re also committing to one school, or set of schools. Many of the universities and medical schools that offer this program are not “top tier” schools.
Lower Tier University Degree (Usually)
If you are a competitive applicant for one of these combined programs, you are usually qualified for regular admissions to top universities in the U.S as well. For example, what if you got into Boston University’s combined program but also got into Harvard?
Even though Boston University (BU) is a good school for undergraduate and medical education, it is not a top-ranked university or medical school. If you decided to go to BU but you eventually realize that you do not want to be a doctor, you will have an undergraduate degree from BU when you could have had one from Harvard.
Unfortunately, only a handful of combined programs have a great undergraduate institution and medical school. If you “settle” for one of these combined programs, you could lose the opportunity of going to a prestigious university and potentially a top-ranked medical school.
Intense Course Loads
The streamlined structure of these programs makes the coursework extremely intensive each semester.
This may also mean that you might be required to take courses over the summer, or that you have to adhere to a specific schedule for taking courses. Thus, you will not have as much flexibility to take courses in areas that are interesting to you (but outside the scope of pre-medical courses).
For example, you might have to forgo that literature class you were eyeing in favor of taking your second semester of organic chemistry.
Debunking Common Myths About the Disadvantages of a BS/MD Program
Below, we discuss some of the most prominent “cons” that are associated with BS/MD programs and have either debunked or validated them. The truth may surprise you!
#1 – Lack of Preparation for the USMLE
“Concern: Since not all BS/MD programs require students to take the MCAT, it is sometimes a concern that this will hurt students in the future when they have to take the USMLE.”
For those who are unaware of what the USMLE is, it’s the United States Medical Licensing Exam, which is a 3-step exam you take throughout different stages of medical school that tests the knowledge, skillset, and attitudes necessary for you to receive your medical degree (MD) and is used to determine your residency placement.
When preparing for the MCAT, you go through rigorous study, and students fear that without having experienced that process before, they may not be ready to handle a similar type of process when it comes time to take the USMLE.
Reality: Having spoken to upperclassmen who’ve avoided the MCAT because of their program enrollment, I haven’t heard of anyone complain that they had a harder time studying for the USMLE because they hadn’t taken the MCAT.
Even though BS/MD students maybe haven’t had to take a standardized test such as the MCAT, they have learned all the same material and gone through the same classroom testing as other pre-med students. Additionally, it seems that BS/MD students place successfully into their top residency choices just as often as their classmates, so even if they were at a slight disadvantage with USMLE preparation, it doesn’t seem to impact their career in any way.
#2 – Less Prepared for the Rigors of Medical School
“Concern: There’s a common misconception that BS/MD programs are an easy, guaranteed route to medical school. People think that if you’re part of a BS/MD program, it doesn’t matter which classes you take or what grades you get because, hey, you’re already in medical school!”
And from these misconceptions, the idea stems that due to the lack of rigor in undergrad, BS/MD students are not going to be able to deal with the heavy workload in medical school.
Reality: While BS/MD programs do provide you with a slightly easier (note this is relative!) route to medical school, by no means are they easy.
Some programs do not require the MCAT, while others only require you to achieve a certain score (usually lower than that medical school’s average MCAT score). Nearly all programs have a specific GPA requirement, and many also either strongly encourage or require involvement in medical activities (such as hospital volunteering, research, etc.).
So as a BS/MD student, you are essentially doing everything exactly as you would if you were a traditional pre-med. The only difference really is that there is less pressure on you concerning whether or not you’ll get into medical school (which is the greatest fear of most pre-meds).
BS/MD students still take on the same pre-med course load, still have to secure high grades, and still need to show some involvement in medical activities, meaning that they face almost the same rigor as traditional pre-meds just without the added stress. If you decide to slip up on one of these, then you will likely be dropped out of the program. So really, there should be no reason that any other student is better equipped than a BS/MD student while in medical school.
#3 – Too Much Acceleration
“Concern: Many students are concerned that by accelerating your undergraduate experience, you have less time to understand the same amount of material and are thus unable to properly absorb all the information you need for medical school. And if this is the case, then people believe you’ll be at a disadvantage in medical school.”
Reality: From what I’ve gathered in talking to upperclassmen who’ve gone through accelerated programs, there is actually no reason to worry about lacking a solid foundation in coursework simply because the speed of your classes is slightly quicker.
If anything, I’ve actually heard the opposite. Students often say that accelerated programs are better in helping you understand material because you have no time to forget the material you just learned. And if you think about this logically, it makes sense. Information that you learn in one science class is generally going to be applied in some other science course that you eventually take. Now if you take the first class one year and the second class the following year, then you are more likely to have forgotten material you learned in the first class than if you had taken the two classes within a time span of a few months.
Similarly, students often claim that summer classes are better for learning material than regular semester classes simply because you have class every single day in the summer and thus it’s easier to remember exactly what you learned in the last lecture and build upon it.
In an accelerated program, this is exactly what you do; you take more classes during the summer and you take related science classes within a shorter span of time. Thus, there is really no reason for you to be at a disadvantage when you enter medical school; if anything, you probably know the information better!
Accelerated programs are meant for students who want to finish their medical training as quickly as possible, but if somewhere along the line you decide to change your mind on that, then most programs are flexible with it.
#4 – Cannot Do an MD/PH.D or Pursue Other Graduate Degrees
“Concern: It is often thought that once you commit to a BS/MD program, you are required to go directly from undergrad to medical school. If you choose to pursue a different graduate degree (such as masters or PhD), then your spot will no longer be reserved in the medical school.”
Reality: This concern is generally something that differs on a school-to-school basis. Some schools might reserve your spot in medical school while you take a few years off to pursue other graduate degrees, while others don’t allow you to do so.
This generally depends on the school’s philosophy. For example, REMS at the University of Rochester is extremely encouraging for students who want to take gap years to pursue fellowships or other graduate degrees because they believe those graduate degrees will eventually help them become better doctors.
This same mentality may not apply across other schools though. Different schools will have different policies; the best way to find out is to ask such questions during your interview weekend. In my general experience though, most schools are quite flexible and open to allowing students to pursue other graduate degrees between the undergraduate and medical school years.
Must Read: BS/MD Program Consulting
#5 – Locked Into One Medical School
“Concern: Applicants often worry that if they commit to this program, then they are bound to attended that particular medical school and have no option to apply out to other, perhaps more prestigious, medical schools.”
Reality: This concern is also one that needs to be addressed on a school-to-school basis. Some schools, like the University of Rochester, have no problems with you applying to other schools.
If you choose to take the MCAT, fill out the AMCAS application for other schools, and get into another medical school that is perhaps better suited for you, then by all means you have the right to leave. During that process, though, the University of Rochester School of Medicine will continue to reserve a spot for you in case you choose to stick with U of R’s medical school.
Other programs, however, might take away your reserved spot if you choose to apply out and will then require you to apply directly to the medical school to gain admission (of which there is no guarantee of being accepted).
Still, other schools will offer contingencies on this unique situation; for example, if they don’t require their program students to take the MCAT and you choose to do so in order to apply out, the program will require you to achieve a minimum score in order to keep your spot reserved (otherwise you will be dropped from the program).
So based on the information, this can be a valid concern for students who don’t want to commit to one medical school too early on. The best way to find your answer is, again, to ask questions during the interview process and decide in the end what is of greater importance to you: flexibility of choice or certainty of admission.
#6 – Locked Into One Career Path
“Concern: A main concern among BS/MD applicants is that if they choose to commit to a program, they won’t have the flexibility to explore other career options during their undergraduate years since they’ll be so skin deep into their science courses. As a result, it’s thought to not be realistic to change your career path into something completely different from medicine as a BS/MD student.”
Reality: Depending on the school and program, it may be easier or harder to change out of a career in medicine, but by no means are you bound to the career path for life.
In fact, many students choose to pursue different majors (while simultaneously completing their pre-med coursework). In fact, I personally know someone who kept up all his pre-med requirements while pursuing an economics degree and decided at the end of his senior year to drop the idea of going to medical school and instead to go to Wall Street. He still had everything he needed to go to medical school if he wanted, but ultimately he decided against it.
With accelerated programs, it can be slightly more difficult to pursue non-science majors since you’re expected to complete a set number of science classes in a limited amount of time, but it’s not impossible to do. So by no means does any BS/MD program limit your career options; the purpose of them is to offer you a less-pressured, more flexible route to medical school. But if you end up deciding that this isn’t the right path for you, then there is no contract-type agreement binding you to it.
What Is It Like Being in a BS/MD Program?
Hear from real students who made the choice to go BS/MD on the Prospective Doctor Podcast:
Fore more insight into what a BS/MD program experience might be like for you, be sure to watch our BS/MD Webinars and read up on 5 Things High School Students Should Know About Medical School.
High School Performance and BS/MD Program Acceptance
Once you’ve made the choice to commit to attempting to get into a BS/MD program, you may be wondering how much your performance in high school matters. The answer? A lot.
Test Scores and GPA Matter for BS/MD Programs
Most BS/MD programs accept between 1-5% of applicants. It’s that hard. Many medical schools have a minimum GPA, standardized test requirements, and class rank minimums, but admission requires that the BS/MD student exceeds these requirements by a larger margin.
On average, students are anything but average. Those admitted to a BS/MD program typically have a 3.8 unweighted GPA, at least 1500 on the SAT, or a 34 composite ACT score, all while falling within the top 5% to 10% of their high school graduating class.
Another important component for BS/MD admission is the high school transcript. Admissions committee members look favorably upon students who took the most rigorous science and math classes offered at their schools while maintaining as close to a 4.0 GPA as possible.
Be sure to check out more in-depth insights about how to maintain a rock-solid GPA for applying to BS/MD programs while in high school.
Since All BS/MD Candidates Are Exceptional, Here Is How You Can Stand Out
Students are more than just a grade or a score. This is why BD/MD admission committees look for students who excel outside of the classroom. They want well-rounded students who show commitment to extracurriculars. This signals to admissions committees that they are willing to do more than what is required and are passionate about something other than school.
Some ideal extracurricular activities to consider include volunteering at a hospital, engaging in healthcare research, or shadowing a doctor to make passion for medicine clear on the student’s resume. Regardless of which extracurriculars are chosen, it is vital to stay committed to them as they are what differentiate candidates – especially since they all have similar grades and test scores.
Make Your BS/MD Personal Statement Matter
On the actual application, a standout personal statement is important to further differentiate applicants. This statement should explain your passion for medicine, where this passion stemmed from, and why this is your chosen career path. Thoughtful and interesting answers are essential for admissions committees to move forward with applications.
Read on here for everything you need to know about editing your BS/MD application essays.
Own Your BS/MD Interview
The last step, much like when applying to any college is the interview process, however, what’s not typical with BS/MD programs is that schools only typically interview around 10% of applicants. Obviously, performing well in the interview has a huge pull on whether admission is granted, making preparation before the interview essential. In order to prepare, students should work with experts who’ve not only excelled at this process on their own but with those who’ve served on committees. At MedSchoolCoach, their physician advisors have interviewed thousands of medical school candidates and have served on admissions committees. That means they know what it takes to stand out and can provide invaluable coaching and feedback for these nerve-wracking interviews.
For more tips on nailing your BS/MD program interview, check out these tips on how to approach your undergrad BS/MD interview.
Score Amazingly on Either the SAT or ACT Exam
With so many essential factors to consider, it may be a relief to know that taking one test over the other does not matter from the perspective of admissions. However, it is important that students do as well as possible on whatever test they choose to take so careful consideration is necessary.
The best way to decide which test to take is by attempting timed, full-length practice tests of both. Since the content on each test is very similar, scoring better will come down to how students handle time pressures and what kind of questions they find more challenging. Whichever they score better in and feel more comfortable with is the one that should be taken for real.
Students can also prepare by doing research through SAT test prep blogs or even by studying with a professional online SAT prep tutor for added confidence! Typically, no matter which test is chosen, it should be taken for the first time in the fall of junior year so that there’s time to retake the test in the spring if necessary, before having to apply to BS/MD programs during senior year.
Act Toward Becoming a BS/MD Candidate and Future Physician
As it becomes more and more competitive to get into medical schools, many applicants are looking for ways to secure their future careers as a doctor.
Entry into these programs is competitive and good standardized test scores and GPAs are just the beginning. If you are looking for help with 1-on-1 SAT and ACT tutoring, a high school exam prep company like SoFlo tutors can help.
Once your grades and SAT and ACT scores are where they need to be, MedSchoolCoach coaching can help you to get into a competitive direct medical (BS/MD) or pre-med program.
You may be wondering which extracurricular activities to do in high school to prepare you for the pre-med track in college while improving your chances of college admission.
Here are some ideas for extracurricular activities to do—some of these I did in high school myself, while others I wish I had done more of.
What Is It Like Being in a BS/MD Program?
To start with the most obvious activity, I would recommend any high school student interested in the pre-med track to volunteer in a hospital or clinic. This is a great way to both fulfill your school’s volunteer requirements and gain early exposure to a clinical setting.
Visit the website of your local hospital/clinic, search for the page on volunteer opportunities, and follow the instructions to apply.
I personally volunteered for several years as a “candy-striper” volunteer in a hospital, helping to discharge patients and deliver specimens from the inpatient units to the lab, among other menial tasks. While this may seem like an insignificant role, it played a huge part in acquainting me with the hospital setting and gave me an up close and personal view into the lives of physicians in different departments.
Participate in Community Outreach for a Specific Cause in the Medical Field
Most high schools have specific interest clubs for raising awareness/conducting outreach efforts for a specific cause—e.g. breast cancer awareness, Hepatitis B, etc. If your school doesn’t have a club for the cause you are interested in, start one! Get connected to a local organization working on that cause and ask for resources and help in starting a chapter in your school.
I personally did this in high school by starting a Hepatitis B Virus awareness club affiliated with a larger national organization. As the founder and president of this club, I organized student-led outreach events on and off campus to raise awareness for Hep B—a major epidemic in my hometown.
This activity gave me valuable leadership experience and early insight into preventative care and education, and the cultural barriers to care—which planted seeds of interest in the medical field.
Shadow a Local Physician (In Any Specialty)
I personally believe that it is NEVER too early to get shadowing experience. In fact, I would say the earlier the better. Even if you are unsure if becoming a physician is right for you, I would suggest that you still seek out shadowing opportunities to help you make an informed decision.
You can also seek out shadowing opportunities with other healthcare workers- registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants– to see what options are out there in the medical field. This can be done by simply calling the information desk of a hospital and asking for shadowing opportunities or asking family friends in the medical field to help refer you directly (you’d be surprised by how many doctors are willing to take on shadowers!).
Pursue an Interest Outside of Medicine
For instance, I was very interested in art and writing but decided that these activities were less important than my other extracurricular activities. In hindsight, had I done more art/writing in high school, they would have helped me immensely with stress management later in college.
Ultimately, your career is only one aspect of your life, and you want to learn how to achieve a balance of work, rest, and play. If you can get the hang of doing these activities while you are in high school, it can also give you a healthy outlet when you do end up working in the medical field—a field notorious for burnout and stress.
4 of the Most Common Questions High School Students Ask about the BS/MD Application Process
Here are the most commonly asked questions that high school students have about applying to BS/MD Programs:
1. Does Starting a Club Satisfy the Leadership Requirement on my Application?
While there’s no “requirement” for leadership, most students have demonstrated substantial leadership through their activities. Physicians are the leaders of a healthcare team and it’s important to establish yourself as a leader as early as possible.
While starting a club shows leadership, it’s really what you do with your time as the club’s president that matters. Under your leadership, what was the club able to accomplish? Were you able to expand it onto the national level, or is your club only based at your school? What types of actual activities were you able to execute?
2. Can I Skip the SAT/ACT Since Schools are Waiving Requirements?
Although most colleges and universities have gone test-optional due to COVID, only a handful of BS/MD programs have gone test-optional. To maximize your ability to apply to a wide variety of schools, I would recommend signing up for every SAT or ACT opportunity available. This may mean traveling several hours to a different testing site, but it is important to make sure you take the test.
3. How Crucial are Summer Activities?
The summertime offers you the freedom to explore your interests, whether those interests are music, sports, or medicine. If you are considering a BS/MD program, you should use this time to participate in activities that will help you explore whether medicine is the right career field for you.
When you commit to becoming a doctor, you’re committing at least the next 12 years of your life to education. That’s 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 4 or more years of residency and fellowship. Before a BS/MD program will accept you, they want to see that you’ve fully explored the profession and are ready to dedicate more than a decade of your life to training to be a physician.
4. What if I Can’t Volunteer or Get Medical Experience Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic?
The coronavirus pandemic has created a lot of challenges for the 2022 application cycle, but it has also created a lot of opportunities. Several BS/MD applications, as well as the Common App, have added a COVID-related question asking about how this pandemic has affected your application. Try to use this time as an opportunity to expand your extracurriculars, to help you boost your application.
During the pandemic, did you hang out at home waiting for your normal clubs and volunteering opportunities to start up again or did you make an opportunity by starting a new club or by coming up with innovative ways to stay involved in volunteering?
Some examples of effectively using this time could be making masks for essential workers, putting together care packages for homeless shelters, or bracelets for children in the hospital. Although you still may not be able to do in-person volunteering, there are many virtual or at-home opportunities that you can participate in. You just have to take the initiative to be creative!
To find the best medical school that is connected to a BS/MD program, talk to one of our advisors.
How to Maintain Sanity, Stay on Track, and Focus On Personal Development While Preparing to Apply to BS/MD Programs
First, and perhaps the most important piece of advice, is to start early. Given that some of the most difficult BS/MD programs have an acceptance rate of near 2%, these universities are looking for students who have known for quite some time that they are interested in medicine and can really show for it.
Most students who are serious about getting into these programs don’t just wake up one morning of their senior year and make a spur of the moment decision to apply. On the contrary, many know before they even step foot into high school.
Many might ask, “How can you know what you want to do for the rest of your life in just 9th grade?” and they pose a valid point. But even if you don’t know exactly what you want to pursue career-wise at that age, most students will know whether or not they have an interest in science and if they are even open to the possibility of becoming a doctor.
It’s okay to not know for sure (that’s what the rest of high school is for!), but it is important to start getting involved with health-related activities so that either
- (1) you can decide this field isn’t for you after all, or
- (2) you realize that studying medicine is something you can envision yourself doing and already have the experience to back that statement up.
Whether it’s research, volunteering at a hospital, getting EMT certified, or simply shadowing your family physician, it’s never too early to start getting involved with the field of medicine.
It is so important to stay organized.
If you haven’t already, by the time you get to the application season of your senior year, you will quickly realize how easy it can be to get lost in all the submission dates, essay topics, and other requirements being thrown your way. And on top of that, if you’re applying to multiple BS/MD programs, you’re going to have even more essays and date requirements.
So my greatest piece of advice is to narrow down your list of colleges early (and by early, I mean by the end of the summer before senior year, at the latest) and to create an excel sheet noting down all the important pieces of information in separate columns.
Though it may be a pain to sit down one day and spend hours researching all the specific submission details for each university you are applying to, it will largely pay off in the long run.
Some BS/MD programs require you to submit essays through email, while others require it through the common app. Some have an earlier application date set for BS/MD applicants (sometimes as early as mid-November), while others ask you to submit at the same time as all other students in January. Some may ask for 4 extra essays, while others simply ask you to checkmark a box that indicates your interest in being considered for the program.
Each of these little details is unique to each program and can easily get past you. Rather than having to Google it every time you forget one tiny detail, having an easy-access document with all the necessary information is much simpler. Take my word for it; this document will quickly become your holy grail!
When applying to a BS/MD program, don’t take anything too personally!
And though there is nothing you can do to change the outcome, you can remember to not take the results personally. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but this statement holds true for BS/MD programs even more so than it does with regular college applications.
Most of these programs accept only a handful of students (10-15) out of the hundreds or thousands (yes, sometimes even more than a thousand students!) that applied. They are looking to maximize their diversity, and as you can imagine, that is quite difficult to do in such a small group of people.
So at the end of the day, you might have been the perfect match for that school in every way possible, but somebody else just happened to match their criteria (however ambiguous it may be…) a bit better. Getting through the entire BS/MD process is an accomplishment in itself; it’s something, not any and every student can do. It takes a great deal of commitment, maturity, and a strong work ethic to get through this process successfully. Those are the very same qualities that differentiate a successful pre-med from an unsuccessful pre-med, so hey, you’re already ahead of the game!
Look forward to all the great opportunities that have presented themselves throughout this application process and take advantage of them in your upcoming undergraduate career.
Focus On Personal Growth and Maturity
Many students want specific to-dos for them to pursue so they are on the “right track” for medical school. However, if you’re a high school student, and even as a college student, the best way you can prepare for medical school is to focus on being a mature individual who will one day become a mature, compassionate physician.
Although your resume is important even as a high schooler, focus more on building your character. Volunteer, learn to work with others, and develop social skills and compassion. Ask yourself deep insightful questions such as,
“What is my motivation for why I do what I do? What is my purpose in life?”
These things are important because you don’t become more mature just because of age. Maturity is something that you need to actively work on. And it is self-evident why physicians need to be mature; physicians deal with life and death.
Find a Mentor
It is especially important when you’re younger because your mentor can guide you and prevent you from making stupid mistakes.
Find a mentor in whatever way possible. It’s even better if your mentor is a medical student or physician. Your mentor can be an older, wiser family member that you trust. Maybe you can be connected to a family friend. You can search for mentors online whether through a mentorship program or even through a medical school admission consulting service.
Now You Know Everything You Need to Know Before Making a Decision and Applying to a BS/MD Program- What Next?
If you are a high school student who wants to become a physician, MedSchoolCoach can provide you the coaching you need to get into a competitive direct medical (BS/MD) or pre-med program. If you’re still unsure if this is the right path for you, or perhaps you know it is but wonder about your unique chances of acceptance, reach out today and let us help you find answers and confidence!
This post is a compilation of several excerpts written by guest authors. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter @ProspectiveDr