Why BS/MD Programs Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up To Be

Joint BS MD Programs, BS MD Program, Joint Medical Programs

We never encourage students to apply to BS/MD programs (photo © Jeremy Atherton, 2006).

Think of BS/MD programs as a buy-one-get-one-free admission into both college and medical school. It’s a chance for high schoolers to apply to college and medical school all at once so they can (often) go to school for one less year than they’d otherwise have to (seven years as opposed to eight) and not have to take the dreaded MCAT and apply to medical school at the end of college. It’s the dream of so many students and their parents — with a special shout out to our readers who happen to be Indian American. For all of those students who aspire to be physicians (often like their moms and dads), the BS/MD program route seems like the way to go, right? Wrong.

BS/MD Programs Are a Bad Idea

Each and every year, we help students earn admission to competitive BS/MD programs. But this is only after we do everything in our power to persuade them against applying to such programs. It’s only our students we’re unsuccessful in persuading who apply. As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” You see, nobody can help students earn admission to highly selective colleges, including highly selective BS/MD programs, better than Ivy Coach but we would be doing our students and their parents a disservice to ever encourage them to focus on these programs. But why is that, Ivy Coach? Do tell.

BS/MD Programs Are Often Not at the Best Universities

Are there BS/MD programs at some of our nation’s elite universities? Yes. Brown has a great BS/MD program. Northwestern’s got one too. And there are certainly others. But most highly selective universities don’t offer such a joint program. To not apply to the vast majority of highly selective schools simply because they don’t offer a joint BS/MD program is unwise. You’re not going to apply to Dartmouth because they don’t offer a BS/MD program? Don’t be ridiculous.

We don’t mean to attack Boston University. BU is a wonderful school. But just as Dan Quayle is no Jack Kennedy, Boston University is no Harvard University. Why on earth would you go to BU’s BS/MD program if you could earn admission to a more selective school, like Harvard? Just so you don’t have to apply to medical school at the end of college? Don’t be lazy and foolish. Think about it like this: if you needed to get brain surgery, all else being equal, would you prefer the doctor who went to Harvard as an undergraduate or the doctor who went to BU? Don’t answer that because we already know your answer.

Applying to BS/MD Programs Reinforce Stereotypes

Many of the folks who come to us with an interest in applying to BS/MD programs happen to be Indian American students. And what’s one of the stereotypes of Indian American applicants? …It’s that they wish to be doctors. It does not behoove any applicant — Indian American or otherwise — to present themselves as similar to so many others. When so many Indian American applicants are applying to college expressing an interest in becoming physicians, that is — in a word — boring. Our students at Ivy Coach are anything but boring. It’s everything we stand against. Our students are interesting. They’re unique. They’re students admissions officers want to fight for. It’s not easy fighting for another Indian American applicant who wishes to be a doctor. And when your task as a college applicant is to inspire admissions officers to root for you, that’s counterintuitive if you ask us.

Have another reason why BS/MD programs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be? Post your reason below and we’ll be sure to weigh in.


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  • Samar Mann says:

    So you’re saying that Indian Americans should not apply to BS/MD programs because they are following a stereotypical career pathway for their race?

    • Ivy Coach says:

      Quite the contrary. Indian Americans should not apply to BS/MD programs because they will face discrimination in the BS/MD admissions process. When applying to BS/MD programs, applicants have no choice but to present as aspiring physicians. Indian Americans face unjust discrimination in highly selective college admissions here in the U.S., largely because the profiles they present to these schools are often all too similar. In particular, in our experience, too many of these students present with activities like shadowing doctors. Admissions officers yawn when they see the same profile time and again and yawns do not typically go hand in hand with offers of admission.

      What we are suggesting is avoid the BS/MD programs entirely — whether one is Indian American or otherwise. Instead, get into a better school than the school that offered the BS/MD program and then apply to medical school. What student wouldn’t choose Harvard over Northeastern’s BS/MD program? College applicants — Indian American or otherwise — make a mistake when they showcase their aspirations to be a physician when applying to college. It’s just too common.

  • melanie zheng says:

    Pros to BS/MD:

    1) Not only is the medical application LONG, but it is EXPENSIVE. One round ranges from $3,000 upwards. You could pay all that and still not even get an interview offer – money down the drain. Let’s not even mention paying for test-prep materials…
    2) More than 50% of med-school applicants end up taking 1+ gap years. Don’t get me wrong, gap years can be GREAT. However, to maintain a competitive application for medical school, you’re going to be using that year either boosting the GPA/MCAT score, fulfilling research positions, publishing, etc. From what I see, it’s not a true “gap year”, as you’ll still be working – just in a different way.
    3) Overall LESS STRESS. Medical school applications are notoriously difficult; just check the pre-med burnout rate and see for yourself! Guaranteed admission means you can basically coast through undergrad doing the things you WANT to do, not things that you believe are necessary in order to secure your future.

    The list of positives goes on and on. BS/MD is the clear option for any high schooler set on medicine. Prestige is a made up concept; you can go to Harvard but that’s not gonna help you get into medical school…. so! Keep your end goal in mind and stick with it. I think the only part of this article I agree with is keeping from applying to other schools in the blind hope you’ll get into a BS/MD. These programs are intensely competitive, so definitely apply to other schools outside of the BS/MD.

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