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How to Get into Med School While You’re Still in High School

Aiming to be an Orthopedic Surgeon or a Cardiologist? Combined BS/MD programs offer high school students a streamlined path to med school, but the competition to get in is fierce.

Way back in the early ‘90s, when we, the non-Millennial members of The Playbook, were in high school, there was a popular TV show, Doogie Howser, M.D., about a fictional first-year resident in a Los Angeles hospital.  As a newly-minted physician, Dr. Douglas “Doogie” Howser grappled with all of the usual pressures of rookie doctorhood—hospital politics, difficult patients, and constant fatigue.  What made Dr. Howser’s situation unusual was that he was—get ready for a TV premise—only fourteen.  As the series’ opening title sequence reminded us each week, Doogie was “too young to buy beer” but “could prescribe drugs.” 

While becoming a doctor at the tender age of fourteen may not be achievable outside the realm of television, there is a way for teenagers to get into med school while they’re still in high school: Combined BS/MD programs.

One School, Two Degrees, 6 to 8 Years

In an effort to attract especially strong students who are ready to commit to a career in medicine at a young age, some universities offer programs that put students on a path to earning both a Bachelor of Science and a Medical Degree straight out of high school.

One of the most prestigious of these programs is Brown University’s lauded Program in Liberal Medical Education, or PLME.  As the only program of its type in the Ivy League, Brown’s PLME accepts a mere 3.5% of applicants.  The chosen few are simultaneously admitted to Brown University as well as to Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School.  A chief advantage of Brown’s PLME is that students don’t have to pursue traditional pre-med majors like Biology and Chemistry during their undergraduate years in the program.  In fact, Brown gives PLME students the freedom to choose their own major and encourages program participants to explore courses in the Humanities before they transition to their medical school education.

While Brown’s PLME program lasts a full eight years (the traditional four years of college followed by four years of medical school), other institutions allow students to accelerate the process.  Schools like California Northstate University allows students to complete a BS/MD program in as few as six years, and many other institutions, such as Penn State and Rutgers, allow students to complete their BS/MD programs in seven.

The Hard Part Is Getting In

For many doctors-to-be, these programs can be a dream come true.  Instead of sweating out four years as an undergraduate hoping to get into med school, students admitted to combined BS/MD programs can begin their freshman year of college knowing that their medical school slot is assured.  That’s especially comforting given that only around 41% of undergraduates applying to medical school gain admission to one of our country’s 155 accredited medical schools.

But getting in is far from easy.  BS/MD programs are among the most sought-after programs in higher education, attracting students with superlative academic credentials.  Students entering Northwestern’s Honors Program in Medical Education (HPME), for example, boast an average SAT Math score of 792 and an average Reading and Writing score of 762.  Let those numbers sink in for a second.  Students with a 790 in SAT Math are in the bottom half of their entering class in this program.

Even a school like the University of South Alabama, which is literally tied for last in the US News Rankings, requires a minimum score of 1360 on the SAT or a 30 on the ACT for their College of Medicine Early Acceptance Program.  And those scores don’t mean you’ll get in.  Those are merely the “minimal qualifications for initial consideration.”

OK, But After I’m Admitted, It’s All Smooth Sailing, Right?  Like, I Can Start Practicing Scribbling Prescriptions and Saying, “Does It Hurt When I Press Here?”, Correct?

Well, not exactly.  Most BS/MD programs only offer “conditional acceptance” to medical school.  For example, the University Scholars Program in Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis only guarantees medical school admission for students who maintain a 3.8 GPA and score equal to or above the 97th percentile on the MCAT.

Other schools are more forgiving.  George Washington University’s dual BA/MD program requires students to maintain a 3.6 GPA, avoid grades of C or below in science courses, and provide an MCAT “practice exam score.”  That’s not necessarily easy, but compared to most pre-meds who have to sweat the difference between every A and A-, it’s a walk in the park.

I’m Up for the Challenge.  How Do I Get In?

As we’ve discussed, excellent grades and test scores are essential for getting into these programs.  However, in such a competitive environment, an impressive academic transcript isn’t enough.  If you apply to a combined BS/MD program, one of your biggest challenges will be convincing admissions officers that you have truly committed to a career in medicine at such a young age.  OK, so you have posters of Vivek Murthy and Anthony Fauci on your bedroom wall.  But what have you actually done?

A history of volunteer work in healthcare is a good start as is any medical research you’ve aided or conducted.  Maybe you were a finalist in the prestigious Regeneron Science Talent Search (formerly the Westinghouse Science Competition), or maybe you’ve taken anatomy and physiology courses at a local college every summer.  Perhaps you have a personal connection to medicine—a brush with illness or a family member whose struggle has inspired you.  No matter what, you’ll need a compelling reason why you want to become a physician.  “Because I want to help people” isn’t sufficient.  Worthy applicants are able to explain how medicine isn’t just a career for them.  It’s a calling.

I’m a Genius Who Cured Cancer for My Ninth Grade Science Project.  What BS/MD Program Should I Choose?

Among the programs we’ve mentioned in this piece, Brown’s and Northwestern’s are the most prestigious, followed by Rice University’s Medical Scholars Program, held in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine.  However, with so many accomplished students vying for so few spots, getting into any BS/MD program is a remarkable achievement.  Remember, for pre-med students, an undergraduate degree is merely a steppingstone to medical school.  If you can skip the line and get in as a high school senior, you’ll already have a huge leg up.

DEC 18 - MAR 8 Schedule

Exam 1: Saturday, December 18, 2021, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET at TMLA.

Class 1: Tuesday, January 4, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Class 2: Tuesday, January 11, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Exam 2: Saturday, January 15, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET at TMLA.

Class 3: Tuesday, January 18, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Class 4: Tuesday, February 1, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Exam 3: Saturday, February 5, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET at TMLA.

Class 5: Tuesday, February 8, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Class 6: Tuesday, February 15, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Exam 4: Saturday, February 26, 2022, from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET at TMLA.

Class 7: Tuesday, March 1, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Class 8: Tuesday, March 8, 2022, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. ET (Live-Online). 

Oct 27 – Nov 20 Schedule

Class 1: Wednesday, October 27, 2021, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 2: Saturday, October 30, 2021, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

Class 3: Wednesday, November 3, 2021, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 4: Saturday, November 6, 2021, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

Class 5: Wednesday, November 10, 2021, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 6: Saturday, November 13, 2021, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

Class 7: Wednesday, November 17, 2021, from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. ET

Class 8: Saturday, November 20, 2021, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET

100 THINGS MOST TEENAGERS WOULD RATHER DO THAN PREP FOR THE SAT OR ACT

1. Visit the orthodontist. 2. Watch PBS. 3. Go an entire week without rolling their eyes at their parents. 4. Watch C-SPAN. 5. Retake their AP Chem final. 6. Intern at a local CPA’s office. 7. Turn off their cell phone. 8. Mop the kitchen. 9. Clean their bathroom. 10. Renounce social media. 11. Write a 10-page history paper. 12. Get a bunch of allergy shots. 13. Wait in line at the post office. 14. Watch the Weather Channel. 15. Be abducted by aliens. 16. Attend a clarinet recital. 17. Tour a Soviet-era nuclear plant. 18. Eat a healthy and nutritious dinner. 19. Do calisthenics. 20. Bake snickerdoodle cookies for that guy who’s always loitering by his van. 21. Watch a black-and-white foreign film without subtitles. 22. Clean out the rain gutters. 23. Pretend they’re 42 and recently divorced. 24. Listen to NPR’s Weekend Edition. 25. Read a newspaper. 26. Visit the DMV. 27. Eat crispy fried tarantulas (considered a delicacy in Cambodia). 28. Serve as a “breath odor evaluator” for a toothpaste company. (Yes, this job actually exists.) 29. Go on a double date with their parents. 30. Undergo dental surgery. 31. Babysit their annoying stepbrother. 32. Empty Mr. Whisker’s litter box. 33. Take out the trash. 34. Clean the rain gutters. 35. Tell their parents they’d like to sit down to discuss the Birds n’ the Bees. 36. Stare at a blank television screen for several hours. 37. Be fitted for orthodontic headgear. 38. Organize their closet. 39. Vacuum their entire house. 40. Eat that substance their school cafeteria claims is Sloppy Joe. 41. Kiss Tucker Carlson. 42. Make origami turtles for the residents of a local nursing home. 43. Do a few hundred burpees. 44. Try Uncle Morris’s beef stew. 45. Watch Hillbilly Handfishin’ on Animal Planet. 46. Eat “bird’s nest” soup, which sounds kind of scrumptious unless you know the broth is made from bird SALIVA. 47. Set up an Facebook account for Grandma. 48. Start a backyard garden. 49. Dust home furnishings. 50. Do an exercise known as the “Bulgarian Split Squat.” 51. Help Dad trim his back hair. 52. Hunt for spare change between the sofa cushions. 53. Hunt for leftover Cheez-Its between the sofa cushions. 54. Mow the lawn. 55. Learn how to knit. 56. Research Wikipedia’s entry on the history of Q- tips. 57. Count how many times they can blink in one hour. 58. Compose a haiku. 59. Do one of the American Dental Association’s oral disease-themed jigsaw puzzles. 60. Watch televised bowling. 61. Give Grandpa a foot massage. 62. Give Grandma a foot massage. 63. Play tea party with their six-year-old stepsister. 64. Read The Red Badge of Courage. 65. Browse Burlington Coat Factory’s fall collection. 66. Floss. 67. Listen to The Scarlett Letter on audiobook. 68. Watch televised bowling. 69. Lie really, really still and pretend they’re deceased. 70. Join their twelve-year-old sister and all of her friends for a dance party!!! 71. Wash their parents’ minivan. 72. Journal about their feelings. 72. Give themselves a haircut. 73. Make homemade kombucha. 74. Learn to crochet. 75. Get a head start on their LinkedIn profile. 76. Watch a black- and-white movie marathon. 77. Visit the library. 78. Run a relay race. 79. Eat slimy san-nakji, which is considered a delicacy in Korea. 80. Eat khash, a traditional dish in Southeastern Europe that is so disgusting you’re just going to have to Google it to find out what it’s made of. 81. Eat the Swedish delicacy blodpättar, which kind of sounds like what it is. 81. Eat bat soup, a traditional dish in Micronesia. 82. Eat harkarl, rotten shark meat that is considered a delicacy in Iceland. 83. Eat the Scottish dish known as haggis. 84. Eat escamol, a Mexican dish that kind of looks like it’s made of rice but definitely isn’t. 85. Eat “Rocky Mountain Oysters,” which, despite the name, may not be from the Rocky Mountains and definitely are not oysters. 86. Wrestle an alligator. 87. Be a “professional apologizer,” a person whose actual full-time job is to apologize on behalf of other people. 88. Be an ostrich babysitter, which is apparently something people do in South Africa. 89. Ponder what life would have been like if they had been born in Kazakhstan. 90. Take a transatlantic flight on Biman Bangladesh Airlines, widely considered the worst airline in the entire world. 91. Eat fugu, a potentially lethal blowfish. 92. Do a form of running exercise known as “laps of misery.” 93. Walk the neighbor’s dog. 94. Clean their room. 95. Frolic naked through the mall. 96. Do a handstand on two fingers. 97. Do one-armed chin-ups. 98. Do a form of exercise known as a “flying human flag abdominal crunch.” 99. Watch the 2011 movie Tree of Life. (Trust us, it’s booooring.) 100. Use sock puppets to practice their future networking skills.