How to Get into Brown’s PLME Program

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While all BS/MD programs are incredibly competitive, Brown’s Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) is especially notorious. It is the only BS/MD program offered by an Ivy League school, adding notable prestige to an already prestigious class of programs. 

With this prestige, of course, comes increased student interest, and increased competition for admissions. The program’s acceptance rate is only 2.3%, less than half that of Brown’s already low general acceptance rate of 5.5%. This means fewer than 3 students out of every hundred who apply are ever admitted, long odds indeed. 

In this article, therefore, we’ll go over the ins and outs of Brown PLME. We’ll begin by covering what the program is, and what it offers students. Then we’ll cover the application process, and what they’re looking for. Finally, we’ll cover how to approach the essays that PLME requires, to maximize your chances of admission. Let’s jump in!

What is Brown PLME?

As with all BS/MD programs, PLME combines an undergraduate degree and an MD into a single 8-year experience. Students spend their first four years earning an undergraduate degree at Brown, then enter Brown’s attached medical school. 

As with all other undergrads at Brown, PLME students can work towards a degree in any field, not just the sciences. Summers during undergraduate are free, but most students in the program use them as a chance to pursue lab work, research, or independent study.

Students are expected to prepare themselves for medical by taking the necessary courses in math and the sciences. There are further courses which are only available for students in the program. Study abroad is available in the summers for short programs, or for a full semester in your junior year. 

PLME students in good academic standing do not have to take the MCAT, and are automatically enrolled in Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School. Students may defer admission to the medical school for a year after undergrad to pursue research or other experiences, with permission from their advisor.

As with all medical school and BS/MD programs, you are expected to prepare yourself for medical school both in and out of the classroom. The program provides numerous opportunities for volunteering and research, and you are expected to take advantage of them. Each student also regularly meets with an academic advisor, to make sure their progress stays on track.

Applying to Brown PLME

Brown’s PLME is one of the larger BS/MD programs in the country, with the average cohort being 50 students. It is one of the major paths by which students enter Brown’s medical school for this reason. While the program admits more students than most BS/MD programs, it also receives more applicants. Last year: 

  • 3,516 students applied
  • 87 students were offered admission
  • 53 student matriculated

All applications to the program are also applications to Brown as a whole (this is true of all BS/MD programs). You submit a single application to Brown through the Common App, with supplemental essays required for PLME students. You may apply either Early Decision or Regular Decision. If you apply ED, you may be admitted to Brown and rejected from the program; in this case you are still required to attend Brown. If you do not wish to be bound to attend, you should apply RD.

Brown has an optional video portfolio as part of their application. They recommend that all applicants to this program complete a video portfolio. This is submitted via the Brown Applicant Portal, which you receive access to after your Common App is submitted.

The program does not have strict coursework requirements for incoming students, but they recommend all applicants have the following academic preparation: 

  • Four years of English, with an emphasis on writing
  • Three years of math
  • Three years of a single foreign language
  • Two years of laboratory science after freshman year
  • Two years of history, including American history
  • One year of another academic elective

Note that these are the minimum recommended; going above and beyond to demonstrate your academic prowess is ideal. We recommend advanced biology and chemistry classes, and math through at least calculus if possible. This is especially important if you plan on majoring in science or engineering.

Brown is currently test optional, including for PLME applicants. 


How to Write the PLME Essays

Brown requires three additional essays from PLME applicants. We’ll go through what these essays are, and how you should answer them. This complements our article on BS/MD essays generally

The three essays cover why you want to be a doctor, diversity, and why Brown’s program is right for you. 

Why be a Doctor

Committing to a future career as a physician while in high school requires careful consideration and self-reflection. What values and experiences have led you to believe that becoming a doctor in medicine is the right fit for you? (250 words)

This essay is an invitation to explore your extracurriculars, and how they have prepared you for a career in medicine. When preparing to be a premed, your extracurriculars are important to show your commitment to medicine, and your prior involvement with the field. 

The prompt references this directly: this is a very large commitment, and admissions officers want to be certain that you are fully aware of and prepared for it. While this is true for anyone who wants to study medicine, the intensive nature of BS/MD programs makes this of paramount importance. 

In your essay, you can dive deeply into one extracurricular related to medicine you participated in, and explain how it introduced you to the field, and why you want to pursue it further. Your other option is to give a brief overview of many different extracurriculars you have participated in. This can be a good option if you have many impressive extracurriculars, and want admissions officers to be aware of all of them. 


Respond to one of the following prompts (250 words):

  • Health care is constantly changing, as it is affected by racial and social disparities, economics, politics, and technology, among others. How will you, as a future physician, make a positive impact?
  • How do you feel your personal background provides you with a unique perspective of medicine?

You have two options for essays, but both relate to a core theme of diversity. While Brown does not use the term anywhere in the prompt, the language is evocative. We recommend you choose the prompt you are best able to answer. 

We recommend answering the second prompt if you have a unique background or experience that gives you deeper insight into medicine. This could come from your personal experience with illness or injury, your family background, or things you experienced through your environment or culture. 

If you choose this prompt, remember that this essay is still about you. If your first exposure to medicine came through a parent’s career, make sure the focus of the essay is still on how this exposure inspired you, and not on how great your parent is (though they are indubitably wonderful, they aren’t the one trying to get into college).

If you are answering the first prompt, you are invited to comment on current issues in medicine. Ideally you should show a commitment to helping your fellows, and a concern for the wellbeing of people generally. Medicine is a career devoted to helping others, and you should espouse views that align with these values. 

Make sure to focus on what you specifically will do as a physician to address this. These essays are still about you, and should focus on your beliefs and actions, rather than the problem more generally.


How do you envision the Program in Liberal Medical Education helping you to meet your academic, personal, and professional goals as a person and as a physician of the future? (500 words)

This is the longest of the three essays, and is an example of a Why Us essay, similar to those colleges ask. Most pre med and BS/MD programs are quite similar in their generalities; they all prepare students for medical school, they all have opportunities for research and lab work, and they all have excellent academic credentials. Brown wants to know how their program specifically fits with you (and in so doing, demonstrate you well you fit with their program). 

To answer this question, you must first establish what you want from a BS/MD program. Then, for each point, explain how PLME fulfills that need, and why attending will further your goals in this area. The more specific you are when doing this the better. Don’t just discuss your desire for lab work, but name specific labs or professors on campus you want to work with. This shows you have done your research, and thought through your decision to apply. 

For Brown specifically, we recommend discussing the undergraduate program, and the degree of academic freedom it provides. Brown is quite proud of their open curriculum, and they want to admit students who are eager to participate in it.

You should address both the undergraduate and medical school at Brown, as PLME encompasses both. Make sure you tie your own goals into each point, but have the focus be the near future. These are your goals, and this is how PLME will enable you to achieve them.

Final Thoughts

Brown is a prestigious school, and PLME is among the most prestigious BS/MD programs in the country. Students who want a truly challenging undergraduate experience to complement their time in medical school are often drawn to the program, as PLME is the only BS/MD program associated with an Ivy League school.

We hope that this article has given you a thorough introduction to the program, and shown you what you need to do to gain acceptance. If you want more personalized advice, or guidance on your own path to PLME or other BS/MD programs, schedule a free consultation with us to learn how we can help you. We’ve helped hundreds of students with their college applications, and are always happy to hear from you.

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