BSMD vs Traditional Path

Discuss pros and cons of BSMD vs traditional path to get into a medical school

BS/MD vs Traditional route

My case for considering conditionally guaranteed medical programs right after high school ----

If you are sure about pursuing Medicine as a career, should you opt for BS/MD programs or pursue the traditional pre-med / Medical route?

At the outset, let me share a statistic: Less than approx. 5% of all medical school students come through the BS/MD route. So clearly, a very small minority of student population is opting for BS/MD. But do not let that statistic mislead you. Why? Because universities offer <5% seats to their BS/MD programs. If they offer more seats, this percentage would be a lot higher.

The above dilemma becomes more important if you have secured an offer of admission from an Ivy-league level university. We must guard against one important thought-process - “If you can get an admission to Ivy-league undergrad then you can surely get admission into the “top ranked” medical school.” Most general folks are unfamiliar with the medical school admissions process and therefore they can get into the above thought process.

And add to that the potential scope of obtaining merit based scholarships while pursuing the traditional route.

Yes, with good grades, great MCAT score (>515), a resume complete with research, shadowing, volunteer and other factors, will get you a medical school admission. It may or may not be the same “Ivy-league kind” of schools.

What I am sharing here are some of the RISKS involved in the traditional pre-med / Medical route:

  1. Potential to complete your medical school in an accelerated manner: Many BS/MD programs are accelerated 7 year programs. A few are 8 year programs. 6 year programs have become rare after the recent change in MCAT examination. This means you can save one full year from the long-drawn process (11+ years) to become a medical doctor.

  2. Gap year(s): Even if you are from an Ivy League with great MCAT scores, we have numerous number (not outliers) of cases where students have had to take a gap year to strength their application. According to Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), 63.4% of matriculating students into a medical school had a gap year in 2018 and that percentage has been steadily increasing every year. To me, this represents a VERY HUGE risk as there is approximately 63% chance, you or your child may be hit with a gap year. And yes, if you get an admission after a gap year, you will be counted in the ~95% of the matriculants to a medical school via the traditional route.

  3. “Non-traditional” students: These are students with 2 or more gap years. It appears that “Ivy League” medical schools are matriculating more and more non-traditional students. Nearly 68% of students that matriculated into University of Pennsylvania’s Medical School are non-traditional. At Northwestern University, that percentage is lower but still significant at 23%. This trend is creating an extra pressure among students to take additional gap years to keep up with the competition.

  4. Low GPA: For traditional route, the impact of grade deflation or student not able to cope up with college due to bad selection of courses or other distractions is very real. FOR BS/MD, most colleges are flexible and supportive of their students. For example, at NU, you can take an extra-year in undergrad to pull-up your GPA to meet the HPME requirements. You do NOT have that luxury in a traditional route.

  5. The Myth that “since I can into Ivy League undergrad, I can definitely get into “Ivy League” medical school”: This myth has been broken so many times that there are “skeletons of students aspirations” lying around.

  6. Plan B: Selecting a “proper” undergrad is important - many kids take biology as their undergrad for both BS/MD and traditional route. If you look at career prospects for biology majors, you will quickly come to a conclusion, they are limited. So it would not have mattered if you did biology major at Princeton or Rutgers. On the other hand, if a student has interest in mathematics or computer science, doing that minor / double major would open up many options - even if you did that at Rutgers. So, undergrad college + major are both important. In that case, one has to plan for Plan B in the first year of college itself. That means - more work because you may have to load yourself with more coursework to do a meaningful minor or double major. How many parents/ kids are thinking about this?

So, the question of ask – are you comfortable with the risks with the traditional pre-med/ Medical route?

It boils down to that!


@NoviceDad - I agree it comes down to risk tolerance whether it’s education, career or investments.

To me one or two gap years should not be deciding factor as I said before. It’s more tough on parents than students because for lot of parents it’s either lost revenue or looks bad in their social circle that their kid needed gap year :wink: As I said before lot of kids are taking gap years purposely either to strengthen their apps to get into T20 medical schools or want to get some real world experience before 4 years of medical school and 3-7 years of residency/fellowship. We don’t have breakdown of why gap years are taken. I know couple of BSMD students who took gap years in medical school to strengthen their residency application.

Also, I am not big on graduating one year early and not interested to compound one year salary for 30 years :slight_smile: no new physician will live like a resident during that one year and save all the extra money. The current applicant pool will probably work till 70 or later so one year won’t make a difference.

As I consistently said the issue with BSMD programs is most of them are at low tier private schools with high cost. I know for most rank doesn’t matter and they call at as prestige obsession, but for others it’s being constantly challenged or being surrounding themselves with kids like them.

Ultimately It comes down to knowing your (or your child’s) own strengths, weaknesses and how discipline one is to stay focused on the long journey. There is no one size fits all solution. We considered all these when my S was deciding three years back and he chose to decline 2 good BSMD acceptances for traditional path.

I hope other parents/students share their thoughts.

@Novicedad Well written in favor of BSMD. One needs to decide based on one’s risk tolerance what is best for him/herself. As pointed out only 5% seats are allocated for BSMD, that means 95% seats are still filled by traditional route. That alone should be a good enough reason for traditional route. One should plan well and be prepared for one or two gap years if needed. One should also have a plan B ready and implemented early during UG. We had planed all this for D since first semester.

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BS MD route will avoid gap years.

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BS/MD process is totally unpredictable and with only 5% of all available seats for bsmd, there is a very little probability (simple math 5% vs 95% seats) of success for any applicant in bs/md (more specially for ORMS). Keep the traditional route option open. Gap years or no gap year becomes irrelevant if you do not get an offer for bs/md. Keep your expectations low and be a realist regarding bs/md. There is a 35% probability that there is no gap year needed via traditional route. It all depends on the individual.

[quote=“Premedinhs, post:5, topic:2096090”]

BS MD route will avoid gap years.[/quote

Did your S got into Howard 6 yr program ? Congratulations.

As said earlier I know couple of students who took gap years in BSMD program to strengthen their apps for residency and there are students who had to withdraw from BSMD programs, so it’s not as simple as you think.

Apply via traditional route and you have nearly 41% chance of getting into one medical school. As per data below 21869 matriculants from 53371 applicants ( average 17 applications to medical schools per applicant).

If your UG GPA is >= 3.8 and MCAT score is >=517, chance of getting into at least one medical school is 87% as per data available on AAMC site.

You decide based on your risk tolerance what is best for you.

If you go to schools like Vandy that number is 98%.

@srk2017 @grtd2010

Vandy’s details:

Vanderbilt University Acceptance Rate for First-Time Applicants = 71% (141 out of 200)
Vanderbilt University Acceptance Rate for Re-Applicants = 61% (34 out of 56)

For applicants with GPA > 3.7 and MCAT % >90 = 94% (61 out of 65)

Vanderbilt University applicants were accepted into (141) of the (153) US Allopathic/MD medical schools during the 2017-2019 Cycles.

Very interesting - folks applied practically all Allopathic medical schools - from so-called T-20 medical schools to so-called bottom of the list!

Like every other UG schools, kids come from different types of high schools and some take longer to adjust and end up with lower GPAs.

Again my argument is kids who are capable of getting into BSMD programs more likely endup in 94% . Majority of BSMD schools are low-tier if we are using tiers.

The “prestige” or “ ranking” argument is used a lot by folks suggesting the traditional route.

Fact of the matter is for medical schools so called prestige factor is of minimal importance.

And how do you square up with folks chasing prestige in undergrad but then apply to any medical schools?

BS/MD folks are clear - a medical doc Is a medical doc irrespective of the medical school attended.
They are not prestige obsessed.

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Thanks @grtd2010 I got into Howard 6 year bs md program. Nothing is garanteed in life and we do our best to soldier on.

Once you get the good GPA and MCAT, prestige of UG does helps (look at the admissions details of T20 schools). May be because of better research and EC opportunities or guidance from premed office or just caliber of the students.

Calling students who wants to challenge themselves at every stage prestige obsessed is Short-sightedness. There is nothing wrong to aim high and adjust if things don’t go as planned. What you advocate is zero risk tolerance. If everyone thinks like that we will still be in the stone age :slight_smile:

Yes, a medical doc is a medical doc irrespective of medical school and even those went to Carribean and other countries (like lot of parents who participate here) do fine if they get USLME scores. However as I mentioned before going forward more and more doctors are becoming employees of large hospital systems and just like other majors, prestige does help with securing first job in urban areas.

I don’t criticize BS/MD folks for making that choice and I only debate pros and cons. I never recommend traditional path due to prestige only. Reality is most BSMD programs are very expensive and by any measurement are mostly low tier schools. Without BSMD program most of these students won’t apply for UG at those schools. If goal of students (or parents) is becoming a doctor at any cost from any school, that’s their choice and I don’t criticize them for that choice. My own nephew is in a BSMD program. He wants to have stress free college life but on the other hand my son gave up 2 BSMDs because he wants to continue to challenge himselves.

I understand as a consultant you want to constantly push BSMD but please refrain from calling traditional path students prestige obsessed and stick to pros and cons! As you know only 5% are thru BSMD route.


Yes, let’s stick to pros and cons and data - instead of suggesting motives behind the comments.

I counsel all kinds of students and I have nothing against one path or another.
And I am not calling ALL traditional path students prestige obsessed. What i am saying is that Prestige is the most common reason given to go via the traditional route.
What I am highlighting is the example often cited - since you can get into an “Ivy League” kind of undergrad, you will get into “Ivy League” kind of medical school. I have a huge concern with that thought process. Because data shows that is just not true for majority of kids.

The reason 5% go thru BS/MD is that only 5% seats are offered - if universities were to offer more seats, more % of students would go that route. It is a supply constraint market not demand constraint!

And I would disagree with your statement “by any measurement are mostly low tier schools.” If you consider Northwestern or Brown or Case or UPitt or Rice or others low tier schools, then you and I have different definition of tiers.

the reason there are only 5% of seats is most schools don’t think BSMD programs don’t have a real purpose and lot of them discontinued. Some are continuing for various reasons.

There are 25+ BSMD programs and you quoted 4 schools (probably forgot WashU). Most of them are not T20 (including Brown). I consider Nortwestern, UPitt, Baylor and WashU as the top medical schools among the BSMD programs and combined I believe they take less than 50 each year.

Anyone who thinks going to any particular UG school automatically gets them into equally or more prestigious school are hallucinating and there is no point in preaching to them.

Anyway, as long you don’t use “prestige obsessed” I don’t attribute motives :wink:

If your first-hand knowledge is that most of your family/relative/friends’ children getting into medical school w/o significant difficult, you are probably OK with going to the traditional route if you are not accepted by your top choice of BS/MD program.

For BS/MD route: generally you don’t need to get super high GPA or MCAT (if required), so you can do something you truly enjoy, i.e. you can spend time doing research or club activities instead of studying because you need to get >3.8 GPA. You don’t need to build a ‘perfect’ MD applicant profile. However, some (not all) UGs are not top choice or you probably won’t attend if not for the combined BS/MD program.

For traditional route: I don’t necessarily consider taking gap years as failure if you need to. All life experiences do make student more mature and likely be beneficial in the long run.

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