Four Red Flags With Direct Medical Programs

By Violet July 29, 2022 College Application Medical Admissions Medical School Admissions Consulting Newsletter

Direct Medical Programs (also known as BS/MD, BA/MD, BS/DO or BA/DO programs) can be a smooth journey to medical school for high school seniors. These competitive programs allow aspiring doctors to simultaneously apply to the undergraduate and its partnered medical school. As long as students meet the requirements to stay in the direct medical program, they will matriculate into the partnered medical school.

It might seem almost too good to be true, but for the most part, many of these programs are a successful pathway to medical school. However, some direct medical programs have unreasonably high standards that students must meet to stay in the program. Students need to consider carefully before committing to a BS/MD program to make sure that they can complete the requirements.

Here are four red flags students should look out for when choosing a direct medical program.

1. Doesn’t Offer A Guaranteed Spot

Some of the programs on BS/MD lists are masquerading as a direct medical program but don’t guarantee a spot in the medical school. Such programs are known as pathway programs. BS/MD counselor Kevin Trudel explains, “Pathway programs can be risky. I recommend students only commit to a pathway program if they are excited about the undergraduate school. If they are not accepted into the medical school, they might be stuck at an undergraduate school that wasn’t their top choice.”

Pathway programs often guarantee students just an interview at the medical school at the end of their undergraduate education, which the student must pass before being accepted. One example is the University of Toledo’s Baccalaureate 2 MD Pathway Program. For students accepted into the program, they must meet the following requirements as an undergraduate student:

  • Maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5
  • Participate in extra-curricular activities demonstrating a sincere interest in a medical career
  • Participate in special mentoring activities
  • Demonstrate a compassionate and caring attitude.
  • Pass an interview, which will occur in the fall of their third year in undergraduate

Of the 32 students who entered into the pathway program in 2017, only 17 met the requirements to qualify for an interview. Of those 17 students, ten (or 59% of the interviewees) were accepted to the University of Toledo’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences in 2021.

Students should look carefully at what is required of them to get a med school seat. MCAT and GPA requirements are often standard, but read the fine print to ensure that you will be guaranteed a spot as long as you meet those requirements.

2. Strict MCAT Requirements-

The MCAT, or the Medical College Admissions Test, is a dreaded part of the application process for countless med school students, with many spending 200 hours over the course of three months studying for the exam. For matriculants into medical school in 2021-22, the average MCAT was nearly 512.

“The reason why many students opt for a direct medical program is to avoid having to take the MCAT altogether,” Trudel explains. The programs at Brown University, University of Missouri-Kansas City and Adelphi University don’t require their students to sit for the exam at all. Others, like the ones at St. Bonaventure and New Jersey Institute of Technology only require their students to take the exam, with no minimum score requirements.