In 2021, Harvard University was the most competitive undergrad school to get into, with only a 3.4% acceptance rate. It was closely followed by fellow Ivy League school, Columbia University, which had a 3.7% acceptance rate. It’s no secret that Ivy League and top universities are extraordinarily difficult to get into, but it may come as a surprise that BS/MD, also known as direct medical programs, are even harder to secure a coveted seat.
This past cycle, programs like the Rice/Baylor Medical Scholars program had more than 1600 applicants for just six seats—putting the acceptance rate at less than 1%. Similarly, Case Western Reserve University’s Pre-Professional Scholars Program (PPSP) had an acceptance rate of 1%.
Despite these low acceptance rates, high school students are still drawn to BS/MD programs because of the benefits: often, they will secure a spot in the partnered medical school as long as they meet all the program requirements.
Because of the low acceptance rates and high academic standards, these ultra-competitive programs are a reach for everyone, regardless of class rank or resume. For BS/MD candidates, it is more important than ever to set themselves apart from the average applicant by pursuing worthwhile clinical internships, meaningful research experiences and community service. It’s not enough to have perfect grades and SAT scores; the student’s essays and interviews will be equally important in the BS/MD admission process.
As a BS/MD admission counselor, my team and I work closely with BS/MD students applying to programs across the country. Here are some of the BS/MD admission insights from the 2020-21 cycle.
Increase In Applications
Overall, students applied to more colleges this year—the Common App saw an 11% increase in applications from the previous admission cycle. Schools like Duke University, New York University and Georgia Tech saw roughly a 25% increase in applications.
BS/MD programs were no different. The Program In Liberal Medical Education (PLME) at Brown University had a 45% increase in applications; Case Western’s PPSP had more than a 20% increase.
Because of the increased competitiveness of the programs, Moon Prep counselor, Nicole Cooksey, recommends that students apply to at least ten direct medical programs in addition to traditional undergraduate colleges. “There are no “match” or “safety” BS/MD programs, so we encourage students to apply to more programs to give themselves the best chance possible.”
The resume of a BS/MD student requires more specific activities than the average undergrad applicant. For example, at Union College, the Leadership in Medicine program directors are looking specifically for students who are always in search of ways to take their extracurriculars to the next level. They also prioritize direct exposure to the healthcare profession, whether it is by working as an EMT, volunteering in a hospital or shadowing a physician.
However, the pandemic has shifted what resumes look like due to the lack of in-person opportunities available to students. According to an interview with the BS/MD program director of The College of New Jersey, Dr. Sudhir Nayak, “Shadowing a doctor is not possible right now. Most hospitals have just shut down their volunteering system completely. We expect that student’s applications are going to be a little bit different this year than usual.”
Instead, students can seek out virtual opportunities to build their resumes. Instead of shadowing a physician in person, they can virtually shadow through sites like WebShadowers or Virtual Shadowing. While physically working in a lab is impossible for many students, they might consider pursuing an independent research project.
This year, all BS/MD program interviews were virtual. Although interviews were online, students still encountered both types of interview formats: a more traditional interview and a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI).
Some schools did not offer an interview and accepted students based solely on their transcripts, test scores and essays. These schools included the University of Toledo, California Northstate University, St. Louis University, New York Institute of Technology and Old Westbury.
Program Cancellations and Additions
Two programs decided to shut their doors this year: Northwestern University’s Honors Program in Medical Education and Washington University in St. Louis. However, other programs have been added to the list in the past year, including:
- “Yours to Lose: Advanced Medical School Acceptance Program” – Missouri Southern State University with Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (BS/DO)
- “BA/BS-MD Program” -Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine
The Future Of The Standardized Test
For the 2021-22 application cycle, more than 1,400 schools have already announced that they will be test-optional, including about 70 schools that have announced that they are either test-blind or test-free. BS/MD programs have been slower to change their policies. The programs at Stony Brook University, Florida Atlantic University, Drexel University still require students to submit a standardized test score to be considered.
However, the following schools have gone test-optional for their BS/MD program:
- Temple University
- Penn State University
- Union College
- University of Pittsburgh
- University of Connecticut
Some of these schools do have rules regarding their test-optional policy. For example, Union College requires students to submit their SAT or ACT score if they were able to take the exam. Typically, students accepted into the University of Pittsburgh don’t have to take the MCAT; however, students who go to test-optional will be required to take this exam before matriculating into medical school.
Because of the competitive nature of BS/MD programs, Cooksey recommends that students submit scores whenever possible, even if the program is test-optional. “You can bet other competitive applicants will be submitting near-perfect scores. Programs will be comparing you to those applicants, so you don’t want to be at a disadvantage.”
BS/MD Admission Insights: 2020-21 Cycle
With the increasing number of applications and lowering acceptance rates, aspiring BS/MD students might feel discouraged and overwhelmed. However, the benefits of a BS/MD pathway are numerous. By concentrating on building a strong resume filled with diverse (virtual) activities, students can still find a way to secure one of the few seats at a direct medical program.
*Read the full article and more from Moon Prep on our Forbes column.