How Important Is Research For BS/MD Programs?

By Brandie Erickson June 27, 2024 BS/MD Admissions Consulting College Search Press

Direct medical programs, often referred to as BS/MD programs, are some of the most competitive programs in the country. With programs at Baylor University, Brown University and Case Western Reserve University accepting less than 3% of all its applicants, these programs are often more competitive than the Ivy League. They are looking for exceptional students who are completely committed to becoming physicians. That means the students have spent the better part of their high school career pursuing STEM-focused activities, including physician shadowing, volunteering in healthcare settings and leadership positions in clubs.

Numerous BS/MD programs like Rensselaer Polytechnic University, like to see students with extensive research experience. Its program, aptly named the Physician-Scientist Program, wants to see students who will not only participate in research during their tenure in the program but also lead and create their own research projects. The University of South Carolina’s Accelerated Undergraduate to M.D. program has an extensive research and thesis component that is required throughout the student’s academic career. The University of Rochester offers funding for summer research for its BS/MD students. Similarly, the University of Illinois at Chicago looks for students who can demonstrate their “research aptitude.”

What Type Of Research Do BS/MD Programs Accept?

High school students have access to a wide array of research opportunities. School-related options could include science fair projects or AP Seminar and AP Research. Students might also choose to pursue camps or programs over the summer, which allows them to dedicate more time to research. Other students find independent research projects with a local professor. Alternatively, others opt to write a literature review paper to get published. 

When BS/MD admission officers review applications, they don’t pit one type of experience against another. They know not every student will be able to find a local professor who allows them to research with them or can afford to do a paid summer program that spans numerous weeks or months. Consequently, they typically will consider holistically the depth of a student’s research experience, irrespective of the type of research the student completes.

Virtual Or In-Person Programs?

Both virtual and in-person experiences can add value to a BS/MD application. However, it depends on the program’s learning objectives and deliverables. Some students don’t have the flexibility to travel to an in-person camp and spend multiple weeks or months there. The University of Pittsburgh’s Guaranteed Admission Program says that “while in-person experiences are encouraged, virtual or remote experiences will be considered when evaluating the applicant.” For those students who have other obligations, a virtual camp might be the perfect fit and still offer a valuable experience. 

Does The Research Topic Matter?

The research experience doesn’t necessarily have to align with the student’s research interests, but it can often be helpful if it does. However, BS/MD admission officers know that high school students are still exploring their interests, which will likely evolve over the years. An opportunity that doesn’t align with the student’s interest will still be valuable because it allows the student to gain valuable skills that they can leverage to other research experiences in the future. 

Summer programs might give students a chance to explore dual interests. Some students interested in medicine might also want to explore computer science or Artificial Intelligence, so finding an opportunity that allows them to blend those interests might be ideal. For example, Rising Researchers, a sister company of Moon Prep, is hosting two five-week summer camps that allow students to practice AI and Machine Learning to study human diseases. Other camps, like Penn Summer Academies, allow students to apply coding skills to other areas of study. 

How Long Should The Research Experience Be?

The typical length of a research experience, especially one in the summer, can vary from as short as one week to up to eight weeks. A longer research experience can give students a more comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and, importantly, the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with their mentor and fellow students. However, the duration is not the sole determinant of a meaningful experience. Students should also look to see what the tangible outcomes of the program, such as a research paper, skills gained, letter of recommendation and more. 

For students who find an independent research experience, the relationship might span several months or even years. Those experiences might result in more fruitful research results and a strong relationship between the student and the mentor. 

Are Publications Required?

An experience resulting in a research publication is an added bonus, but it isn’t a requirement. If a student writes a research paper, even if not published, can still demonstrate the student’s scientific writing ability and add value to their college application. 

How Important Is Research For BS/MD Programs?

Every BS/MD program is different, and the admission officers’ value of research might vary from program to program. Ultimately, BS/MD programs are looking for students who are passionate about medicine and have had extensive experiences to affirm that passion. The College of New Jersey stated in an interview with Moon Prep that they are looking for passionate students, be it a deep involvement in Boy Scouts, Taekwondo or music. Therefore, students should never feel obligated to research if it does not align with their interests. Being genuine in their activities and demonstrating their passions is how to build a resume that stands out to BS/MD admission officers. 

Originally posted on Forbes.