The Ivy Coach Daily

February 1, 2024

7 Reasons to Stay Away from BS/MD Programs

A student walks in front of a red-bricked building at Harvard University on a sunny day.

Each year, students come to Ivy Coach hoping to earn admission to top BS/MD programs. And while we have been quite successful over the years at helping students earn admission to competitive BS/MD programs, we first urge these students to strongly reconsider. That’s right. They should strongly reconsider applying to BS/MD programs. Why’s that? Where to begin?

7 Critical Reasons to Avoid the BS/MD Program Route

  1. Applying to BS/MD programs sets many applicants up to face unjust discrimination in the admissions process — especially Indian American applicants. At Ivy Coach, we work with many Indian American students. And many of our Indian American students aspire to be physicians. Yet, if you had to guess the percentage of time we recommend our Indian American students present in their college applications as want-to-be doctors, what would you guess that percentage would be? The answer is 0%. You see, when the name of the game in elite college admissions is differentiation and admissions officers comb through file after file of Indian American applicants who want to be doctors, they so often yawn, roll their eyes, and do not recommend the student for admission.
  2. There are simply too many aspiring doctors — it’s boring. Do you know all those old lawyer jokes, like, “What do you call a thousand lawyers chained to the bottom of the sea? …A good start!”? The same jokes can be made of aspiring doctors — at least in the elite college admissions process. Why would you wish to present just like so many other students present on their college applications? Why would you wish to do the same boring activities, like shadowing doctors and assisting with cancer research? We get that cancer research is important — so important! But if you’re doing it because you think it will improve your case for admission to an elite university, you’re actually shooting yourself in the feet (and you might need a doctor to stop the bleeding!).
  3. When you apply to BS/MD programs, you have no choice but to present as an aspiring physician. When Ivy Coach’s students who want to be doctors apply to elite universities, they don’t express in any way that they want to be doctors. They don’t pursue activities throughout high school that imply they want to be doctors. Their recommenders don’t write about their dreams of being doctors. Their essays feature no references to medicine. But that doesn’t mean our students don’t ultimately become doctors! They simply play the game and don’t express they want to be doctors when they’re applying for undergraduate admission.
  4. Medicine is not a major at any highly selective university. As such, it’s unnecessary to express that one is interested in studying medicine. Instead, students can express an interest in any of he liberal arts — and this isn’t only about checking a box but about showcasing that interest throughout the application — and they really can major in that subject if they wish. Or they can change their mind by switching intended majors every Tuesday of their first year. That’s the beauty of a liberal arts education. Besides, students can take the requisite pre-med courses irrespective of their major.
  5. If an applicant’s parents are doctors, it will appear the student aspires to follow in their footsteps. Yet elite college admissions officers don’t seek to admit students who follow in mom or dad’s footsteps. If the mom is a cardiologist, admissions officers will assume she hooked up her daughter with the opportunity to shadow a fellow doctor — whether it’s the case or not. Instead, admissions officers wish to admit students who are blazing trails of their own and finding activities through their own initiative.
  6. Students who apply to BS/MD programs typically end up at less selective schools than they otherwise could have earned admission to. Just take a look at the universities that offer BS/MS programs. It’s no knock on these schools, but the likes of Northeastern University, Boston University, and George Washington University are not Harvard University. And for the top universities offering BS/MD programs like Brown University and Northwestern University, know that it makes it infinitely more difficult to get into these schools when one applies to their respective BS/MD programs, including for the above reasons. Sure, attending a BS/MD program saves a year of a student’s academic life, and they won’t need to apply to medical school after college, but is it worth it to attend a less prestigious university?
  7. Would you rather have brain surgery from a doctor with a Harvard or Northeastern diploma on their waiting room wall? Need we say more? Some years ago, we had a student who was admitted to both Harvard and Northeastern’s BS/MD program. He was genuinely considering both options — until, of course, we talked some sense into his father. The student ultimately chose Harvard and later the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Choose BS/MD Programs At Your Peril

If you’re still considering applying to a BS/MD program, there’s likely nothing we can say or do to change your mind. As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” No, no you can’t.

So, instead, we’ll mention Ivy Coach’s PostMortem application service since you’re an aspiring doctor and all. When things don’t go as you hope, when you’re second guessing your decision not to heed our very clear advice, we offer a one-hour PostMortem application review after the Early round so you understand what went wrong and what needs to change for your Regular Decision applications.

Of course, while many things will be fixable at that late date, many things will also not be fixable. If most of your activities revolved around showcasing how you wish to be a doctor, well, you can’t suddenly be an aspiring Classicist — it just won’t be credible. But we’ll design a forward plan for you to improve your case for admission after you made the mistake of not heeding our advice above.

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