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One school I know of, University of Pittsburgh, has an early admission program to its graduate schools (law, business, medicine, and others) for qualified juniors. That is, students can apply to the program in the second semester of their junior year, and if admitted, can use the first year of the graduate program as their "senior year," in terms of credits needed for their bachelor's degree.

More to the point, this school has "guaranteed" graduate admissions for outstanding high school students, to which one of my smartest high school classmates was admitted. She had outstanding grades (4.0) and board scores (1500), and was "guaranteed" a place in the medical school upon matriculation. The minimum requirement was that she had to take a "general science" major (biology, chemistry, physics), and earn a 3.75 GPA, but given her high school achievements, this was not in doubt. (She now has a thriving practice.)

For someone that knows what they want, are there any meaningful downsides to "enrolling" in a graduate program (medicine, law, business), right out of high school?

  • This makes no sense. Are you sure you mean graduate admissions for high schoolers? Because I have not seen this. My department (and others at my school) have a fast track that allows undergraduates to take graduate classes as seniors, but not high schoolers. – Sean Roberson Aug 13 '18 at 0:25
  • Say more here. What country is this? Does your first paragraph refer to high school (a US concept) or a Baccalaureate program? If a US high school, does the person immediately start graduate studies or must complete undergraduate first and then is already admitted to the graduate program? – Buffy Aug 13 '18 at 0:25
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    The examples you mention are actually professional programs, not traditional graduate programs. Normally, though, even professional programs require an undergraduate degree. – Buffy Aug 13 '18 at 0:27
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    All I can gather from google is a few situations in which a professional school (say medicine) will give an early decision for later admission to a high school student provided they complete an appropriate undergraduate program. It might be a specially tailored program, actually, with fewer requirements than normal, but I didn't dig that deep. – Buffy Aug 13 '18 at 0:44
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    These kinds of BA/MD programs are fairly common and have existed for a long time (a friend was in one back in the 1980's when I was an undergraduate!) There is a lot of pressure on students to get good grades in the tough pre-med courses, and some students drop out of the program to complete a conventional bachelor's degree even if they plan to go on to medical school eventually. – Brian Borchers Aug 13 '18 at 0:45
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If you are sure that you want to be in a particular profession, say law, then these programs can provide a bit of a short cut. However, if you change your mind along the way you may wind up with an "unusable" education as it may be missing critical elements needed elsewhere.

However, if you can change your mind and still have a good path forward, then there should be no real downside. In particular, if the intervening years include a real undergraduate degree in a meaningful field, then there is no reason to actually finish the professional program. There isn't a contract that you have to fulfill.

In some ways this is just a marketing stunt by a school who wants to increase applications of good students. There are no guarantees on either side, I'm sure, as the student has to fulfill the requirements stated to move on to the professional portion, and the student is free to leave at any time that they feel their needs aren't being met.

But a program that is so specialized that you don't get a good general education along the way would, in my view, be a mistake. A mistake for the individual as well as for society. A program that only makes technocrats can turn out people who are actively dangerous as their world view is too narrow.

Moreover, if you want to later extend your education beyond the professional training you get in such a program, you may find that you don't have the needed background. That would depend on the details, of course.

Actually, I also question the wisdom of encouraging people of that age to 'lock in' to a particular profession. A lot of changes happen in the lives of 17-18 years olds. As a parent I would discourage such things in favor of a more general education in which they could put off such decisions until they have more perspective. I recognize that not everyone feels that way, of course. If a kid wants to be a doctor simply because both mom and dad are doctors he/she should really look around first. (I feel the same way about academia as a profession, in fact.)

  • "But a program that is so specialized that you don't get a good general education along the way would, in my view, be a mistake." That's not the situation here. They can do any undergraduate degree. – Anonymous Physicist Jul 27 '19 at 23:48
  • "I also question the wisdom of encouraging people of that age to 'lock in' to a particular profession." Also not the situation here. – Anonymous Physicist Jul 27 '19 at 23:48
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Essentially, the guaranteed admissions program is an incentive for excellent students to choose to enroll in the university's undergraduate program. For the average student, admission to a medical school is very valuable. To an excellent student, admission to any medical school is easy to obtain, and therefore admission to a particular one is not worth much. In exchange for the incentive, the student gives up the opportunity to enroll in an undergraduate degree elsewhere. For an average student, that is a small sacrifice. For an excellent student, who could enroll anywhere for an undergraduate degree, it is a higher cost.

In short, the better the student, the worse the deal they are getting. The university is probably only offering this program to the best students it thinks might accept the offer.

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    Note that undergraduates in these programs are typically not required to enroll in the graduate program at that institution. I knew a number of students in my undergrad institutions BS/MD program who got admitted into "better" medical schools and left after the BS degree. – Brian Borchers Jul 29 '19 at 4:28
  • Even though you're not locked in, if you know you have guaranteed admission, you might be tempted to just take it rather than go to all the trouble of applying elsewhere, even if you might have a chance of getting into a "better" school. So that's a possible downside too. – Nate Eldredge Jul 29 '19 at 5:14

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