Accelerated BA/MD and BS/MD programs: a ticket to medical school

November 29, 2016 — by Eleanor Goh and Esha Lakhotia

Accelerated medical programs provide interested medical students a quicker path through college. 

Students seeking to pursue medicine often hesitate at the idea of spending a considerable portion of their lives studying — after all, becoming a doctor requires eight years in school and an additional three to seven years in residency specialty training.

But for the select students who are sure they want to attend medical school, there is another option that provides a convenient shortcut: an accelerated medical program.

Accelerated programs allow medical students to obtain their Bachelor’s and Doctor of Medicine (MD) degrees in seven years, in contrast to the usual eight; the one-year reduction comes from a three-year undergraduate program instead of the usual four. Seven-year combined degree programs are offered at Boston University, Pennsylvania State University and Northwestern University, among many other schools.

According to senior Shreya Ingle, who is applying to accelerated medical programs at Boston University and Northwestern, the main advantage of a seven-year program is the fact that students may not need to reapply to medical school as long as their GPA and, in some cases, score on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) stay in a specific range. Depending on the program, students may not even need to take the MCAT.

This is a huge burden off their shoulders; usually, the required scores are slightly lower than those expected for a regular medical program.

It relieves some stress because they have a clause that says as long as you have a 3.5 GPA all through your undergraduate years and you get a 32 on the MCAT instead of a 37, then you’re guaranteed into the school’s medical program,” Ingle said.

Of course, such benefits come with a cost — the application and entry processes for accelerated programs are often long and tedious. Although each college has slightly different requirements, in general, more questions are included on the Common Application and the program submission deadlines are a month or two earlier than regular decision deadlines in January.

After the first round of application review, for most programs the admissions office contacts and interviews the potential admittants on campus before making the final judgment.

According to Ingle, of the 2,400 students that apply, they may contact only 90, who are called in for an interview on campus in January or February. After the interviews, the school selects 20 students or less.

Because admission essentially binds a student to a both the school’s undergraduate and medical program, senior Megana Saripella, who is applying to several programs, believes students should be absolutely sure that they want to pursue medicine before considering an accelerated program.

“It takes away the option [to attend other schools],” Saripella said. “Not to say you can’t drop out in the middle, but a lot of these programs only take six or seven people, so you should know that’s where you want to be and be pretty committed to what you want to do.”

In addition, because the accelerated programs cut out one year of undergraduate school, many students, including Ingle and Saripella, are afraid they may miss out on the full college experience in the rush.

But this isn’t really the case, said 2016 alumna Bita Naimi, who is currently attending Boston University’s seven-year BS/MD Program. She thinks the accelerated program enhances, rather than takes away, the college experience.

“There's a lot less pressure for the students in the program because you don't have the constant worry of getting into medical school,” Naimi said. “Because of that, you can focus on participating in activities that really interest you. I’d say joining this program was one of the best decisions I've made.”

 
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