Although choosing the right undergraduate premed program is critical, throughout the year I receive calls from worried students and their parents because students are not getting the support they need from their college. Although I am not particularly surprised when this happens at large public universities, I am seeing more of this phenomenon occur at highly selective private universities. Students with anything less than stellar grades are told to ‘get in line’ for a letter of recommendation, consider ‘alternative career paths’ and even more directly ‘you are not cut out for medical school.’
Doing College and Beyond specializes in helping high school students find the right match for premed programs, but many students did not have this good guidance in the first place. And, frankly speaking, some that do get sound advice, choose to ignore it and select a school based on the rankings and brand name alone. Rankings and a recognizable name, even for Ivy League schools, does not always translate into good support for premeds. For these students, a post baccalaureate program may be the investment that helps them reach their goals.
What is a Post Baccalaureate?
There are several different types of post baccalaureate programs. If you were not premed and are currently in or headed toward a career other than medicine, a career changer program may be right for you. If you are completing or have completed premed undergraduate work, and need to strengthen your premed profile, a post baccalaureate program aimed at this objective may be a good choice for you to consider. The rest of this article pertains to the latter type of program.
A post baccalaureate program begins sometime after earning an undergraduate degree; it supports the transition from undergrad to medical or dental school. These programs address deficiencies in your medical school application, such as completing certain premed requirements, enhancing your GPA, and helping with MCAT preparation.
Is a Post-Bacc program worth it for me?
- They increase your GPA and help you prepare for the MCAT – if your big issues in applying to medical schools are your grades or test scores (you have strong research and clinical experiences already), this type of program could help you
- Some post-bacc programs are linked to medical schools and you have a better chance of getting into that medical school through attending the program
- If you didn’t complete your pre-med requirements, post-bacc programs can allow you to continue working towards them
- About $40,000 per year, which is obviously not insignificant
- Opportunity cost of choosing to take these classes rather than gaining work experience or expanding your research or clinical experiences
- Keep in mind that you’ll also be spending roughly $200,000 on medical school, so you must research programs carefully to make the best decision for your needs
Who Should Do It
- Someone coming to medicine after undergrad, who has not completed pre-med requirements or did a long time ago and needs a refresher
- Someone who has great extracurricular experience, loves medicine, and has a strong application other than their GPA or MCAT score
Sounds like a good fit for me. Where do I begin?
- Start with the Association of American Medical Colleges' list of Post Baccalaureate Premedical Programs and go through it with your own goals in mind. Make sure you’re looking only at programs that match what you want to get out of this experience (linked to a med school for better chances of admission, aimed at getting you through premed requirements quickly, and so on)
- Do not rely solely on the information online—talk with and/or meet the program directors to get a clearer idea of what they offer, how well what they offer fits your needs and what their track record is in helping students get into medical school. Ask about opportunities in the area to have research and clinical experiences while studying
- Does the program provide expert advisors who will guide you through the entire application process or will you need to find that expertise elsewhere
- Talk to the people actually attending or just completing the program for their experiences to learn how vested the program is in student success
- Applications are individual from program to program, but usually include: official transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, and an interview
- Apply in the fall to start in the spring
- See sample admission requirements here
A Closing Thought
Remember, medical school is very challenging, so you want to prepare yourself well in both high school and college for the level of rigor that you will face. Likewise, medical schools want evidence that you are well prepared. Selecting the right premed program is the first and best step; if this step is flawed in some important ways, or you have had a change of heart about career path, a post-bacc program may be just right for you!