by Mary Sue Youn, former admissions officer at Barnard College
Have you always known you wanted to be a doctor? Maybe you have always been fascinated by medicine, or perhaps this is a more recent but intense interest. As you begin your college search, you may become interested in an accelerated medical program where you apply in high school to be admitted to a seven- or eight-year track to obtain both your Bachelor’s degree and your Doctorate in Medicine. But is this type of program the right fit for you?
Let’s first talk about the positives of BA/MD options:
- “Guarantee” of acceptance to medical school. This is the most obvious, and attractive, reason to apply. But be careful – many programs require students in the program to maintain a certain college GPA to remain in the program, or a certain MCAT score to finalize admission to the medical school as a junior in college. Learn the requirements of the particular programs you’re considering.
- Reduce the number of years of higher education. A typical track for medical training is four years of an undergraduate degree, followed by four years of med school. There are many guarantee programs that are still eight years, so they do not reduce the length of time in education. But some programs are seven years, and at least a few programs are only six years in length. This means less time in college, and less money for tuition overall.
- Less pressure during the undergraduate years.The programs that are shortened tend to condense the undergraduate years, not the medical school years. So you can really think of a seven year program to be actually completing your Bachelor’s degree in three years, followed by the typical four years of medical training. Some students feel that the med school guarantee frees them up to explore other academic and extracurricular interests during those first years, since the pressure of impressing a medical school admissions committee has been eliminated.
But what are the drawbacks of speeding ahead towards your medical career?
- Limited options. There are currently fewer than 60 of these programs in the United States, and your favorite college might not be on that list. In locking yourself in early to a program, you may also be committing to attending that school for the next seven to eight years. I would hope that many students mature and change from the ages of 18 to 26, and you may find that you want to try a new location and setting after your undergraduate years.
- Condensed undergraduate program equals more classes per semester. For those looking at the seven year programs, you will still have to complete four years’ worth of classes in three years. That means more classes per semester, and possibly summer coursework as well. Paying extra to take summer courses to stay on track might lessen the savings of going to college for one less year.
- Lowest admit rate of any college admissions process.BS/MD programs are notorious for not publishing exact admit rates, but most estimates are that less than 5% of students who apply get into these programs, and several admit less than 1%. This means that these programs are as selective, if not more selective, than the Ivy League.
Still interested? I find that most students who apply to BS/MD programs simultaneously apply to some traditional four year colleges as well. A longer application list means you’ll need to stay organized and on track to complete all your applications on time. I cover what BS/MD programs are looking for in Part 2 of this blog.