Do you dream of becoming a doctor? If you’re set on going to medical school, then a combined BS/MD or BA/MD program might be for you. The majority of these combined programs allow motivated high school students to go right from undergraduate to medical school without having to go through another application process.
While there aren’t a ton of spots available in combined programs, there are schools throughout the country that offer them. Before we look at those, however, let’s review what BA/MD and BS/MD programs entail, as well as the pros and cons for high school and young undergraduate applicants.
What Are Combined BA/MD and BS/MD Programs?
Combined programs allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree—either a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS)—and then proceed directly into a medical program for a Doctor of Medicine (MD). Since students are already accepted to medical school, they can forgo the typical medical school admissions process near the end of undergrad.
Instead of applying separately to medical school, students just go through one major admissions process at the end of high school (or, occasionally, a condensed application process early in college). Programs that ask students to apply after first getting admitted to the college are typically referred to as early assurance programs.
Students in combined programs commit to a specific college and medical school or network of schools. This medical school is usually part of the same institution or a partner school in the same region or college network.
For instance, the SUNY and University of Texas systems, along with the Eastern Virginia network, offer students various choices of medical schools among their connected or partner colleges. On the other hand, students in Boston University’s combined program would have to attend BU for both undergraduate and medical school.
While combined programs offer students early assurance, some of them still require applicants to take and do well on the MCAT. Students must also maintain a certain GPA as they work their way through required college classes. Many offers are conditional on the student's undergraduate and testing performance.
Most combined programs are the same length as non-combined ones: eight years. In other words, most students in direct medical programs will still go to college for four years and then to medical school for four years. A few programs offer accelerated programs by compressing the amount of time spent as an undergraduate; these may be seven or even just six years in length.
For example, Drexel University College of Medicine offers both an eight-year combined program and a seven-year combined program. It has eight-year BA/MD and BS/MD programs for students majoring in biomedical engineering or engineering. It also offers a fast-tracked seven-year BA/BS/MD program for students majoring in biological sciences, chemistry, psychology, or engineering. Most schools have either an eight-year or accelerated program, while others like Drexel offer both choices depending on your field of study as an undergraduate.
Before taking a closer look at accelerated programs, let’s go over some of the pros and cons of combined medical programs for students.
Pro: you'll get to impress people by adding MD after your name whenever you sign it. Con: you might not be able to watch shows like Grey's Anatomy anymore because of all their medical inaccuracies.
Combined BA/MD and BS/MD Programs: Pros and Cons
Now that we've covered what exactly combined medical programs are, it's time to take a look at the pros and cons of entering one.
Pros of a Combined Medical Program
Applying to medical school is a competitive and stressful process, so the major pro of getting into a combined program is that you won’t have to go through all that application stress! Rather, you’ll be able to rest easy and focus on your academics, knowing you’ve already been accepted.
What's more, a combined program allows you to commit fully to your goals, and pursue medicine in your academic and professional path. You’ll be focused on medicine throughout your education and graduate with an MD.
Not only will you have a steady educational and career path, but you can also benefit from the stability of studying at one school or in one system of schools. Through a combined program, you’ll get deeply immersed in a community and can get to know your professors and facilities well during your studies.
Finally, in addition to offering students a stable and challenging program in their chosen fields, many combined programs offer scholarship money. Since they tend to be extremely selective, direct medical programs often offer financial aid to high-achieving students who get in. Getting this money can greatly assist you in achieving your educational goals.
Of course, there are some downsides to think about for combined medical programs. Let’s consider some of the cons of committing to a six- to eight-year program.
Cons of a Combined Medical Program
First, there's time: most combined programs involve eight years of intensive study. Although these programs do eliminate the hurdle of a stressful med school application process, they also demand a huge commitment from high school students. Your goals could very well shift as you grow and have new experiences in college. Combined programs call for a great deal of dedication and commitment from young students whose aims might change as they grow older.
Of course, dropping out of the program is always an option if your goals change. If you do drop out but later change your mind and decide to reapply to med school, you might end up stuck at a school that wasn’t your first choice or find yourself lacking required courses. On the flip side, if you switch your major from pre-med to something else, you might have to add more semesters as an undergrad. As you can see, though possible, giving up such a selective program you worked hard to get into would almost certainly be a stressful and nerve-wracking ordeal in itself!
Another potential con of some combined programs is the commitment to the same location for eight years. Some students might be ready to experience a new city after undergrad, but those in combined programs will likely have to stick around for another four years. Though some combined programs involve relocating to a partner school, most are at the same university.
Just as combined programs limit your choices in terms of medical schools and location, they also typically don’t offer much flexibility in curriculum. While your fellow students might discover different fields or participate in study abroad programs, your own course schedule might not allow for as much exploration.
This kind of intensive, structured program might be a pro for some students and a con for others. Just be aware that combined programs call for a big commitment at a young age, and carefully consider whether you’re ready to make that leap.
Before we check out the full list of schools offering combined medical programs, let’s take a moment to go over accelerated programs and how they’re unique.
Accelerated programs take an already intense track of study and send it into hyperspeed.
What Are Accelerated BA/MD and BS/MD Programs?
An accelerated program is a type of combined medical program that's shorter than the typical eight years. Most of these programs are seven, but a few are as short as six years.
Usually, the undergraduate portion, rather than the medical school portion, is shortened. These programs might combine two required classes into one, or have students attend year-round by taking intensive courses throughout the summer.
As with combined programs, students will move directly from undergrad into a medical school program to which they’ve already been accepted—they might just be a little younger than their peers.
Accelerated BA/MD and BS/MD Programs: Pros and Cons
In addition to the considerations discussed above, what are some of the pros and cons specific to accelerated combined medical programs?
Pros of an Accelerated Program
As a combined program, an accelerated program shares all the pros discussed above, such as the opportunity to get early acceptance to medical school and to commit to a field of study you’re passionate about.
Furthermore, the shorter time means you can enter medical school and earn your MD even faster, giving you a leap ahead into your profession by a year or more.
Because these programs are shorter, they might also have a lower cost than the traditional eight-year path. Note that accelerated programs are by no means easier than non-accelerated ones; in fact, they’re usually even more challenging because they compress the same material and requirements into a shorter amount of time.
If you’re a high-achieving, motivated student, an accelerated medical program may be just the kind of challenging and intensive experience you’re looking for.
Cons of an Accelerated Program
The accelerated nature of these programs means that they demand even more of a commitment from applicants, who are often young high school students. These fast-paced programs are a huge challenge and offer even less flexibility than the regular eight-year combined programs.
If you commit to an accelerated program, not only do you have to be absolutely sure about your decision to earn your MD in a shortened period of time, but you also have to be prepared to miss out on some normal undergraduate experiences. As someone studying on the fast track, you won’t have as much time to explore, socialize, or perhaps study abroad. Such experiences as these can be enriching parts of college, so think deeply about whether you’re ready to limit them.
Additionally, accelerated programs often require students to study year-round, limiting the potential for summer jobs, travel, and/or internships. These programs can be grueling, packing already tough classes like Organic Chemistry I and II into one semester. The main risk here is that the stress could turn you away from a path you would've otherwise enjoyed had you instead taken the slower route.
Finally, because the program is shorter than others, you need to do your research to make sure it’s high quality. Whether you’re committing to a combined or accelerated program, it's important to do extensive research to ensure you’re committing the next six to eight years of your life to the best program for you.
Choose a medical school already! Your cat is tired of playing patient.
Combined BS/MD and BA/MD Programs: The Full List
Below is our most updated list of combined BS/MD and BA/MD programs in the US. We’ve divided the list as follows:
- Programs you apply to as a high school student
- Early assurance programs you apply to after you get accepted to or enter undergrad
Some schools have several medical programs lasting six, seven, or eight years. You can click on the name of each school to learn more about its combined medical programs and admissions process.
Note that there are a few combined programs on the list that are only available to state residents (or require students to become state residents once they matriculate as an undergrad). These programs have been marked with an asterisk.
Combined BA/BS/MD Programs for High School Applicants
With these combined programs, you apply as a high school student and get guaranteed admission to medical school. To keep the offer valid, you’ll have to take required courses and maintain a certain GPA.
Despite your guaranteed admission to medical school, you might still have to take the MCAT for some of these BA/MD or BS/MD programs.
*State residents only, or state residents preferred
So your preferred program wants you to wait and apply as an undergraduate? I guess your pets can put up with this doctor-patient make-believe game just a little longer.
Combined BA/BS/MD Programs for Undergraduate Applicants
The following schools offer programs you apply to once you’ve already been accepted there as an undergrad. They might ask you to apply as a freshman or sophomore.
Like the list above, you can click on the name of each school to read more about its BA/MD and BS/MD programs, in addition to its admissions process.
*State residents only
Now that you’ve seen the full lists of combined medical programs, let’s review some points to consider if you’re deciding whether or not to apply to a BS/MD or BA/MD dual degree program.
A combined medical program isn't exactly "until death do us part," but it's still a big commitment! Make sure you're ready to make it.
Deciding on a Combined BA/MD or BS/MD Program
Applying to college requires a lot of research, and applying to a combined medical school program requires even more. When you agree to a dual degree program, you’re not just committing to a school for four years of undergraduate coursework—you’re committing to six to eight years of both undergraduate and graduate education.
Because of the nature of this commitment, you must carefully consider your reasons for wanting to attend medical school. Make sure you understand your program’s requirements and are comfortable pursuing an intensive track of study in the same city for the foreseeable future.
Combined programs are highly selective, and they tend to expect applicants to have some experience, often through an internship or volunteer work in the medical field. Any kind of firsthand experience working in a medical setting or shadowing a doctor can help you determine whether an MD is the right degree for you.
If you feel ready to commit to this path, then it's critical to put together the strongest application you can. Demonstrate your passion for the field through your essays and experiences, and show admissions officers that you have the maturity and drive to pursue your pre-med and medical degrees in a combined program.
If you ultimately decide that a combined program’s the right path for you, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the assurance of a guaranteed medical school acceptance. Of course, you can probably only relax for a moment. Then it’s back to work!
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Rebecca graduated with her Master's in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.