BS/MD programs are highly competitive. As a result, the application process is grueling. It is important to retain a big-picture vision of your long-term path. When students look to land a place at one of these coveted schools, they face a challenge. We are often asked how the regular college admissions process translates to admissions to BS/MD programs. This article dives into the similarities and differences between standard college applications and BS/MD programs and applications.
What Do I Need to Know About Applying to BS/MD Programs?
First things first, let’s define our terms. BS/MD, or sometimes BA/MD, are also known as “direct medical programs” or “combined medical programs.”
Now, to the specifics. The pyramid depicted below is a simplified rendition of the general formula for college admission. At the base is academics, in the middle is activities, and at the top is vision.
The general pyramid still holds on all counts. However, the importance of vision (also thought of as “passion” or “maturity”) is even greater. This is because these programs are essentially evaluating you not just as a prospective undergraduate student, but also as a prospective medical student, all at the young age of eighteen.
Because vision is so important, this article will break it down for you. Firstly, we will explain what vision is by giving you examples of student visions. Beyond that, we will review how the students channeled their visions into concrete activities. Importantly, each element is useful to talk about on college applications. As you can see in the examples below, your vision for your career in medicine does not have to be limited to the basic sciences! In fact, visions can range from policy and debate to engineering and beyond.
1) Health Policy Track for BS/MD
Student A’s dream was to not only become a physician, but also a policy expert. In other words, someone who would direct government policy and public priorities to achieve better community health. She was first inspired to pursue this path when she watched the surgeon general speak on TV. To work towards this vision, she:
- Joined policy debate at her school & actively participated in local and national competitions
- Emailed professors in health policy at local universities and colleges, to ask for shadowing and research opportunities
- Founded an organization at her school aimed at raising community awareness for various health issues and engendering public support to fix them.
Given her interest in global health, she followed suit in her extracurriculars. Her club partnered with organizations such as End7 to help fundraise and teach people about global issues in healthcare. Her commitment to health policy and her outspoken leadership for issues she was passionate about truly demonstrated her vision. As a result of this hard work, she was accepted to 3 BS/MD programs.
2) Basic Science & Research Track for BS/MD
Student B’s dream was to become a physician-scientist. She engaged in research early on, by participating in her school science fairs. Because she loved research, she wanted to incorporate this passion into her desire to become a doctor. To build on this vision, she contacted professors at local colleges and universities. She focused on those who were doing research in fields she loved, such as biochemistry and microbiology. By doing this early in 10th grade she was able to work on the project for three years, eventually becoming the co-author of a paper by her senior year. This demonstrated interest in research really helped her vision to shine through and made her a very mature and impressive BS/MD candidate. She earned acceptance to 5 BS/MD programs.
3) Medical Devices Track for BS/MD
Student C’s academic interests lay in engineering. However, he also wanted to be able to translate devices that he built directly into improved patient care. His interest in engineering came from her time spent on his school’s robotics team since fourth grade. His interest in medicine came from hospital volunteering that he did as part of his school’s National Junior Honor Society. To merge his two passions, he:
- Took up a NASA internship in high school, which focused on medical devices for cancer therapy
- Joined his school’s National Technical Honor Society
- Participated in engineering camps and competitions at universities across the nation, taking up projects that were specifically focused in medical devices.
His innovation and engineering skill were each beautifully catalogued through his internships and projects. These activities helped him to present a cohesive story of his vision. This dedication earned him a spot at 3 prestigious BS/MD programs.
In summary: BS/MD Programs Require Vision
The common thread between all three of these stories is the strength of their vision, as demonstrated by their extracurricular activities. Knowing how to present the narrative of your academic journey to an admissions committee and achieve the best college acceptance results to the program that will be the best fit for you. Medical school challenges even the best candidates; preparing well, doing your research, and focusing on the important aspects of the application process will increase your chances of acceptance at even top universities.
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