Are you a high-achieving, motivated college applicant who dreams of becoming a medical doctor? Are you already thinking about your future medical school applications as you prepare to fill out your college applications? If so, it’s time to consider whether a BS/MD program — a program that combines a bachelor’s degree and a medical degree — might be a good choice for you.
We’ve covered the topic of BS/MD programs many times before on the CollegeVine blog, most recently in our post A Complete Introduction to BS/MD Programs. Briefly, these programs allow you to apply as a high school senior for both college and medical school at the same institution or partner institutions.
These highly sought-after and competitive programs, which generally take seven or eight years to complete, come with a number of benefits for their students, including a greater sense of security in allowing you to plan your future. Brown University’s Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) program, the only BS/MD program in the Ivy League, adds in the perk of having greater freedom in choosing your undergraduate path through Brown’s well-known, free-ranging curriculum.
Interested in applying to BS/MD programs? Read on for more information about PLME, its application process, and its ramifications for your future.
Brown University’s Program in Liberal Medical Education
Brown University’s Program in Liberal Medical Education is more commonly known as PLME, pronounced as “plee-mee.” PLME is a combination bachelor’s and medical degree program to which students apply as incoming college first-years. Participants remain in the program for eight years, or possibly even longer if they decide to pursue additional degrees.
On campus, students in the PLME program are known as PLMEs or “plee-mees.” About 50 PLMEs are part of every matriculating class at Brown, where they receive their undergraduate degrees with the rest of their graduating class. They’re then guaranteed admission to Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School to complete their medical program.
As an eight-year combination program, PLME differs from some programs of the BS/MD type in that it doesn’t compress the undergraduate portion of its students’ education. It’s a program that’s designed to produce doctors who also have a broad-based liberal arts background, not one designed to allow students to become doctors more quickly or efficiently.
Students in the PLME program can also extend their stay at Brown in order to pursue an additional degree, such as a Master’s of Public Health. Admissions arrangements and educational plans for these multi-degree programs are made on an individual basis, and this is not something you need to have already figured out when you first apply to PLME.
PLME students are charged the same amount in tuition as any other students at either the undergraduate college or the medical school at Brown, depending on which year of the PLME program they’re in. For planning purposes, in 2016-2017, the estimated yearly cost of attending Brown as an undergraduate was $68,106. The estimated yearly cost of attending Warren Alpert Medical School was around $80,000 for the same time period.
Similarly, financial aid for PLME students is the same as that for any other Brown student. During your undergraduate years, your aid will be governed by the same policies as any other undergraduate; during your medical school years, you’ll be subject to Alpert Medical School’s financial aid policies.
Undergraduate students at Brown are guaranteed on-campus housing for all four years, though seniors may be granted permission to live off-campus. University housing is not available for students at Alpert Medical School, so you’ll have to find off-campus housing in Providence during your years as a medical student.
To find out more about the PLME program, its curriculum, and its potential benefits for your educational path, you can access the Program in Liberal Medical Education website at https://www.brown.edu/academics/medical/plme/.
So what’s the point of admitting students to a program that provides a direct route into medical school? At Brown, the intention is to produce doctors whose educational background is substantially broader than that of many medical students, and to give future doctors the freedom to explore different fields as undergraduates instead of focusing entirely on medical school admission requirements.
Exploring a variety of academic fields as an undergraduate can be seen as somewhat risky by future medical students. They may worry that their more eclectic course selections, however academically rigorous or personally enriching, may be viewed with concern by medical school admissions committees in comparison to those of other applicants.
The process of applying to medical schools is intensely competitive, and just as with the undergraduate application process, many students find it to be quite stressful. Having your acceptance to medical school already guaranteed while you’re an undergraduate can ease that mental burden and allow you to focus on making the most of your undergraduate experience.
Entering the PLME program doesn’t mean that you won’t have to prepare for medical school — yes, you do still have to pass Organic Chemistry. However, alongside the required courses for PLMEs, you can study anything you like and put your energy into the things that interest you most.
As important as the things you can do as a PLME are the things you don’t have to do as a PLME. For instance, you don’t have to concentrate in a scientific field if you don’t want to do so, as long as you fulfill particular course requirements. You also don’t have to take the MCAT, the standardized entrance test for medical schools, if you enroll at Alpert Medical School through PLME.
Every PLME student gets the full Brown undergraduate experience, concentrating in any field they choose — Brown offers over a hundred options — and taking full advantage of Brown’s broad and open undergraduate curriculum. What this can mean for you is the opportunity to broaden your mind and explore new options without jeopardizing your future medical-school goals.
Applying to PLME
Applying to PLME is, roughly speaking, like applying to Brown’s undergraduate program and medical school program at the same time. Accordingly, in order to get accepted to PLME, you’ll have to face some very tough competition and take special care to ensure that your application reflects your qualifications to best advantage.
To apply to PLME, you’ll first need to fill out Brown’s usual undergraduate application. You have the option of applying either through the Early Decision application process or the Regular Decision application process. (Applying Early Decision to the PLME program comes with some caveats, which we’ll address later in this section.)
Brown uses the Common Application, and like most schools, requires all applicants to submit a school-specific supplement. For a more detailed overview of what you’ll find on Brown’s undergraduate application, check out the CollegeVine blog posts A User’s Guide to the Common Application, The Ultimate Guide to Applying to Brown University, and How to Write the Brown University Essays 2016-2017.
In addition to Brown’s normal undergraduate application, PLME applicants will need to write two program-specific essays. Prompts for these essays will appear in the Brown supplement to the Common App once you’ve indicated that you’re applying to the PLME program.
For the 2016-2017 application season, the essay prompts were as follows:
- Most high school seniors are unsure about eventual career choices. What experiences have led you to consider medicine as your future profession? Please describe specifically why you have chosen to apply to the Program in Liberal Medical Education in pursuit of your career in medicine. Also, be sure to indicate your rationale on how the PLME is a “good fit” for your personal, academic, and future professional goals. (Please limit your response to this question to 500 words.)
- Since the Program in Liberal Medical Education espouses a broad-based liberal education, please describe your fields of interest in both the sciences and the liberal arts. Be specific about what courses and aspects of the program will be woven into a potential educational plan. (Please limit your response to this question to 500 words.)
Hello everyone! My name is Joey Gu and I am returning to intern at Test Masters this summer. You might have already seen some of my posts, like my What makes a Premed student successful? or my Know the SAT Math Formulas, last summer. Today we are going to talk about combined BS/MD programs, specifically Brown University’s Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME).
Before I begin, allow me to share some information about combined BS/MD programs. These programs typically range from six to eight years, consisting of a varying number of years for undergraduate studies and four years for medical school. They are known for their competitive admissions processes and tirelessly persistent and motivated applicant pools. Students in such programs exhibit an unusually strong commitment to studying medicine and are envied by other pre-med students because they do not have to go through the usually (and highly stressful) process of applying to medical school.
When I first heard of the combined BS/MD program from my parents, I thought that such a program would be a terrible idea, one that would make my premed years even more difficult and strenuous. Additionally, I dreaded spending such a long time stuck in the same boring place. I wanted a change of scenery between my undergraduate and medical school years, a fresh start in a brand new city. Therefore, I was vehemently against applying to any BS/MD programs. Looking back, I now realize my parents were right (as usual) and that I was being an ignorant and naive high school freshman.
Next year, I will be attending Brown University’s Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME), which is Brown’s version of the combined BS/MD program. After applying and being accepted into the program, I did some additional research and weighed my options, comparing PLME with a traditional four year premed track. These are the pros and cons that I came up with.
- No need to take the MCAT.
- Less pressure to maintain a high GPA. The PLME only requires students to maintain a 3.0 GPA.
- More flexibility. Initially, I though that a BS/MD program restricts its students by forcing a certain course curriculum onto them. Rather, the situation is quite the opposite. At Brown, I will be able to concentrate in any field of study, regardless of its relevance to biology or medicine. The PLME encourages broad exploration of student interests/
- More research opportunities. As a PLME student , I will have additional research and internship opportunities exclusively available to students on the BS/MD track. With only 50 to 60 PLME classmates, competition for such opportunities will be much less intense, making it easier for me to gain valuable medical experience.
- No medical school applications. Since I have already been admitted to Brown’s medical school, I have no need to worry about letters of recommendation, standardizes test scores, GPA, research experience, or application essays. Although these things are obviously still important, because they won’t be require I will be able to fully enjoy my undergraduate experience.
- Stuck in Providence, RI for eight years. Personally, I really like the city of Providence and Brown’s campus, so this a very minor con.
- Cannot apply to other medical schools. If you apply to other medical schools, you lose your sport at Warren Aplert (Brown’s medical school).
- The Warren Alpert Medical School is not as highly ranked as that of Harvard or Yale. However, many different sources emphasize the fact that medical school ranking are not incredibly important. A school’s match list, a list of the residency programs that medical students match to, is much more important, and Brown has an exceptional one.
I have a few last, critical points of advice for those wishing to pursue a combined BS/MD track. This is by no means a discouragement, but these programs are not for everyone. They are designed to suit students that have all but committed the next decade of their lives to the study of medicine. It is for this reason that BS/MD programs are so competitive (Brown admitted less than 4% of applicants to the PLME). College admission officers will only select students in which they can clearly see a strong desire to pursue medicine. If you are one of these extremely motivated students, then you should start looking into research and volunteer opportunities related to medicine that will not only help your admission prospects, but also broaden your understanding of medicine and the health professions.
As a prospective student of the PLME, I feel exceedingly fortunate to have been given this opportunity, and I will try my hardest to make the most of my time at Brown University.
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