What should I consider when applying to BA/MD or BS/MD (or BA/DO, BS/DO) Programs? There are a variety of combined Baccalaureate-Doctorate programs, many of which offer acceptance to a medical school directly out of high school. There are some factors that you would like to consider when applying to these programs (or to medical school in general): Length of the program: Combined programs may be as short as 6-years or as long as the standard 8-years. The 6-7 year programs are may run full year round (typically are for 6-year) and may allow some of your medical school coursework to be applied towards your baccalaureate degree. If your program is accelerated, you will want to know how they reach that shorter time-span. What is cut? Are some courses combined (i.e. some places will combine Organic Chemistry I and Organic Chemistry II into a single semester)? Another issue to consider along these lines is how long you will be at this school. You are deciding where you will be receiving your undergraduate and medical education. You could be spending 6-8 years in the same city at the same school, or you might be changing locations and schools completely after a few years. You'll want to be sure that you're going to be happy at every point in your education. Composition of the program: Is your program one that primarily accepts students from high school via the combined program or does the combined program represent a relatively small subset of the student body compared to the traditional 4 year track? Workload: You can count on your last 4 years of the program to be nearly identical to a standard 4 year medical program. If your program is shortened, this time will be primarily removed from the undergraduate portion of your education. A shorter program will require you to take a high number of credit hours immediately upon entering college (little time for transition). A longer program will give you more flexibility and generally more time to adjust to the demands of a college course-load. The MCAT: As a plus or a minus, some programs will not require you to take the MCAT. Others simply require you to achieve a certain minimum score. The pro side of this is that you do not have to spend a lot of time stressing over a major test when you're working on your classes in undergrad. The con side of this is when you are preparing for the USMLE steps I and II (the medical licensing exam that medical students take after their second year and in their fourth year) you do not have the experience to draw upon of having already worked your butt off to prepare for a major exam. Ability to explore personal interests: Some combined programs are designed in a way that they assure a student acceptance to medical school. All the student must do is maintain a certain academic standing (usually a certain GPA, maybe score XX on the MCAT as mentioned above). This allows the student significant flexibility to study what interests him or her during undergrad. A student in this situation doesn't need to worry about taking classes beyond pre-requisites and is free to major in whatever interests them. Other programs (particularly the more accelerated ones) have a set framework the student needs to follow in order to meet the accelerated timeline and do not offer as much flexibility. If you just care about medicine then this may not matter to you, if you wanted to major in something like philosophy or a foreign language, this is a question worth asking. Early Patient Contact: Many combined programs offer patient exposure starting from the first year. What sort of experience is this? How is it structured? How does it evolve in the later years of the program? Presentation of Material: Once you get to the Medical School portion of the curriculum, there are several ways the material may be presented. Some schools present the material in "Blocks". One Block you'll learn Biochem, everything there is to know about it and then you'll be done with it until you're studying for the USMLE. The next block, you might learn Anatomy, and the next neuro. You're totally concentrating on that one subject. Other schools have a "systems" or "organ" based curriculum. They start with an organ system like the respiratory system and learn everything about it, the anatomy, the biochemistry, the physiology, the path and the pharmacology. Once they've mastered that system, they move on. Some schools have completly moved to a newer system of learning called Problem Based Learning (see below). If you integrate information better by learning it in a specific way, you would want to know how your program is teaching it. Problem Based Learning (PBL): PBL is a relatively new style of presenting material. Many schools integrate in small weekly sessions, some schools use it as their primary means of presenting material. PBL is best for the self-motivated student. Students are given a simulated medical case, they ask questions and go through the case in an attempt to formulate a diagnosis, but this is not the primary goal. As they are doing this, the students identify items that they do not understand or do not know. Outside the PBL session, the students go and learn about these items and present what they have learned to their classmates. Some medical students find it very engaging and a good way to develop their diagnostic/critical thinking skills, others consider it a waste of time. If your program integrates PBL into the curriculum, it is a good idea to know how much, how frequently and how it is administered as this varies somewhat from school to school. Anatomy Lab: When you do reach the gross anatomy portion of your curriculum, working in gross lab is an invaluable. How does your program integrate the use of cadavers if it does at all? Do students dissect or do they view faculty dissected cadavers (proseciton)? How many students are assigned to one cadaver? Clinical Sites: This is one of the most important factors to consider. You want to know where you will be doing your rotations in your last two years of your program. Will you be in a place where you'll be able to be actively involved in the patient care or will you be doing mostly "scut" work (getting people coffee and the like)? How many different hospitals will you get to rotate through? Are these places you might want to work someday? USMLE Pass Rates: As mentioned above, you take the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Exam) Step I following your second year of medical school. This is likely the biggest test you will ever take in your life. While individual scores depend more on how that person prepares for the test, it is perfectly appropriate to ask a school what its USMLE pass rate is. If you hear about a program that has trouble with its students passing the USMLE, this should be a red flag as the majority of US medical schools will sufficiently prepare their students to pass the USMLE. Note: for Osteopathic Schools (DO), the equivalent exam is the COMLEX Match Rates: In your last year of medical school you will apply to match into a residency. You look at residencies and the residencies look at you. You rank a list of your favorite residencies and the residencies rank a list of their favorite candidates. A computer matches the candidates with the residencies using the rankings, trying to make as many people happy as possible. A common barometer of how schools perform is the percentage of students matching into one of their top three choices. Another would be the percentage of students that failed to match or had to "scramble". Scrambling means that none of the places they ranked picked them so the student has to call various residencies that still have openings and see if they can find a spot. If a school has a high number of people that did not get one of their top three and a high number of people that did not match or had to scramble, this would be a red flag. Research: Say you want to be a dermatologist, an orthopedic surgeon or some other very competitive specialty... when the match comes, it helps to have performed research in these fields. Many medical school applicants perform research as they are applying to medical school, any publications they make will follow them through their careers. What options are available to the students in your program? Note: many institutions have some research that students may take part in, your school does not have to be in the US News Top 20 in NIH funding for you to find something to work on. Student Happiness: This is something to ask about in many different places, but you want to know how happy the students are if you're going to be spending 6-8 years in this place. Visits to campus are helpful. Attrition: There may be a variety of reasons people may leave combined programs, but you'll want to look to make sure that people are leaving for the right reasons and that the attrition rate isn't excessively high. Some people get in and honestly realize that medicine isn't right for them, that's fine. Some people are there because their parents made them, fine for them to leave. But if someone is leaving due to problems with the program and still fully intend to pursue medicine. That's a problem. You'll want to know how many people leave the program or wind up not graduating on time. If these seem too high, they probably are. What happens if you leave? On the same note as above, many people leave these programs. There are questions you will want to ask about students that leave the program should you decide to leave. Should you decide to leave, what choice will you have had in your major? Are you going to have one that you enjoyed and will be able to apply to a career outside of medicine or will it be one that the program picked for you? What about applying to other medical schools after leaving? When do you officially "matriculate" into the medical school aspect of the program? If you are applying to medical schools down the line, it may be much more difficult to gain entry if you have officially matriculated into a medical school previously.