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.)
Dreamt about being a doctor since you’re kid? If so, then you need to know about Brown University’s PLME.
What is Brown’s PLME?
Brown’s Program in Liberal Medical Education, more commonly known as PLME, combines the undergraduate education and professional medical studies in a single 8-year program. Judging by the number of years, you should note that PLME is not an accelerated program. The purpose of the program is to give students the opportunity to gain admission to medical school without sacrificing the benefits of first receiving a liberal arts education.
Benefits of Brown’s PLME
1. Open Curriculum
Brown University is most well-known for its undergraduate open curriculum. There are no core requirements for enrolled students, so they have the freedom to choose what they wish to study. The only specific requirement for Brown students is to successfully finish at least 30 courses in 8 semesters, to complete at least one concentration program (a.k.a. major), and to demonstrate excellent written English skills by graduation.
Under Brown’s undergraduate open curriculum, students have the flexibility and options of studying anything from the Art History to Biology. While this is so also true for other pre-medical programs, there is less pressure for students to major in a hard science since they’ve already been accepted to the Warren Alpert Medical School.
2. No MCAT
Good news! Once you get accepted to PLME, you’re accepted to both the undergraduate program at Brown University and the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. This means there’s no need for you to study for the dreaded MCAT.
3. Single Application
Since you’ve already been accepted to the Warren Alpert Medical School, you do not have to submit another medical school application! Typically, pre-med students would have to complete their medical school applications during senior year of college.
Applying to college?
View the app files and essays of accepted students.LEARN MORE
Application Requirements for PLME
1. Recommended Courses in HS
There aren’t high school prerequisites for students, but PLME are encouraged to take up honors and AP classes that are offered at their high school. Here are a few of the recommendations:
4 years of English, with significant emphasis on writing
3 years of college preparatory mathematics
3 years of foreign language
2 years of laboratory science above the freshman level
2 years of history, including American history
2. Standardized Testing Requirements
Brown University’s PLME allows students to take either the ACT or the SAT. If you choose to take the ACT, the ACT Writing portion is required.
The program also requires 2 SAT subject tests. PLME applicants are encouraged to take one of them in a science. Please note if you get a score over 750 for the Physics SAT Subject Test, you fulfill the PLME Physics Competency. Take it under consideration, as it may help you in the future!
3. Supplemental Essays
The application to Brown’s PLME is available on the Common Application. On top of the general Brown University application, students are also required to answer two additional supplemental essay prompts:
PLME Supplement Essay Prompt 1:
“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.)”
PLME Supplement Essay Prompt 2:
“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.)”
PLME Successful Essay Examples
Brown University ‘20
A few months ago, I came across a video called the “Brown Difference.” If I hadn’t seen that video, I would never have believed that another person had pursued the same esoteric double concentration that attracted me. Jennifer Tsai, class of 2014, spoke of not only her studies in Human and Health Biology and Ethnic Studies, but also of Brown’s PLME program that supported her to thrive in these two seemingly disparate fields. Her words echo not only the path I want to take, but also the community to thrive in. Keep reading.
The most attractive feature of the PLME program is the heavy emphasis on liberal arts education in order to fully achieve a medical doctorate. As a Latin scholar at a high school for science and technology, I have always made sacrifices to pursue the classics, and have been planning to do the same throughout college. However, because the PLME encourages and allows for a premedical student to fully indulge in a liberal arts education, this program would be a perfect fit for me. I would plan to take the necessary premedical courses as well as the related science courses that interest me, specifically to prepare me for a career in anesthesiology. These include Organic Chemistry, Biotechnology in Medicine, Tissue Engineering, and Synthetic Biological Systems. Continue reading.
What You Need to Know about PLME
1. Applicants and Acceptance Rates
This BS/MD program is highly selective, since it accepts students to both the undergraduate and graduate program at Brown. The school usually only accepts approximately 100 PLME students every graduating class. To put this into perspective, PLME’s acceptance rate was 3.67% in 2015, while Brown’s overall acceptance rate in 2015 was 9.5%.
2. Early & Regular Decision
PLME applicants can submit their application during both the Early Decision round and the Regular Decision round. Because you’re applying to both the university and the medical school, there are a few things you should know.
3. Transfer Opportunity
If you’re accepted to Brown’s PLME, you’re accepted to the college and the medical school. That’s pretty straightforward.
PLME applicants can be accepted early decision to the College only and not the PLME.
Early PLME applicants are bounded by the early decision agreement and are obligated to enroll regardless of the outcome of the PLME application.
Students rejected from the PLME early decision will be reconsidered for regular decision.
Applicants not admitted to the PLME will still be considered for admission to the College for their undergraduate degree.
The PLME is only offered to prospective freshmen students. It is not available for students who are transferring from other universities. No internal transfers are available to Brown students as well.
4. Withdrawal or Other Medical Schools
Once you’re accepted to the PLME, you will have to complete the requirements of all PLME students. There are specific PLME courses students have to take and are more rigorous than the general pre-medical studies. PLME students also have a grade level they must maintain throughout their 4 undergraduate years at Brown.
PLME students are free to apply out of PLME, which means they are free to apply to other medical schools. In order to do so, they must notify the university by September 15th of their senior year. If you choose to apply out, you will forfeit your reserved spot at the Warren Alpet Medical School. You’ll be required to follow traditional medical school application path, including taking the MCAT. You are welcome to re-apply to Warren Alpet, along with other medical schools you wish to apply to.
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About The Author
Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.