The Complete Guide to BS/MD Programs by Todd Johnson: a review

An ever growing number of high school students who want to become doctors are taking a long, hard look at applying to medical school directly out of high school. They have good reason. The traditional medical school process is highly competitive and it takes at least 8 years, between undergraduate and medical school, to finish. Gaining admission to a BS/MD program might allow them to avoid taking the MCAT altogether, while finishing medical school in as few as six years.

Todd Johnson’s The Complete Guide to BS/MD programs, clearly explains the admissions process in seven chapters and an appendix which comprehensively lists all the BS/MD programs.  The listings include the length of the program, a brief description of the program, minimum requirements for candidates, and, most importantly, the number of applicants, how many were interviewed, and how many were finally admitted.

The chapters I found particularly informative explained what you need in order to be competitive in most BS/MD programs, finding the right program, and the medical school interview. By the way, if you want to view portions of the book, along with the table of contents, just go to

There are advantages and disadvantages to BS/MD programs. One advantage is, once you’ve been accepted into medical school, it allows you to concentrate on the learning process, rather than on groveling for grades, as most pre-meds must. As mentioned, it also might allow you to not take the MCATs and to finish the whole process much more quickly. There are also, of course, disadvantages. Assuming you’re so capable as to gain admission to one of these programs (and they are as keenly competitive as medical school is), in all likelihood, you’ll be equally able to get into medical school via the more traditional path, after attending a highly selective undergraduate school and then applying to an equally challenging medical school. Going to the more elite undergraduate schools might better position you to enter a more prestigious medical school, which could possibly land you in a more select residency program. Another disadvantage is that many BS/MD programs commit you to their program and prohibit you from applying to other programs (that information is in the book as well). Additionally, if you get accepted to a BS/MD program and decide that medicine is not for you, it might prove difficult transferring back into a four year baccalaureate program, depending on how compressed the college portion of the BS/MD program is.

Many of the competitive candidates have research experience, extensive volunteer activities, have shadowed physicians—so that they truly know what is involved with being a doctor-, and have a range of extracurricular activities that indicate commitment, passion, and leadership. Even with all this, they will still need to convince the admissions office at the medical school that they have what it takes to be a good doctor: a compassionate nature, the toughness to take on the pressures of medical school, and the ability to perform calmly under life and death situations. These qualities need to be addressed by the personal essays, recommendations, and the interview. The interview is a crucial factor in the BS/MD admissions decision. The Complete Guide to BS/MD programs covers what happens during the interview and the questions you should be prepared to answer.  

Most importantly, the book contains a lot of questions you need to get answered about BS/MD programs: how does the program address clinical training; what is the pass rate for the US Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE)-parts 1 & 2; how good is the medical school in getting students into their top three residency choices; and what is the completion rate for the program?

The BS/MD approach is not easy. Most of the programs admit around 2-3% of applicants. Further, the competition is fierce: applicants to Brown’s PLME, or Northwestern’s HPME programs are usually in the top 1-2% of their classes and have average SAT scores above 2250. Yet, this might be a path most appealing to students seeking MDs. Certainly The Complete Guide to BS/MD Programs will make navigating this journey a lot clearer.