Have you heard of the Brown University PLME program and want to learn more about it? As the only BS/MD program in the Ivy League, the PLME program can be a great way to attend excellent schools for both undergrad and med school without worrying about med school applications down the line. However, the Brown PLME program is quite unique in its academic requirements (or, rather, lack of requirements), and it's definitely not the best choice for everyone. How can you know if it's right for you? Read this guide for everything you need to know about the PLME program, including what it is, the Brown PLME acceptance rate, the questions to ask yourself before applying, and what your application needs to shine.
What Is Brown PLME?
Brown University's Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) is an eight-year program that combines an undergraduate degree with medical school. While there are other bachelor/med school combination programs, Brown's PLME is the only one that exists in the Ivy League.
Students who are interested in attending the Brown University PLME program will submit the same application as other Brown applicants, however; they will have to complete three additional essays, and one of their two letters of recommendation must come from a math or science teacher. You can apply to the PLME program either early decision or regular decision.
If you're accepted into the program and become a PLME ("plee-mee"), you won't need to apply to medical school. You'll complete four years of undergrad, at the end of which you'll receive an AB (Bachelor of Arts) or ScB (Bachelor of Science) degree in the sciences or an AB in the humanities, social sciences or behavioral sciences. As an undergrad, you'll complete pre-med requirements, but other than that your classes will be based on your interests and major. Brown famously has an open curriculum with no core requirements, so you'll have a lot of flexibility in your class schedule.
After you get your bachelor's degree, you'll automatically be enrolled in Brown's Warren Alpert Medical School. (If you decide you no longer want to attend Brown for medical school, you're technically allowed to apply to other medical schools. However, it's frowned upon because the program is meant to be eight years at Brown, and you'll also lose your guaranteed spot at Warren Alpert).
BS/MD programs are popular because, if you get in, you don't have to worry about completing the rigorous and stressful med school application process. The Brown University PLME program is especially popular because it's rigorous, highly-regarded, and you'll be attending highly-ranked schools for both undergrad and med school. Additionally, the PLME program is much more flexible compared to other BS/MD programs. You'll be able to major in any science, humanities, social science, or behavioral science field (there are nearly 100 concentrations to choose from), and you're encouraged to get a broad liberal arts education. PLMEs are encouraged to study abroad, pursue their own research interests, take classes in any subject that interests them, and engage in community service. The PLME program also has opportunities specifically tailored to future doctors, such as a physician shadowing program, international health exchange programs, and research fellowships.
After PLMEs complete their undergraduate education, they can defer entry to medical school for two years while they pursue additional education, conduct research, or pursue another opportunity. The goal of the PLME program is to develop doctors who have a well-rounded education and are able to pursue multiple interests. Therefore, it emphasizes flexibility and a tailored academic program.
Is Brown University PLME Right for You?
The PLME program is a top-ranked BS/MD program that can give you experiences you'd have difficulty finding elsewhere, but that doesn't mean it's the perfect fit for everyone. Before you decide to apply to Brown PLME, there are three important questions to ask yourself.
#1: Are You Confident You Want to Be a Doctor?
You shouldn't join any BS/MD or BA/MD program unless you're sure you want to be a doctor. Now, once you join Brown's PLME it's not like you're legally obligated to complete all eight years; you will be allowed to drop out of the MD portion if it's no longer what you want. However, doing so can mess up your graduation requirements, and you will have taken the spot of someone who may have been really sure they wanted to complete the entire program.
It's very common for pre-meds to change their minds about applying for med school; some estimates state that as many as two-thirds of pre-meds change their mind about being a doctor sometime during college. Sometimes this is something you simply won't realize until you've put in a year or two of pre-med classes, but, in all cases, it's best to prepare yourself as much as you can in high school by taking high level STEM classes and volunteering at a hospital, nursing home, or similar place. Then at least you'll have a basic idea of what being a doctor requires before you begin college.
If you've done as much as you can to prepare yourself for being a pre-med major while still in high school, and you feel certain that medicine is the right career path for you, then you can apply confidently to a program like Brown PLME. If you're still wavering, we recommend not applying to any bachelor/med school program. Instead, focus on your bachelor's degree, and you can always apply to med school down the line once you're more certain about whether it's the best path for you.
#2: Do You Want to Attend Brown for Undergrad and Med School?
A key thing to remember about Brown PLME is that it's like applying to undergrad and med school at the same time. If you apply, you're saying that you want to attend Brown for eight years and get both your bachelor and medical degrees from the school. So you need to decide if both Brown's undergraduate program and its Warren Alpert Medical School are right for you. If you like one but not the other, or if you're unsure if you want to attend Brown's med school, then the PLME program isn't likely to be a great fit.
#3: Do You Want More of a Liberal Arts Education?
When you're an undergrad in the PLME program, you're able to major in any field within the humanities, sciences, social sciences, or behavioral sciences. This means you can major in something like political science or English while still preparing yourself for med school. Many pre-meds rightfully want to show med schools how committed they are to becoming a doctor, so they'll major in one of a small group of majors, like biology or psychology, and the vast majority of their college classes will directly relate to their future medical career. Because they're already accepted into med school, PLME students have more freedom to pursue other interests.
So, if you want to become fluent in Italian, become an expert on Asian literature, study abroad in France for a semester, etc. you can do this in the PLME program and not worry at all about it impacting your future at med school. Brown PLME is a great option for someone who knows they want to be a doctor but also wants a solid liberal arts education. However, if you want more of an accelerated BS/MD program that can be completed in less than eight years, then the PLME program won't be a good fit as it emphasizes breadth of education, not an accelerated path to becoming a doctor.
How Hard Is It to Get Into Brown PLME?
As you might expect from a highly competitive program at an Ivy League school, getting into Brown PLME is no mean feat. For the class of 2019, 2,641 people applied to the PLME program, and 94 were accepted (61 ended up enrolling). That gives PLME an acceptance rate of about 3.6%. That means it's harder to get accepted into the PLME program than it is to get accepted into the general student body of any college, including Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. Brown University as a whole has an acceptance rate of 7-8% per year.
As you might expect, admitted students had impressive applications. Their average SAT scores were 770 for Math and 742 for ERW, and their average ACT score was a 34. So these students are scoring in the top 1% of all test-takers in the country. However, you need more than excellent test scores to get accepted to Brown PLME. In the next section, we discuss tips on how to make your application shine.
How to Get Into Brown PLME: 4 Tips
Becoming a PLME is tough, no doubt about it. However, follow these four tips to give yourself the best shot at getting into this program.
#1: Excel in Your Classes
Brown will only admit students to PLME who they are confident can handle both undergraduate and (eventually) medical school classes. So you'll need to have stellar high school academics to prove yourself to them. Specifically, you want high grades in advanced classes, such as honors or AP. STEM classes, such as math and science, will be particularly important, and you'll want to take the highest levels you can in these classes while not getting any grade lower than a B (and an A will always be better). However, because the PLME program also has a strong focus on liberal arts education, you also need to have strong grades in other subject areas, such as English and social science. This is different from other pre-med programs where STEM classes are much more emphasized.
There are no specific course requirements for PLME applicants, but Brown recommends that all applicants to the school have taken the following courses in high school:
- Four years of English
- At least three but preferably four years of math
- At least three but preferably four years of a single foreign language
- At least three years of science (two of which must be lab science), including biology, chemistry, and physics
- At least two years of history, including American history
- While not officially recommended, coursework in music and art are encouraged
Aim to meet each of these requirements, with at least four years each of science and math to show you have strong STEM skills.
Overall, we recommend at least a 3.5 unweighted GPA and many honors or AP classes as you can handle without feeling overwhelmed. Most accepted students will have weighted GPAs above 4.0, so you should also aim for this.
#2: Focus on Your Extracurriculars
BS/MD programs, such as Brown PLME, want to admit students who have exceptional achievements both in and out of the classroom. Your extracurricular activities have the potential to show your talents, passions, and leadership abilities better than any other part of your application.
Because BS/MD programs are looking for students who are passionate about pursuing a career in medicine, you should have at least a couple of extracurriculars related to your interest in the medical field. You may want to volunteer at a hospital, shadow a doctor, help a professor with medical research, or get involved with a summer medical program. When you can, aim for leadership experience, stick with an extracurricular for multiple years to show commitment, and aim to make a positive impact (such as by including others or giving back to the community) to show that you'd be an asset to Brown's campus.
Many PLME applicants will have strong grades and test scores, so your extracurriculars are a great way to stand out from the crowd. You can enhance your PLME application by pursuing leadership positions, conducting research, and participating in other activities that show your potential and achievement in the medical field.
#3: Aim for High Exam Scores
From 2017-2019, the average test scores of accepted PLME applicants are:
- SAT Math: 770
- SAT ERW: 742
- ACT: 34
Because these are average scores, you'll want to aim for scores at least that high to give yourself the best shot at getting in. These are definitely high scores to aim for, but we have guides on getting a perfect SAT score or perfect ACT score to help you get there.
#4: Be Thoughtful in Your Essay Responses
In addition to the three essay prompts all Brown applicants must respond to, PLME applicants must write an additional three essays. The prompts are:
Committing to a future career as a physician while in high school requires careful consideration and self-reflection. What values and experiences have led you to believe that becoming a doctor in medicine is the right fit for you? (250 word max)
Most people describe a career as a physician/doctor as a “profession”, beyond a job. Describe for us what “professionalism” and “the profession of a physician/doctor” mean to you. (250 word max)
How do you envision the Program in Liberal Medical Education helping you to meet your academic, personal, and professional goals as a person and as a physician of the future? (500 word max)
As you can see, each of these essay prompts is a way for you to discuss your goals for both the PLME program and your future career as a doctor. Your responses will be carefully evaluated, so put time into them. Think about what you want to get out of your undergraduate education, what you want to get out of med school, what you want to get out of your career as a doctor, and how the PLME program can help you achieve all those things. You'll want to show Brown both your own values and goals as well as exactly why you think the PLME program is the best program for you.
Summary: What Is PLME?
The Brown PLME program is a BS/MD program where accepted students spend at years at Brown: four years getting an undergraduate degree, and four years at the Warren Alpert Medical School. The PLME program is appealing to many students because, if they are accepted, it guarantees them a spot at a prestigious med school, and the PLME program also allows more flexibility in undergrad coursework than other BS/MD programs. However, this popularity means that the PLME program is very competitive. The Brown University PLME acceptance rate is less than 4% a year. Although the only additional Brown PLME requirements are three additional essay prompts applicants must answer, to be a competitive applicant, we recommend strong grades and test scores, thoughtful essays, and outstanding extracurriculars.
If you're still figuring out whether a career as a physician is right for you, consider getting some hands-on experience. You might not think there's much you can do as a high school student, but there is! Start by shadowing a physician, and then check out our guide to the best med programs for students in high school.
If you want more info on what to do to prepare for med school while you're in high school, you're in the right place.
Starting to research different college or med school options? Start off with this complete list of BA/MD and BS/MD programs in the United States. You might also be interested in our step-by-step guide on how to get into a BS/MD program.
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.