So, of course, with every rule there is an exception. In Part 1 of this post, I reviewed the general course of study for students who consider themselves Pre-Med and stressed that (usually) there are not official “Pre-Med” majors. There are several programs around the country, however, that offer “Fast Track” or Accelerated Medical Programs. These options are usually combined baccalaureate/MD programs. So while you still can’t become a doctor in 4 years (would you really trust an open heart surgeon with only 4 years of medical background?), these programs do shave off a few years of study.
Combined Programs vs. Accelerated Programs
In a regular “pre-med” track, students apply to college as an undergraduate, and then, at the end of their undergraduate studies, apply to medical school. These 2 admissions processes are totally separate. With combined BS/MD programs there is just 1 major admissions process that is completed at the end of high school, so students apply for their undergraduate and medical school programs at the same time. Though there may be expectations and requirements that have to be met to continue on at various points in the program, BS/MD programs don’t require a separate medical school application process. Students flow directly from their BS program into the combined medical school program – hence the “combined degree” title.
Most accelerated BS/MD programs are combined but not all combined BS/MD programs are accelerated, as there are some combined BSMD programs that are NOT accelerated.
Generally, accelerated programs are 6-7 years in length while combine programs run 8-9 years, so accelerated programs actually cut some time off of undergraduate study. While combined programs make the transition to med school easier because the application process (for the most part) is done upon undergraduate entry, they are not necessarily shorter in length.
Before committing to a program, make sure you learn about the specifics. Some combined programs don’t require students to take the MCAT to continue into the medical school phase while others do. If they do, what score is required to continue in the program? Can you add an extra year of undergraduate study if you choose? These are all things to consider when applying.
The major factor to research with accelerated BS/MD programs is how the program “accelerates” study. In almost all programs, the acceleration occurs during undergraduate study, and the 4 years of medical school is standard. Find out if the program is year round or if classes are combined (Organic Chemistry I&II in the same semester – yikes!). Also, consider course load. Most college freshmen are urged to take a light 12 hour course load their first semester to help them ease into college. In accelerated programs, students will probably be expected to balance a grueling schedule from day 1.
Accelerated programs usually follow a 3 (undergraduate study) + 4 (medical school) OR a 2 (undergraduate study) + 4 (medical school).
Because most of these programs are relatively new and very elite, they only accept a few students each year. To be considered for these programs, students must usually maintain a GPA that places them in the top 5-10% of their high school graduating class, score in the 2200+ range on the SAT or in the 32+ range on the ACT, and display a strong commitment to the medical field.
Is it right for me?
While medical school may be in your future, an accelerated program is not for everyone. Is an 18 or 20 year old really ready for the maturity and dedication med school takes? It depends. Accelerated BS/MD programs are a serious commitment, and there is probably a great difference between a typical first year pre-med undergraduate student and a first year BS/MD student. These fast track and combined programs are designed for the unique and exceptional high school students who are driven and fully prepared to work in the medical profession. Students who are accepted into BS/MD programs also have to be prepared to commit the next 6-8 years to a single university and city. For some, this level of dedication and stability may not be right.
I Am Applying for a BS/MD Program. How Do I Prove I Am A Perfect Candidate?
In many ways, the BS/MD applications process is very similar to that of any undergraduate program. Stellar SAT scores, a solid GPA, a strong resume, and impressive recommendations don’t hurt. The main difference is proving your commitment to the medical field. Building experiences in the medical field will not only help your resume, they will also help you affirm your decision.
• Shadow a Doctor or Two: Make a connection with a few local doctors and see if you can interview them and shadow them for a day to get a feel for the daily routine of a doctor.
• Find a Summer Internship at a Doctor’s Office: Even though you may not be in the action, real world experience in a medical office is important.
• Volunteer at a Hospital: Most hospitals are always in search of volunteers. By consistently volunteering at a hospital over a summer or throughout high school, you will display both interest in the field and dedication to a cause.
Universities Offering Accelerated/Combined Medical Programs
There are roughly 30 universities around the country which offer combined BS/MD degrees. Some schools that offer these med programs include:
• Baylor University/Baylor College of Medicine in Texas (8 year program)
• University of Miami in Florida (7 year program)
• Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Ohio (6 year program)
• Tulane in Louisiana (6 year program)
• Florida State University in Florida (7 year program)
• Drexel University in Pennsylvania (7 year program)
• Penn State + Jefferson Medical College (7 year program)
• George Washington University (7 year program)
For a more complete listing of accredited universities, review this list offered by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
If you have yet to read Part 1 about general Pre-Med tracks, check it out now!