Every year thousands of students spend hours studying for the MCAT and writing essays for medical school only to be rejected.  Fortunately, there is a way to circumvent that whole process. A number of schools offer joint BS or BA/MD programs which are also known as early assurance programs.  These allow you to apply for med school while you’re a high school senior. The length varies between six and eight years and universities require that you file an additional application or take the MCAT before your final year of college to enroll in the joint degree.  Many also require that you maintain a sufficient GPA throughout college. You can find a complete list of school which offer a combined BA/BS/MD degree here.  


There are a number of public higher education systems which allow you to transfer from one university to another.  For instance, if you apply to a joint program in the University of Texas system, then you can complete your Bachelor’s at most University of Texas affiliates then transfer to Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.  Other schools let you transfer to a sister university; the Newark College of Arts and Sciences and the New Jersey Medical School at Rutgers University has such a program. This mitigates what some see as both a major benefit and flaw of a joint degree: you spend up to eight years at the same institution.  While some find it comforting to spend such a long period of time at one school, others may feel stifled. An advantage of these programs is that they allow you to create deep relationships with the faculty and staff at your university. This will help you get a great letter of recommendation when you begin your residency or job search years down the line.


There are three other distinct benefits from going down this route.  The first is that your academic skills won’t atrophy as you transition between your two degrees.  I’ve consistently heard from my friends who attend medical school that readjusting to the demands of student life is their largest initial challenge.  You can also rest assured that you’ll have a school to call home when you’re fellow future doctors are scrambling to apply to med school four years from now.  Finally, early assurance programs often give significant financial aid to admittees. An extra four years of schooling can quickly ring up quite the price tag so the boosted aid is well worth your consideration.


There are, however, a number of disadvantages to enrolling in a seven year program.  You have to definitely know that you want to become a doctor when you’re still a high school senior.  When I was entering the college admissions process, I wanted to be the ambassador to France and, as far as I know, I’m not on track for that position.  You may also have your undergraduate degree options limited. I’ve had friends who have had a pre-med designation on their diploma but got their degree in public health or computer science.  That multidisciplinary learning served them well later in life and there’s a possibility you won’t have that option in an early assurance program. You may also find it difficult to study abroad or explore interests outside the medical field given these programs’ intensity.


You should also note that, with the notable exception of Washington University in St. Louis, many of the schools which offer seven year programs aren’t among the top medical schools.  They’re primarily strong state schools. If you want to attend a marquee medical program, then you will have to apply through the traditional route. To be extremely explicit, there is absolutely nothing wrong with attending a strong state school.  But, you should keep that in mind if your sights are set on that highest echelon.


Lastly, these programs are incredibly competitive.  The University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine receives 1300 applications a year.  Of those 350 get invited for an interview.  Ultimately, just over 100 students are admitted to the program.  That puts the acceptance rate on par with Ivy League institutions.  The application process is similarly intensive. Rutgers’ early assurance program tasks you with writing an additional four essays and a full resume.  Other schools mandate that you rank within the top ten percent of your graduating class or have a certain score on standardized tests to even apply. While many schools offer interviews as a supplement to your application, your admittance to an early assurance program can entirely hinge upon that interview.  Preparation for that conversation can take hours if you want to guarantee success. There’s no point in applying if you aren’t ready to go lots of legwork to ensure that you get in.


None of this is to discourage you from applying to these programs.  They’re great, but intended for a select set of students. We encourage every applicant to carefully weigh their pros and cons.  Talk to an Ivy Admissions counselor today to see if early assurance programs are right for you.