Brown PLME: The Ivy League BS/MD Admissions Guide

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So, you want to be a doctor, but you don’t want to give up your passion for literature, your interest in marine biology, or your dream of studying Renaissance art in Italy.

Brown PLME may be just the program for you.

Brown University’s Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) is an eight-year program that combines undergraduate education with professional medical studies.

It is the Ivy League’s only combined baccalaureate-MD (BS/MD) program. It is frequently ranked right with Northwestern HPME as one of the nation’s top programs.

Brown states that the program is based on the belief that “a great physician is one whose mind has been enriched by the broadest possible social, cultural, and historical contexts.”

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about Brown PLME, including how to get in and what to expect.

About Brown PLME

Brown PLME in its current form was established in 1984.

  • The competitive program accepts just 50 highly motivated freshmen each year.
  • High school seniors are admitted simultaneously to Brown the College and to The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

The goal of the eight-year program is enrichment, not acceleration. It encourages students to pursue their interests and passions in-depth while preparing for careers as physicians.

Students may work toward a bachelor’s degree in the sciences, humanities, social sciences, or behavioral sciences.

Brown PLME: The Ivy League BS/MD Guide

Click above to watch a video on Brown PLME.

During the spring of their sophomore year, PLME students develop an individualized educational plan in consultation with a physician-advising dean.

  • The plan is consistent with the student’s interests and includes an outlined program of studies, a statement of personal goals and enrichment activities, plans for honors work, study abroad, and advanced degrees, and a copy of the student’s approved concentration program.

After successfully completing their undergraduate studies, students matriculate to The Warren Alpert Medical School. Students expecting to apply to other medical schools should not apply to the PLME.

Benefits of Brown PLME

Brown’s unique program offers many benefits to its students, including flexibility, reduced pressure, and access to a wide range of enrichment activities.


Brown PLME gives students the freedom to explore broad interests and maximize their undergraduate experience, rather than focusing exclusively on medical school admission requirements.

Medical school hopefuls enrolled in traditional undergraduate programs may worry that diverse course selections will not appeal to medical schools. PLME students are already guaranteed acceptance to The Warren Alpert Medical School.

They will still need to take certain required courses, but they can also invest time and energy in other areas of interest.

  • As mentioned above, PLME students can pursue a bachelor’s degree in the sciences, humanities, social sciences, or behavioral sciences.
  • They can choose any of the nearly 100 concentration programs available at Brown.

PLME students are also permitted to pursue an advanced degree in another area of interest.

  • Undergraduate students may delay the start of medical school by one or two years, using this time to pursue opportunities in other fields like public service, research, education, government, health care, and business.

Brown’s Open Curriculum allows students to shape their own education, minus the usual restrictions of core curriculum requirements.

The PLME program ensures that even future medical students can take advantage of this innovative, personalized approach to education.

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Reduced Pressure

Applying to medical school is usually a complicated and stressful process. For PLME students, this is not the case.

Before even starting college, PLME students have been accepted to medical school.

  • They do not have to apply to medical school or even take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

This reduced pressure allows students to explore diverse opportunities without being limited by the usual concerns of future medical students.

Close relationships with faculty also result in less pressure for PLME students, who do not have to make their academic journey alone. PLME freshmen begin a relationship with their PLME advisor during orientation.

  • In their sophomore year, PLME students are also assigned concentration advisors by the appropriate department.

In the latter years of the Medical School program, career advisors counsel PLME students on career paths and choices. Students are also encouraged to approach faculty members about areas of expertise. Faculty members are typically eager to share their experience, knowledge, and perspectives.

With a strong support system and no need to apply to medical school, PLME students benefit from a much less stressful path to their medical careers.

Enrichment Activities at PLME

PLME students have access to a wide range of enrichment activities. Below, we’ll list and briefly describe these opportunities.

  • Advanced Scholarship – The option to earn an advanced degree in another field (alongside the medical degree)
  • Community Service: Community Health Advocacy Program (CHAP) – CHAP teams identify community health issues and create programs to address these issues. Volunteers deliver engaging, interactive health lessons and hold public lecture events.
  • International Health – PLME students may participate in international exchange programs with China, Taiwan, and Germany.
  • Medicine in Action Program – Students can enrich their educational experience at Brown by shadowing physicians and exploring a variety of clinical settings.
  • Research Opportunities – Students who are awarded an assistantship will receive a $3,500 stipend to carry out a research project on campus or at a Brown-affiliated hospital under the supervision and mentorship of a Brown faculty member. Assistantships are available in emergency medicine, biomedical sciences, clinical medicine, and social/behavioral sciences.
  • Study Abroad – During junior year, PLME students can participate in the International Honors Program, the Brown Plus One international program, Brown in Denmark, and programs at the University of Edinburgh or King’s College London. Study abroad opportunities are available in Hong Kong, Switzerland, India, China, South Africa, Mozambique, Vietnam, Brazil, Scotland, Denmark, and England.
  • Fellowships – Students can apply for 21 nationally competitive fellowships that fund domestic and international independent research and travel, teaching, and post-baccalaureate work or study.

These opportunities further Brown’s goal of producing physicians who have received an enriching education in broad social, cultural, and historical contexts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before we discuss the application process, let’s look at a few frequently asked questions about Brown PLME.

Can I transfer into PLME after enrolling at Brown?

No, PLME is open only to graduating high school seniors. There is no point of transfer into the program. Students from other Brown programs or other colleges are not considered.

What criteria is used to select PLME students?

According to Brown, “PLME students are selected on the basis of scholastic accomplishment and promise, intellectual curiosity, emotional maturity, character, motivation, sensitivity, caring, and particularly on the degree to which they seem adapted to the special features of the program.”

PLME students should be highly qualified, strongly motivated, and committed to a medical career. The ideal PLME student “wishes to pursue an area of academic interest to an advanced level of scholarship within the framework of a broad liberal education.”

In addition, the College Admission Office recommends that applicants have pursued advanced courses along with:

  • Four years of English
  • Three years, preferably four, of mathematics, including at least calculus
  • Three years, preferably four, of a single foreign language
  • Three years of science, including two years of laboratory science
  • Two years of history, including American history

Despite these recommendations, there are no specific high school prerequisites beyond those of Brown University.

What are PLME graduation requirements?

  • A bachelor’s degree in any concentration
  • Satisfactory completion of a minimum of 30 undergraduate academic credits
  • In years one through four, demonstration of competence in biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and the humanities and social sciences
  • In years five through eight, demonstration of competence in basic medical sciences, behavioral aspects of medicine, and core clinical areas: internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, and family medicine

What if I want to apply to other medical schools?

Students who want to apply to other medical schools should not apply to PLME. However, PLME students who decide to apply to other medical schools are permitted to do so.

  • In doing so, they will be withdrawn from the position being held for them in the Alpert Medical School. They do have the option of still applying to the Alpert Medical School via the standard route.

If students choose to “apply out,” they must notify the PLME Office of their intent by September 15 of senior year or September 15 of each year they are on deferral.

Is there a PLME tour I can take?

There is no specific PLME tour or Medical School tour at Brown. Students may take a campus tour and attend a general information session.

Those who have not previously had the opportunity to visit may visit Brown between mid-April (when they receive admission notification) and May 1 (candidate’s reply dates).

On these later visits, students may sit in on classes and observe the PLME environment.

How to Apply to Brown PLME

There is no separate application to apply to PLME. Students use the Brown application and apply to both Brown and PLME at the same time with the same online application.

Applicants complete the Common Application and the Brown Supplement, which includes three required essays for PLME applicants.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at the Brown/PLME application process.

Entrance Requirements

The following are required or encouraged for admission to Brown PLME:

  • Official transcripts; only top students are admitted
  • SAT or ACT scores (SAT essay section and ACT writing section optional)
  • Guidance counselor and academic teacher evaluations/recommendations
  • Three Brown essay questions, plus three essay questions specific to PLME applicants
  • $75 application fee
  • Strongly Recommended Two SAT Subject Tests, preferably one in either biology, chemistry, or physics
  • Strongly Encouraged Alumni interview or video portfolio (submit portfolio or opt-in to interview via Brown applicant portal after submitting the Common Application)
  • Encouraged A graded paper from English, Literature, History, Economics, or other Humanities/Social Studies class (submitted via Brown applicant portal after submitting the Common Application)

PLME Essays

The three Brown University essay questions are:

  • Why are you drawn to the area(s) of study you indicated earlier in this application? (You may share with us a skill or concept that you found challenging and rewarding to learn, or any experiences beyond coursework that may have broadened your interest.) (250-word limit)
  • What do you hope to experience at Brown through the Open Curriculum, and what do you hope to contribute to the Brown community? (250-word limit)
  • Tell us about the place, or places, you call home. These can be physical places where you have lived, or a community or group that is important to you. (250-word limit)

PLME applicants must also answer the following three questions:

  • 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-word limit)
  • Most people describe a career as a physician/doctor as a “profession”, beyond a job. Describe for us what “professionalism” and “the profession of a physician/doctor” mean to you. (250-word limit)
  • How do you envision the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) helping you to meet your academic personal and professional goals as a person and as a physician of the future? (500-word limit)

Key Deadlines/Dates

  • Early Decision application deadline – November 1
  • Early Decision admission notification – mid-December
  • Early Decision commitment deadline – January 8
  • Regular Decision application deadline – January 1
  • Regular Decision admission notification – Late March
  • Regular decision commitment deadline – May 1

PLME Candidates and Early Decision

At Brown, applicants who apply Early Decision are asked not to submit applications to any other institutions under early decision plans or single-choice early action plans.

If accepted, applicants must withdraw all pending applications and enroll at Brown.

  • Students who apply Early Decision to Brown and PLME may be admitted in December to both.

However, another possible scenario is that applicants are admitted to Brown only and not to PLME.

In this scenario, students are still bound by the Early Decision agreement and must enroll at Brown, regardless of their non-acceptance to PLME.

  • Students who do not want to be bound to Brown at Early Decision without being admitted to PLME are asked to apply Regular Decision.

Applicants who apply Early Decision and are admitted to Brown but not to PLME will be reconsidered for admission to PLME during Regular Decision.

Financial Aid

Brown has a need-blind admission policy. This means that your ability to pay for your education is not a factor in admission decisions.

The Medical School works closely with students to secure the funding that is needed to meet the high cost of medical education.

  • Financial aid is provided from sources including scholarships, loans, and part-time employment.

PLME does not have separate financial aid programs; students receive the same financial aid opportunities as traditional Brown students.

Final Thoughts: Brown PLME Admissions

Brown PLME is an excellent option for motivated, high-achieving students interested in both a career in the medical and a broad, enriching educational experience.

If you’re a high school student interested in the program, aim for high test scores and a GPA that places you at or near the top of your class.

  • Take advanced courses, particularly in math and science, but don’t neglect your verbal and written communication skills.
  • In addition to taking the SAT or ACT, it’s a good idea to complete all PLME’s “recommendations” too.
  • That means you’ll need to take two SAT Subject Tests, submit a video portfolio or complete an alumni interview, and submit a high-quality graded paper.

To apply to PLME, simply complete the Common Application and the Brown Supplement, including the three essay questions specific to PLME applicants.

You do not need to complete a separate PLME application.

By following these steps, you’ll increase your chances of being accepted to this unique, highly competitive program.

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