Getting Accepted Into A Direct Medical Program From High School: It Can Be Done!

The average acceptance rate for 2017-18 medical school candidates was 7 percent, according to a survey by U.S. News & World Report. For students wishing to attend top-rated schools such as the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Minnesota or the Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, the acceptance rates drop to 2.3 percent and 2.9 percent respectively. With such low acceptance rates for medical schools across the board, many high school students are vying for the few coveted spots at Brown Alpert Medical School’s selective Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME). The PLME is the only combined BS/MD program in the Ivy League, and arguably one of the most competitive direct medical programs in the world.

A direct medical program, often called BS/MD, BA/MD, or BS/DO, guarantees undergraduate enrollees admission to medical school after the completion of certain criteria. High school students apply when they are in the 12th grade, which means they must only fill out one application for their undergraduate degrees and medical school combined. Once a high school student has committed to a BS/MD program, he or she is essentially locked into a career in medicine. This is a big commitment to make at a young age, but the pros can outweigh the cons.

Undergraduates in BS/MD programs have greater flexibility in regards to course selection than typical pre-med students. Instead of feeling pressure to pack their schedules with courses strictly dedicated to the sciences, BS/MD students are able to choose with more discretion, which could allow them to pursue varied interests. As long as their pre-med prerequisites are satisfied, students can select from a variety of majors.

Some BS/MD programs require that students achieve a certain score on the MCAT, while others waive the MCAT requirement altogether.

There are also lower costs associated with these programs, as many students are able to complete their undergraduate degrees in just three years. This allows them to graduate from medical school after seven years of postsecondary education, rather than the typical eight. Some direct medical programs are even as short as six years.

Because BS/MD programs tend to alleviate some pressure from prospective medical students, and have attractive perks and bonuses, the programs are uber competitive and often take fewer than twenty applicants per year. The Rice/Baylor Medical Scholars Program and the Baylor2 Medical Track Program each only accepts six students per year.

To stand out amongst the many qualified applicants for direct medical programs, here are a few tips that students should follow:

Tip 1: Focused Academics

Academics is the first hurdle to overcome when applying to BS/MD programs. Importantly, a prospective student’s GPA is not the only thing that matters. The rigor of courses, course selection, class rank, and standardized testing are all scrutinized before a student is admitted into a BS/MD program. In order to become an ideal candidate, students must spend their energy on creating a resume that will attract the attention of the BS/MD admissions office.

Students can do that by:

  • Focusing all their academic options around the sciences by taking advanced AP courses such as Physics, Biology, and Chemistry.
  • Avoiding taking “easy” AP courses just to inflate the GPA.
  • Not overdoing it on AP courses; taking every single AP course will not boost a student’s resume. It is better to take fewer courses and concentrate on the ones that align with the intended field (science), and to receive the highest possible scores on those exams.

The goal for BS/MD candidates should be perfect scores in the sciences. By focusing on the sciences, students avoid becoming overwhelmed with too many APs and challenging courses that are unrelated to their field. This allows them more time to explore extracurricular interests, which play a key role in admissions for direct medical programs.

Tip 2: The “WOW” Test

If a student has passed the threshold for grades and SAT/ACT scores, their extracurricular activities are then evaluated. High school students are busier than ever, so being able to utilize time wisely is critical. Students need to develop deep interests, and developing and nurturing these takes time. For this reason, prospective BS/MD students should focus on activities within the medical or science fields. This might mean different projects within the same field, to show the ability to make significant strides on one single point of focus. Doing just one activity extremely well is better than doing many activities at a mediocre level. Students often try to do it all, which spreads them too thin and results in nothing on their resume standing out as overly impressive.

Instead of tackling every possible activity, students should try to pass the “WOW” test. What is the “WOW” test? When your neighbor asks you about an activity you are involved in, the first thing they should be thinking is “Wow!” Having a memorable interest related to science brings your application to the top of the list for BS/MD programs. Options might include a weekly shadowing position, volunteer or research work, or any other extracurricular activity where a deep interest is displayed.

Ask yourself: “Am I the best in this particular area when compared to other applicants?” If the answer is “no” — it’s time to get to work! Again, being the best at one thing is more impressive to admissions officers than being good at numerous things.

Tip 3: Finding your Voice

The application essay is critical to standing out in a sea of applicants. The essay establishes applicants as “real people,” beyond just the numbers of their GPAs, SAT or ACT scores, and extracurricular activities. Because a direct medical program is a large commitment, students must convey their dedication to their chosen career path.

To write a good essay, students should:

  • Start early! It often takes longer than expected to write a compelling essay.
    Not reiterate extracurricular activities that can easily be found on the application. Essay word counts are limited, and shouldn’t be squandered on repeated information.
  • Tell a story with a purpose. Students should make sure stories bring the narrative back to themselves. Admission officers read tens of thousands of essays; those that stand out feature compelling stories that draw the reader in.
  • Make the reader feel emotion. This makes the candidate more memorable, and allows them to connect with the reader.
  • Why medicine? The essay needs to convey an applicant’s maturity and intent to study medicine by showing how academics and activities have helped prepare them for this program.

If you are a high school student considering a direct medical program, you must make your application rise above the thousands of others vying for the same spot. Every single aspect of your application, from the essay, to your activities, to your academics, should be centered around medicine and science. Because you have committed at an early age to a highly selective program (and field), demonstrating your preparation for, consideration of, and commitment to your selected career will help your application stand out and beat the odds for admission.

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