by Mary Sue Youn, former admissions officer at Barnard College
In my last blog post, I reviewed the pros and cons of applying to accelerated BS/MD programs. If you’ve decided an accelerated medical program is a good fit for your educational goals, let’s move next to what the programs are looking for from successful applicants.
- Most demanding academic preparation. Students who are successfully admitted are often at or near the top of their class, with mostly “A” grades (or their high school’s equivalent), and top standardized test scores(SAT or ACT). Some programs, such as The College of New Jersey, have specific SAT minimums necessary to even apply for the program. Even in our current climate of far more test-optional colleges than ever, testing may still be required for BS/MD applicants. In addition to grades and scores, the rigor of academic preparation is strongly considered. A strong BS/MD candidate is expected to have a well-rounded course of study throughout high school with many Advanced Placement (or top level for their high school) courses. While a student should not “specialize” in any one subject area in high school, AP science grades will be particularly scrutinized.
- Significant exposure to medical or scientific experiences. In addition to outstanding academics, activities related to medicine are also required. I’ve found through working with many students on this path that the most successful have gone above and beyond in their exposure to the field. Perhaps they spent their summer working in a lab on independent biomedical research, or trained and rode regular shifts as an Emergency Medical Technician, or maybe they volunteered many hours at a local health clinic or nursing home. Think bigger than the occasional hospital volunteer work to look for opportunities that require more initiative and independence to make your application stand out. You’ll want to show the committee that you have had significant enough exposure to the medical field to make an informed decision of committing to the profession at such an early age.
- Thoroughness and care in all parts of the application. BS/MD applications generally have three stages. First, there is a fairly typical undergraduate application, which will probably look like other four-year college applications you are completing. Second, you will need to complete a few extra essay questions asking about your interest in and preparation for the medical field. Standard questions might be variations of: Why do you want to become a doctor? What particular types of medicine intrigue you? Why does an accelerated program at this particular university sound appealing to you? If a candidate is reviewed positively through the standard undergraduate application and the medical school supplement, they may advance to third round, the interview.
- Maturity during the interview rounds. BS/MD interviews are invitation-only events often held between December and February of the senior year, and may include several hours of both solo and group interview rounds. A candidate would likely interview with a combination of admissions officers and medical faculty, and these interviews are meant to assess the student’s fit with the program. During these interviews, staff are gauging whether the student has the maturity necessary to commit to such a rigorous path, and understands the complexity and skills required in medical training. The questioning is meant to be more intense than a standard admissions interview in order to determine how an applicant thinks on their feet, and questions may discuss academic preparation, medical ethics, current events in health care policy, character, and personal fit for the program.
If you’re not quite sure whether you are ready to commit to a program like this, don’t despair! Only a very small percentage of future doctors go the accelerated route, and many more decide that they’d like to keep options open by applying to medical school after college. You may also discover during your college years that you become interested in other health careers such as physical therapy, osteopathic medicine, nursing, health care administration, or many others. But if an accelerated medical program still sounds like a great fit for your goals, good luck to you with your applications. May you soon be on your path to your future career!