Gaining acceptance to direct BS/MD programs, which are accelerated courses of study designed for high school students who want to pursue careers in medicine, is extremely competitive. Students must be focused and organized during high school to accomplish what is necessary for being a top-notch candidate for BS/MD programs. What are these necessities? As you read the following, keep in mind that many additional factors that influence admissions decisions are exclusive to your candidacy and experience.
Grades. Test scores. Class rank (if your high school ranks). As with medical school, your application won’t even be reviewed, if you don’t have the minimum “numbers.” Even though most GPA cut-offs are 3.5, accepted students generally have GPAs that are higher. You must also aim high on SATs. Ideally, try to earn at least 1400 on your verbal and math sections (this does not include the writing sub-score). Similarly, competitive applicants should take at least two SAT subject tests – in math or science – aiming to earn 700 or higher in both.
Having meaningful research experiences during high school will help distinguish your candidacy. I am amazed by the research high school students sometimes perform; some start as early as the summer after freshman year doing valuable work. The type and discipline of research don’t really matter – find something that interests you. Contact local universities or medical schools and inquire about summer opportunities. If you are willing to devote several summers to a lab, or even some time during the school year, you will be more likely to be offered an opportunity.
Demonstrating a commitment to your community is extremely important. You can do this in a variety of ways, such as volunteering at a hospital or nursing home, tutoring grade school kids at a community center or volunteering at a free clinic on weekends. Sometimes religious organizations have valuable community service programs and events. Medical school admissions committees love to see that you are service oriented, compassionate and understanding.
On interviews, you will be assessed for your commitment to medicine and your understanding of it. You therefore need to demonstrate that you have explored the field of medicine enough to know that this is what you want to do. Shadowing a variety of physicians in different settings and from different disciplines will convince admissions committees that you have the exposure to make an informed decision about your career choice.
During high school, you will have little time for much beyond your academics and what we have outlined here, but if you do have extra time try to show that you have other interests, too. Join your school’s math or debate team or get involved in a student club that interests you. Do you play an instrument, act or play a sport? Remember that schools are looking for “quality” rather than “quantity” so choose wisely and stick with whatever you choose.
BS/MD programs are extremely competitive, but, if you are smart and focused and understand what is required to gain admission, you can have all the ingredients intrinsic to being a competitive applicant.