There are 6 year, 7 year and 8 year BS/MD programs. Other than the obvious time difference what are the pros and cons of each type of program?
Let’s start with the 6 year programs. When I first started over 15 years ago, there were a number of 6 year BS/MD programs. But, over the years, many of these have gone away or been converted to longer programs. To understand why this has happened you need to understand that every BS/MD program in the country has 4 years of medical school. This means that if the program is less than 8 years, the reduction in time takes place at the undergraduate level. So a 7 year program has 3 years of college while a 6 year program has only 2 years of college.
Medical schools generally don’t care what you major in but they have certain classes that need to be taken to prepare for the MCAT(Medical College Admissions Test) and for medical school itself. It takes about 2 years of time in college to complete all of these courses. In a 6 year program you basically take the required science courses for 2 years and then have your 4 years of medical school. No humanities courses, no social science courses, no study abroad, no extra science courses. Many of our students, who obviously like the sciences, think that this type of schedule sounds just fine. But residency programs aren’t nearly as excited about this type of schedule.
Why? As a physician you will typically be exposed to patients from many different backgrounds and experiences. The more experience you have dealing with people with backgrounds different than your own, the better you are likely to be understanding their needs. With nothing but science courses for 6 years you typically have very little experience in dealing with those people with different backgrounds. And this can make getting competitive residency programs more difficult.
There is another issue with 6 year BS/MD programs. Because so much information must be learned in a limited period of time there are few breaks in 6 year programs and you will typically go to school most summers as well as during the school year. The stress that can come with having few breaks from school for 6 years is very real and it is not uncommon to see students drop out after several years because of the stress.
So those are the negative aspects of 6 year programs. But, with only 6 years of school you not only get to your destination of becoming a doctor 2 years earlier than normal, but you also save 2 years of tuition, room and board which can be significant. Is that enough to outweigh the disadvantages? Only you can answer that question.
7 year BS/MD programs are a compromise between a quicker program but not so quick as to lose experiences with people with different backgrounds. You only have one year to get exposed to the humanities and social sciences. If you want to do a study abroad program, it is typically just during a summer or a term if planned out from the first day of college. But you can get some experiences and still save one year of college costs. Many seven year programs will also let a student take another year at the undergraduate level if they want to take more classes. This option gives the student the most flexibility on shortening the program or taking the full 8 years based on what happens during college.
8 year BS/MD programs don’t necessarily save any time over the traditional route to medical school but they give you the most flexibility in terms of what classes to take, and when, as well as the option for a full year study abroad in many cases. And while 8 year programs may seem like they don’t shorten the time to get to a residency they actual may because those students applying to medical school through the traditional route are usually encouraged to take a year or 2 of gap between college and medical school. This gap isn’t needed for students in a BS/MD program.
There is no right or wrong answer on whether to look at 6 year, 7 year or 8 year BS/MD programs. It just depends on your interests and weighing the pros and cons of each program. Most of our students look at programs with a variety of lengths to keep their options open.