For students who are aspiring to be doctors, the total time spent in school is typically eight years: four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and four years to earn a medical degree. Some students take time off during or after undergrad to bolster their applications, others don’t know they want to pursue a career in medicine until after they’ve pursued a graduate degree and/or a career in another field. There are various reasons that can extend the time before entering a medical program, and the entire process is lengthy and costly. For the high school student who is certain about applying to medical school, another option exists: the accelerated BS/MD, also known as the seven year medical program.
What is a Seven Year Medical Program?
Accelerated BS/MD programs consist of spending the first three years of the program completing a normal load of undergraduate pre-medical coursework to earn a bachelor’s degree, followed by four years of medical school. This cuts the typical eight years to earn both a bachelor’s and a medical degree to seven years. Students enter immediately after high school, with some programs beginning the summer after high school graduation. Depending on the program, summer sessions are required each year in order to complete all undergraduate work within the allotted three years. Each program has different additional requirements, ranging from a minimum MCAT score to volunteer requirements during the undergraduate portion of the program.
The appeal of these programs extends beyond just being able to earn a medical degree in a shorter amount of time than a traditional program of study usually requires. There are several benefits to attending an accelerated program. Students are guaranteed acceptance to medical school after undergrad, given acceptable undergraduate performance. Earning a medical degree through these programs is less expensive in the long run because a year of undergrad is shaved off of tuition costs. While accelerated programs are competitive, they are considered not as competitive as traditional entry into medical school for which applicant pools are larger and more diverse. Additionally, continuing into the medical school from accelerated programs usually requires a lower MCAT score compared to students who are applying traditionally.
Arguably most important, many programs expose students to medical experiences during the undergraduate phase of coursework that provide valuable experience related to their chosen career path. For example, some programs require students to take some medical school courses the third year of the undergraduate phase in order to expose students early to the medical curriculum. Other programs introduce students to clinical experiences within the hospital, providing valuable hands-on knowledge before students enter the medical curriculum.
The applications for these accelerated programs are longer than regular college applications, including forms and essays for the combined programs. These applications are typically reviewed by a BS/MD committee or medical school admissions committee and hold on-site interviews. Some programs require high school students to take the MCAT before applying, so it’s crucial for students to be on top of deadlines during their junior and senior years of high school.
Things to Consider
One thing to consider is that certain schools require completion of undergraduate coursework no later than the third year necessary for continuation into the medical school. This means taking a semester or a year off, which some college students do in traditional undergraduate programs, is out of the question. An accelerated program follows a strict timeline. Some students argue that the time commitment diminishes the “typical” college experience by not allowing enough time for students to pursue other activities. Others argue that they had plenty of time as students to get the most out of their college experience. It is important for students to consider the importance they place on certain activities and to work out a way to balance those activities with the accelerated coursework.
Additionally, not every medical school has an accelerated program, which may restrict a student’s choice. Applying to accelerated programs means giving up other medical schools that do not have an accelerated program. A student’s top choice of medical school may not be on the list of schools that have an accelerated option.
Lastly, accelerated programs are meant for students who are certain about a career as a doctor, driven and committed to completing the program, and are prepared to handle an intense course load. Applying to such programs requires excellent planning and organizational skills during the last two years of high school. Additionally, students should be confident in attending both the institution’s college and medical school when they apply to an accelerated program.
For information on the list of current institutions offering BS/MD programs, visit the Association of American Medical Colleges website.