BS/MD Programs: Your Guide

September 21, 2022


Reviewed by:

Luke Hartstein

Former Admissions Committee Member, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Reviewed: 5/13/22

Has it always been your dream to become a medical doctor? While some people arrive at this decision later in life, many students know that this is their path from the outset. For these cases, BS/MD programs are one of your best options! This article will tell you what a BS/MD program is and whether it’s the right choice for you.

It’s no secret that medical school admissions can be competitive. For students applying to MD programs after completing their undergraduate, it can be challenging to go through the application process all over again. This is why BS/MD programs exist! 

BS/MD programs take graduating high school students from their undergraduate studies to med school and their lifelong dreams of becoming physicians! 

Most students apply to BS/MD programs during high school – often in the summer between their junior and senior years – some programs are also available to undergraduate students wishing to change their subject of focus. 

While much of the advice in this guide is intended for high school students looking at BS/MD programs, this information and guidance can also apply to current college students looking to pursue a medical degree. 

So what exactly is a BS/MD program? What are the benefits and drawbacks of these highly-esteemed programs? How do you improve your odds of a successful application, and how hard is it to get in? Here’s your complete guide to combined BS/MD programs in the United States.

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What is a BS/MD Program?

A BS/MD program, also known as a direct medical program, is an academic course of study that includes both a Bachelor of Science degree and a Medical Doctor degree. 

Rather than the traditional pathway to getting your MD, which involves completing your undergraduate degree and then undergoing the application process for medical schools, a BS/MD program offers both components of your education as a single program. 

BS/MD programs are highly focused and often slightly faster than the traditional MD process. At the very least, they offer students a huge benefit by helping them avoid the arduous and often stressful process of medical school applications.

A BS/MD program is undoubtedly the ideal way to get on the fast track to medical school and a career in medicine. In this next section, we’ll be covering: 

  • How to determine if a BS/MD program is right for you
  • Admission rates for BS/MD programs across the country
  • Requirements and recommendations for getting into a BS/MD program
  • Tips on nailing your BS/MD interviews
  • A rundown of BS/MD programs in the United States
  • Answers to common questions about BS/MD programs

So for those ready to make a smooth transition from high school to medical school and beyond, here’s your definitive guide.

Is a BS/MD Program Right for You?

Before you get into the details of requirements and admission rates for BS/MD programs, you must determine whether it’s the right fit for you!

While some people benefit from this expedited method of reaching their goals, the highly focused structure of a BS/MD program may not suit others. Here are some of the main benefits and drawbacks of a combined, direct medical program.

Pros of a BS/MD Program

BS/MD programs have some of the most competitive admission rate statistics for a good reason. These programs are a massive draw for students because they essentially guarantee you a spot in medical school once you complete your undergraduate studies.

This alone is a great benefit. Medical school applications can be highly stressful, expensive, and time-consuming, so the thought of a guaranteed spot appeals to many young students. 

Finally, having such an intensive program on your resume shows potential employers that you’re focused, committed, and dedicated to practicing medicine.

BS/MD Students at Bonaventure University
Source: St. Bonaventure University

It’s also important to consider that some BS/MD programs don’t require students to take the MCAT or CASPer. As anyone who has studied for these exams will tell you, preparing for these tests can be extremely time-consuming and challenging, making BS/MD programs even more appealing.

Another benefit of post-secondary education is the community and network that you foster during your time at school. This is especially true for competitive BS/MD programs which usually have smaller class sizes. This means you’re more likely to meet people and form strong professional relationships.

Finally, there’s the simple fact that a BS/MD program is the fastest way to become a physician. The typical combined program in the US takes eight years to complete, but some can be finished in as few as 6 or 7 years.

Cons of a BS/MD Program

There’s a lot to like about BS/MD programs, but they also have some drawbacks to consider. For instance, an eight-year course of study (and the lifelong career that follows) is a huge commitment. This might not be ideal for high school seniors still figuring out who they are and how they fit into the world.

Because many BS/MD programs don’t require students to take the MCAT, some students find the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Exam) very challenging to write. However, this is different for everyone and can be overcome with the study habits you develop throughout your education.

One final factor to consider is the focused, rigorous nature of BS/MD programs. They are an accelerated way to become a physician, but this doesn’t make them easier to tackle. BS/MD students can expect heavy course loads each semester and possibly courses during the summers as well.

How Hard is it to Get Into a BS/MD Program?

If you’ve gone over the pros and cons and decided that a BS/MD program is a good fit for your goals, it’s time to get into the details! In particular, how hard is it to get into a BS/MD program? 

There’s no denying that the competition for direct medical programs is stiff. There are roughly 1500 accredited, degree-granting undergraduate schools and just under 200 medical schools in the United States. When it comes to BS/MD programs, however, there are fewer than 50 offered in the whole country.

Based solely on the number of available programs, it’s clear to see why admissions to BS/MD programs can be so fiercely competitive. Because of this, the standards for admissions are very high. Here are some quick facts:

  • 1% - 9% – The typical range of acceptance rates for BS/MD programs in the United States 
  • 4.0 – The typical GPA of a successful BS/MD program applicant
  • 95% – The average ACT/SAT score of successful BS/MD program applicants
  • Top 5% – The typical class ranking of successful BS/MD program applicants
  • 34 – The recommended minimum ACT score for hopeful BS/MD applicants
  • 1500 – The recommended minimum SAT score for BS/MD applicants

In addition to these standards, BS/MD programs expect applicants to have excellent class grades, exceptional exam scores, highly favorable letters of recommendation, and a solid record of excellence in extracurricular activities.

In other words, getting into BS/MD programs can be challenging. But for dedicated students, it’s absolutely possible.

How to Get Into a BS/MD Program

You’ve gone over the pros and cons of a BS/MD program, learned about the competitive admissions process, and arrived at your decision to go for it. So as a high school student, what steps can you take to get into your dream BS/MD program? 

Here are seven steps to help you get into a combined BS/MD program:

1. Focus on Doing Well in Classes

Your GPA is one of the most important parts of getting into a BS/MD program. While some schools have lower minimum GPA requirements, you should exceed the minimum grade to give yourself the best chance. 

Getting as close to a 4.0 GPA as possible will give you the best possible chance of getting accepted to your first choice of BS/MD program. At the very least, we recommend a GPA of 3.93.

2. Challenge Yourself in Math and Science Classes

A stellar GPA is only great for applying to a BS/MD program if you take the right courses – namely, math and sciences. When you’re choosing your high school courses, make sure to take as many classes in these fields as you can.

If your school offers AP (advanced placement) courses in calculus, statistics, physics, biology, chemistry, or physics, you should enroll in some of them as well. More is naturally better, but you should shoot for a great grade in at least two AP courses. 

3. Take the ACT or SAT in Junior Year (and Nail It!)

As we mentioned before, an outstanding score on your ACT or SAT exam is essential to being a contender for BS/MD programs. Though standards differ slightly between institutions, you should aim for an SAT score of at least 1500 out 1600 or an ACT score of at least 34 out of 36.

We recommend attempting your ACT or SAT in the fall semester of your junior year. Why? It lets you try it with lower stakes than if you were to do it in your senior year. If you get a score that you’re happy with, then you won’t have to worry about taking it later, and if you fall short of your target, you have time to study and try again.

4. Dedicate Yourself to Relevant Extracurriculars

Grades and test scores are essential for your BS/MD applications, but there’s more to it than just academics! Most BS/MD programs take a holistic approach to their selection process. This means they choose applicants based on everything about them, not just their grades.

What does this mean for you? The more value you can put into your application beyond your grades, the more likely you are to be accepted. One great way to do this is with relevant extracurriculars, such as volunteering in a hospital, medical research, or shadowing a doctor

The more extracurriculars you can show off on your application, the more you can stand out from the crowd of other applicants, potentially meaning you get a spot above another applicant with similar grades and exam scores. 

5. Make Sure to Get Glowing Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are an essential part of getting into college and grad schools, and this is particularly true for highly competitive BS/MD programs. Having stellar letters of recommendation is a  great way for schools to learn about you from someone else’s perspective, painting a fuller picture of you as an applicant.

The exact requirements for recommendation letters will vary depending on the program, but you’ll usually need at least two letters from teachers that have taught you. One should come from a science teacher who can speak to your scientific skill, curiosity, and work ethic.

Make sure you ask your teachers early, as it gives them more  time to put real thought into your letters. It will also ensure that you won’t be asking at a time when they’re buried in requests from senior students. Be sure to understand how to ask for a letter to ensure you get the best possible recommendation.

6. Give Yourself Time to Write Your Essays

Similar to letters of recommendation, your college essays are a way for admissions counselors to learn about who you are as a person – beyond your transcript. Give yourself at least a semester to work on these short essays to ensure you submit a great college essay.

BS/MD Interviews

While the interviewing process can be intimidating for some, you should try to see your BS/MD interview for what it is: an opportunity! This interview is your chance to show off who you are as a person beyond your application. 

Your BS/MD program interview also gives the admissions counselors the opportunity to learn more about your story and perspective. This allows them to see what makes you unique as an applicant and potential doctor. So try not to let pre-interview stress get the best of you! 

If you’ve made it to this point, remember that you’ve already finished the hardest parts of your application process! Simply focus on giving in-depth answers that are unique to you. And if you’re still wondering how to give the best possible interview, brush up on your interviewing skills beforehand!

A Complete List of BS/MD Programs

As we mentioned before, relatively few schools in the United States offer BS/MD programs. While options are more limited for BS/MD than for other avenues to med school, there are still quite a few highly-prestigious institutions to choose from! 

Here’s our list of the top BS/MD programs in the United States:

BS/MD Programs 1
BS/MD Programs 2
Sources: University of Alabama, Augusta University, Baylor College of Medicine, Brown University, Case Western Reserve University, University of Central Florida, University of Cincinnati, University of Colorado, University of Connecticut, Drexel University, University of Evansville, Florida Atlantic University, Hofstra University, Howard University, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Marshall University, Mercer University, The College of New Jersey-Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Penn State University, University of Pittsburgh, Albany Medical College, University of Rochester, SBU-GWU School of Medicine, Saint Louis University, University of South Alabama, University of South Florida, Stony Brook University, SUNY Polytechnic Institute-State University of New York Upstate, Texas Tech University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Wayne State University

As you can see, you have many options for BS/MD programs all across the United States. With that said, remember to thoroughly research on institutions you’re interested in! This is the best way to decide if a school’s culture, reputation, and opportunities will be a good fit for your education and career goals.

When researching potential schools for BS/MD programs, it’s a good idea to take a look at their admissions requirements and the timeline required to complete them. These logistical factors could play a significant role in your final decision after acceptance letters are sent out.

FAQs: BS/MD Programs

Now that you understand the requirements, best practices, and other expectations for BS/MD program applications, you’re nearly ready to get to work! Here are some frequently asked questions about these highly prestigious direct medical programs.

1. What Does BS/MD Mean?

BS/MD refers to the two degrees that students receive: a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and a Doctor of Medicine. (M.D.). BS/MD programs combine these two degrees into a single, focused program.

2. How Hard is it to Get Into a BS/MD Program?

While acceptance rates can differ from school to school, you can anticipate strong competition for most BS/MD programs in the United States. Admissions rates can vary from 0.8% on the low end to 28% for less competitive programs.

3. Are BS/MD Programs Harder than Regular Medical School?

In some ways, yes. BS/MD programs are highly focused and fit a lot of pre-medical material in the same amount of time as a regular undergraduate degree. These programs often require summer semesters, particularly for programs that only take six or seven years to complete.

4. What if I Want to ‘Apply Out’ to a Different Medical School After Finishing My Undergraduate Studies?

Sometimes! Some BS/MD programs allow you to apply out to different medical schools after completing your undergraduate degree, but many require you to attend one particular medical school. Research different programs to see what your options are!

5. How Much Do BS/MD Programs Cost?

Tuition costs can vary greatly depending on which BS/MD program you choose. However, you can expect a first-year tuition of approximately $40,000-$60,000. These costs might be lower if you attend a school in your state. Also, some BS/MD programs offer a waiver for the tuition costs of your graduate education.

6. Can I Get Financial Aid for BS/MD Programs?

In many cases, getting financial aid for BS/MD programs is possible. Between scholarships, student loans, grants, and more, you will often have options on the table for getting support with your tuition.

Final Thoughts

Choosing, researching, and getting into BS/MD programs can be a lot of work. With so many options, such stringent requirements, and fierce competition across the board, it’s easy to see why this process can be so challenging, especially for high school students.

Remember that this is a big decision, even by the standards of choosing a college. A BS/MD program not only determines the trajectory of your undergraduate studies but also often locks you into a certain medical school and the medical career that follows. 

However, these competitive, prestigious programs are also one of the best opportunities to get on the fast track to the career of your dreams! So if you’ve known that you want to be a doctor your whole life, a BS/MD direct medical program might be the best way to realize this goal.

When you’re considering a BS/MD program, remember to take some time to reflect on the pros and cons. If you decide that undertaking a BS/MD is for you, be sure to do your research on medical schools thoroughly as you apply.

Work hard in school to keep a high GPA, strong extracurriculars, and stellar exam scores. Remember to follow the best application and interview practices to ensure a successful application. Don’t hesitate to get support if you need help with interview preparation and essay writing.

With enough time, dedication, and support, you can surely fast-track your medical career. If you need some expert guidance in getting into a BS/MD program, Inspira Advantage is here to help. Get in touch to learn more!

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