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How to Apply for BS/DO Programs

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

a medicine student sitting at the staircase looking at the camera

Medical school requires a lengthy and often stressful process of preparation, application, and education, which might feel overwhelming at times. However, if you’re feeling discouraged by the traditional route, don’t lose hope! There are alternative ways that can help bring your dreams to fruition more smoothly. One such option is the BS/DO program, designed to streamline your career in the medical profession. Let’s explore how these programs can offer a more direct and assured path to becoming a doctor.

What are BS/DO Programs?

BS/DO programs, or Bachelor of Science/Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine programs, are specialized educational routes designed for highly motivated students aiming for a career in osteopathic medicine. These combined degree programs provide an integrated approach to medical education, allowing students to earn both a Bachelor of Science and a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree in a reduced time frame, typically totaling about 7 to 8 years.

Also known as 3+4 or 4+4 programs, the first segment consists of 3 or 4 years at an undergraduate institution, where students pursue a science-heavy curriculum to prepare for medical training. This is followed by 4 years at a partnered osteopathic medical school. The programs offer a conditional but reserved seat in medical school, contingent upon meeting specific academic standards like maintaining a certain GPA and achieving required scores on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).

The primary appeal of BS/DO programs lies in their provision of a streamlined and secured pathway into the medical profession. Students accepted into these programs have the opportunity to bypass the highly competitive and stressful traditional medical school application process, provided they meet ongoing academic and testing benchmarks set by the program.

While BS/DO programs guarantee a spot in medical school upon successful completion of undergraduate requirements, this guarantee is conditional. Students must fulfill all prerequisite courses with minimum required grades and complete their undergraduate degree successfully while meeting all set conditions, such as specific GPA and MCAT scores.

These programs are highly competitive, with acceptance rates ranging from 1-3% and limited spots available—often only between 6 to 20 seats per program. This competitiveness is due to the tough selection process that assesses applicants not only on academic merit but also on their commitment and readiness for a medical career, typically years in advance of their actual entry into medical school.

Student taking a medical course

Who is Qualified to Apply to the BS/DO Program?

The BS/DO programs are designed for goal-oriented students straight out of high school, aiming to jumpstart their careers in osteopathic medicine.

The program is exclusively available to high school graduates applying as first-year, first-semester students at the undergraduate level. It specifically caters to newcomers to higher education, meaning that transfer students or those who have already commenced their college education elsewhere are not eligible to apply.

Candidates must first apply and be accepted to a university before they can submit a secondary application for the BS/DO joint program. This two-step application process guarantees that only those committed to both the undergraduate and medical components of the program move forward.

Academic excellence is a cornerstone for qualification. Applicants are required to meet high standardized testing benchmarks, with a minimum SAT score of 1400 or an ACT score of 31. These scores reflect the program’s tough academic standards and help in selecting students who are likely to succeed in a challenging medical education environment.

All applicants must provide proof of high school graduation, and their high school academic performance will play a big role in the admission process. Specifically, a candidate’s GPA and class rank are weighed significantly, alongside two letters of recommendation from teachers or professors. These recommendations are vital as they provide insight into the applicant’s academic abilities and character, further informing the admissions committee’s decisions.

What Are the Requirements for Applying to a BS/DO Program?

Applying to a BS/DO program requires careful preparation and adherence to specific eligibility criteria. Here are the essential requirements that students must fulfill when applying to these dual-degree programs:

  • Strong Science Background

BS/DO programs seek candidates who have a strong foundation in science. Applicants should demonstrate their dedication and capability in scientific disciplines throughout their high school education. Achieving and maintaining a high GPA, especially in science courses, is important, as these programs use academic performance as a predictor of success in hard medical training.

  • Standardized Test Scores

Most BS/DO programs have clear requirements regarding standardized tests. Applicants will need to submit scores from the SAT or ACT. While some programs may accept scores from either test, others might require both. While SAT Subject Tests are not universally required, they are often viewed favorably when included in the application, showcasing further competency in relevant areas.

Nurse Discussing Records With Senior Female Patient During Home Visit

  • Letters of Recommendation

A unique aspect of the BS/DO application process is the potential requirement for a letter of recommendation from a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO). This requirement underscores the programs’ emphasis on candidates who have already begun to establish themselves within the medical community. Applicants should select recommenders who can vouch for their potential and readiness to embark on a medical career, particularly those who can attest to their hands-on experiences in medical settings.

  • Secondary Applications and Essays

Similar to traditional medical school applications, BS/DO programs often require a secondary application. This part of the application process typically includes several essay prompts designed to assess the applicant’s motivation for pursuing a career in medicine and their understanding of the osteopathic approach. Essays should articulate a clear passion for the field, an understanding of the challenges and rewards of a medical career, and the reasons why a dual-degree program is suited to the applicant’s professional goals.

  • Personal Essay

When applying to a BS/DO program, one of the requirements is the submission of a personal essay. This essay, typically limited to 500 words, serves as a critical component where candidates express their motivation for choosing a career in osteopathic medicine. Through the essay, applicants can demonstrate their understanding of the holistic approach unique to osteopathic medicine, including its emphasis on preventive care and techniques like Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT).

The essay should also provide insights into the applicant’s personal attributes such as empathy and perseverance, essential for the demands of the medical field. It allows candidates to showcase their commitment to the rigorous path of the BS/DO program, underscoring their preparedness and serious intent.

A well-written essay connects the applicant’s personal background, academic achievements, and relevant experiences, presenting a comprehensive narrative that highlights their dedication to the principles and practices of osteopathic medicine.

  • Comprehensive Application Submission

To apply, candidates must submit a comprehensive application package to the undergraduate institution linked to the BS/DO program. This package should include the high school transcript, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and responses to any program-specific essay prompts.

Medical interns

Transitioning Requirements to the D.O. Program

For example, the students at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) who are transitioning from a Bachelor of Science degree to a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) program have specific requirements. These are to make sure that only the most prepared and qualified students advance to NYIT’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

  • Students must maintain both a cumulative and semester GPA of 3.5 throughout their time in the B.S./D.O. program. Falling below this GPA threshold places the student on probationary status, with only one probation allowed during the course of the program. A second occurrence of falling below the GPA requirement results in automatic dismissal from the program.
  • Admission to the D.O. program requires students to achieve an MCAT score at least equal to the mean score of the NYITCOM first-year class from the year they began their undergraduate studies. This aligns students’ performance benchmarks with those of their medical peers.
  • Applicants must also secure favorable letters of recommendation from New York Tech’s departmental B.S./D.O. committee. Furthermore, a successful admissions interview at the College of Osteopathic Medicine is mandatory.
  • All application materials, including the MCAT score, must be submitted by January 1 during the student’s third year of undergraduate study.

These requirements apply specifically to the NYIT, other institutions may have different standards for transitioning from an undergraduate program to a D.O. program. Prospective students should thoroughly research the transition requirements of any BS/DO program they are considering.

What is the Application Process for a BS/DO Program?

Gaining admission into a BS/DO program involves a multi-step application and selection process. Here is an overview of the typical process for prospective students aiming to secure a place in one of these prestigious programs:

  • Initial Application to the Undergraduate Institution

The first step for interested students is to apply to the undergraduate college affiliated with the osteopathic medical school where they wish to study. This application is similar to other college applications and is an essential prerequisite before applying specifically to the BS/DO program.

  • Secondary Application for the BS/DO Program

After submitting the initial application, students must complete a secondary application dedicated to the BS/DO program itself. This application is usually available on either the medical school’s or the undergraduate school’s website. Applicants must be aware of and adhere to specific deadlines for this application, as missing these deadlines can disqualify a candidate from consideration.

  • Review and Interview Process

Once both applications are submitted, they are reviewed by the program’s admissions committee. Based on this review, select students are invited to participate in interviews. These interviews are an important component of the selection process, allowing the admissions committee to assess candidates’ suitability for the demands and specifics of the osteopathic medical profession.

  • Admission Decisions and Track Selection

Following the interviews, the admissions team deliberates and makes decisions on which students will be offered a place in the program. In cases where the program offers both 7-year and 8-year tracks, accepted students may be given the choice to select which path they prefer, depending on their readiness and academic goals.

  • Matriculation Requirements

Once accepted, students will receive detailed information about the requirements for matriculation specific to the path they have chosen. These requirements often include maintaining certain academic standards and completing specific pre-medical coursework during their undergraduate years.

forensic science student examining a sample in microscope

Understanding the Application Process for BS/DO Programs

BS/DO programs offer a structure for high school seniors and some college students to begin their medical education early by combining a Bachelor of Science degree with a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree. Applying to these programs involves a few essential steps that aspiring students should carefully navigate to increase their chances of acceptance.

Early Application

Students typically apply to BS/DO programs during their senior year of high school, coinciding with other college applications. The process requires applicants to submit a standard application to the undergraduate college as well as a separate, secondary application specifically for the BS/DO program. This dual application process can often be found detailed on the program’s website, including deadlines.

In some cases, BS/DO programs also accept applications from college freshmen or sophomores, but this is usually limited to those already attending the undergraduate institution affiliated with the osteopathic medical program.

Demonstrating Medical Interest

Admission into BS/DO programs is competitive, and committees look for applicants who have a demonstrated commitment to the field of medicine. Prospective students should engage in medically related extracurricular activities such as volunteering at hospitals, serving as an EMT, joining biology or medicine-related school clubs, shadowing doctors, or pursuing research internships. These activities strengthen an application and provide valuable exposure to the medical field, helping students affirm their decision to pursue a medical career.

Academic Excellence

Given the competitive nature of BS/DO programs, excelling academically is important. Applicants are expected to maintain strong GPAs and perform well in standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. High academic performance should be paired with challenging coursework to demonstrate the applicant’s ability to thrive in stress-prone academic environments.

Staying Organized

The application timeline for BS/DO programs is more complex and extended than typical undergraduate applications. Each program may have different deadlines and requirements, including program-specific essays and supplementary materials.

It is advisable for applicants to use the summer before their senior year to understand each program’s requirements thoroughly and to stay organized throughout the application season. This includes finalizing a list of colleges early on and preparing meticulously for each application.

medical students wearing scrubs looking at the camera

List of BS/DO Schools

List of BS/DO Schools
Florida Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine (NSU BS/DO)
Maintain 3.5 cGPA/ sGPA; 502 MCAT
Illinois Illinois Institute of Technology/ Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (CCOM BS/DO)
Maintain 3.5 cGPA; Above Average MCAT
Massachusetts Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences/ AT Still BS/DO
Michigan Michigan State University OMSP (MSU BS/DO)
Maintain 3.5 cGPA; no MCAT
Missouri MKEAP- MSSU KCU
No MCAT
New Jersey Rutgers- Camden/ Rowan University School of Osteopathic
Maintain 3.5 cGPA; 501 MCAT
New York Adelphi University/ NYIT BS/DO
Maintain 3.5 cGPA/ sGPA; MCAT 508
Adelphi University/ NYIT BS/DO
Maintain 3.5 cGPA/ sGPA; MCAT 508
New York Institute of Technology BS/DO
Maintain 3.5 cGPA/ sGPA; 508 MCAT
SUNY Old Westbury/ New York Institute of Technology BS/DO
Maintain 3.5 cGPA/ sGPA; required MCAT
Pennsylvania Adelphi University/ Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM BS/DO)
Maintain 3.5 cGPA/ sGPA; MCAT 50th percentile
Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM BS/DO)
Maintain 3.4 cGPA/ 3.3 sGPA; no MCAT

The list above includes BS/DO programs that high school seniors can apply to for a provisional seat in an osteopathic medical program for the 2024-2025 academic year. While we have dedicated significant effort to make sure the accuracy of this information, program details frequently change. Therefore, we strongly advise all prospective applicants to consult the specific program’s official website for the most current and detailed information before finalizing their list of BS/DO schools.

Requirements for Biology Majors at MIT

Financial Aid for Combined Degree Programs

Students enrolled in combined undergraduate/graduate programs are classified as undergraduates for the first 90 credits when determining eligibility for federal student aid. However, this does not apply to students in the B.S./D.O. program, who are considered undergraduates for the first 115 credits. 

In the case of the New York Institute of Technology, after completing these credits within six semesters, B.S./D.O. students transition to the NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine, where they fall under the specific financial aid policies of NYITCOM.

Once students surpass the 90-credit threshold in other combined programs (or 115 credits for B.S./D.O. students), they may become eligible for federal student loans at the graduate level. To access graduate-level financial aid, students must formally apply through their institution’s Office of Graduate Admissions and adjust their FAFSA designation from undergraduate to graduate level.

DO vs. MD: Which Medical Path is Right for You?

When considering a career in medicine, students often face the decision between pursuing a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. Both paths lead to a career as a physician, but they offer distinct approaches and philosophies toward patient care and medical education.

So what is the difference between a BS/MD and a BS/DO?

Both MDs and DOs undergo hard training, starting with an undergraduate pre-medical education, followed by four years in medical school, and culminating in residency programs. They both must pass similar licensing exams to practice medicine, and they are qualified to work in all specialties of medicine. Graduates from both types of schools are now matched into residency programs through a single accreditation system, simplifying the graduate medical education landscape in the United States.

The primary distinction lies in their medical training focus. MD programs, often referred to as allopathic medical schools, emphasize a traditional science-based approach to medicine. This includes diagnosing and treating diseases primarily through drugs, surgery, and other conventional methods.

group of medical students sitting and communing at a stair outside of a medical college

DO programs, on the other hand, are based on osteopathic principles that focus on treating the whole patient rather than just the symptoms. Osteopathic medical education includes training in Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT), where DOs use their hands to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses by moving a patient’s muscles and joints. This method aims to enhance the body’s natural ability to heal itself, adding a unique tool to the osteopathic physician’s repertoire.

Osteopathic medicine’s holistic approach is evident in its curricular emphasis on the musculoskeletal system and a more integrative view of the patient’s body and mind. Historically, DOs have been more likely to enter primary care fields. According to recent figures, a significant percentage of DOs practice in primary care specialties, compared to a lower percentage among MDs.

When deciding whether to pursue an MD or a DO, applicants should consider their personal philosophy toward medicine and patient care. Those drawn to a holistic, patient-centered approach might find the osteopathic medical path more aligned with their values. It is also important to consider the type of medical practice and specialty interests one has, as some may find the additional training in OMT an advantage in fields like sports medicine or physical rehabilitation.

Aspiring medical students are advised to research both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools and consider applying to both. Gaining acceptance into either can be competitive, and choosing between them should involve careful consideration of each program’s philosophy, curriculum, and overall fit with the applicant’s career goals and personal beliefs about medicine.

A female med student looking into her laptop while 2 more med students are studying at the desks behind her

Final Thoughts

Applying to BS/DO programs is a big step towards a career in osteopathic medicine. As you start this process, focus on maintaining good grades, showing your interest in medicine, and writing a strong personal essay. It’s important to stay organized and meet all deadlines. Prepare to improve your chances of getting in and set yourself up for a successful healthcare career.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What can I major in for my bachelor’s degree in a BS/DO program?

You are generally free to choose any major you like for your bachelor’s degree when enrolled in a BS/DO program, as long as you complete the required prerequisite courses for medical school. Many students opt for a science-related major like Biology or Chemistry because these subjects cover much of the material on the MCAT and are relevant to medical school coursework.

2. What is the selection process for BS/DO programs?

The selection process for BS/DO programs typically starts with a supplemental application, which is open for a specific period, such as from November 1 to January 20. After applications are reviewed, qualified candidates are invited for a first round of interviews, often held virtually. Successful candidates from this round may then be invited for a second round of interviews with a different committee, usually scheduled a few months later. Final acceptance decisions are communicated to the candidates by early April.

3. Is the MCAT necessary for BS/DO programs?

The requirement for the MCAT varies by program. Some combined BS/DO programs may waive the MCAT requirement as part of their admission process, while others might still require it. It’s important to check the specific requirements of each program you are interested in.

4. What do BS/DO programs look for in applicants?

BS/DO programs seek candidates who are deeply passionate about a career in medicine. These programs value applicants who can clearly express their dedication to the medical field through their essays and interviews. Being sure about wanting to pursue a career as a physician at an early stage is crucial, as these programs often provide a reserved seat in medical school, which is a significant commitment.

5. Are SAT Subject tests required for BS/DO programs?

SAT Subject tests are not typically mandatory for admission into BS/DO programs, but they can be beneficial to include in your application. These tests can help demonstrate your proficiency in specific subjects, particularly if they are relevant to the field of medicine.

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