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Post-Bacc Medical School Linkages – What Are They and How Do They Work?

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If you’re looking to enroll in a pre-med post-bacc, you’ve probably heard about “linkages”. Linkage programs are admissions agreements between post-bacc programs and medical schools, and they’re often a major selling point for post-baccs.

However, the exact benefits of linkages are often unclear and confusing. Many students assume post-bacc programs with linkages guarantee admission to the linked medical schools upon successful completion of the post-bacc. Linkages are more complicated than that.

Linkages Don’t Guarantee Acceptance into Medical School

Linkages with post-bacc programs often offer post-bacc graduates preferred consideration for admission—provided those graduates meet certain requirements. However, linkages do not guarantee acceptance into a medical school upon completion of a linked post-bacc program. We’ll repeat that: there’s no guarantee you’ll get in to a medical school linked to your post-bacc!

The major advantage of a linkage is that it offers the opportunity for a more straightforward admissions process. Your post-bacc and the linked medical school will be in constant communication. The admissions committee at the linked medical school will know exactly what you studied in your post-bacc and will understand the rigor of the program. You may even have the opportunity to meet with staff or students from your linkage school during your post-bacc.

Linkages Have High Performance Expectations

To qualify for a linkage program, students need to meet performance requirements above and beyond “passing the linked post-bacc”. For example, Johns Hopkins University’s post-bacc program explains that to qualify for linkages, students will have to meet course, GPA and MCAT score requirements exactly as they would for a general medical school application. i

There is one important caveat: “Students may not apply to more than one school, and if admitted they will be expected to attend and not apply elsewhere.” ii

Linkages Have Binding Agreements

While post-bacc programs may advertise that they have linkages with multiple medical schools, that doesn’t mean students can expect preferred consideration for admission at every medical school listed.

Most post-bacc linkage programs have binding agreements. That is, students who indicate they want to pursue admission through a linkage agree only to apply to one of the options. Furthermore, students usually agree not to apply to any other medical schools within that application year.

If you have an otherwise excellent record and are completing a post-bacc to gain a specific prerequisite or other experience, you may be better off applying to a wide number of schools.

Linkages Consider Undergraduate Performance, Not Just Post-Bacc GPA

Washington University of St. Louis notes that some of its post-bacc program linkage partners consider undergraduate GPA separately from post-bacc performance while others combine the two GPAs. For this reason, Washington University recommends not pursing a linkage if you are completing a post-bacc to improve your GPA. While this scenario differs across schools, it is important to remember that not all linkages are the same!

If you are applying to a post-bacc program with an eye on taking advantage of a linkage opportunity, make sure you discuss with an adviser what the specific requirements are, and which aspects of your academic record bear the most weight in the eyes of the linkage school’s admissions committee.

Who Benefits most from Post-Bacc Linkage Programs?

Career-Changer Post-Bacc Students: Students with an excellent academic record in another field who are pursuing a post-bacc to shift into medicine are most likely to have the undergraduate GPA necessary to qualify for many linkage programs. Record-improver post-bacc students may struggle to meet this requirement.

Students Pursuing a Two-Year Post-Bacc Degree: Some medical schools, such as Washington University in St. Louis, will only offer linkage opportunities to students in a two-year special master’s degree programiii Many schools want to see at least a year’s worth of performance (and spend a year getting to know students) before recommending them for a linkage program.

Students Who Have a Specific Medical School in Mind: Some students have their hearts set on a specific program. Pursuing prioritized consideration for admission through a post-bacc linkage program is often worth it to these students, even if binding agreements mean they can only apply to that school during that year.

Consider the Post-Bacc First, Linkage Second

Linkages can offer an excellent opportunity for preferred consideration at select schools, but they’re not for everyone. Ask about linkages if they interest you, and take time to make sure you fully understand the requirements for each. But don’t let linkages be the deciding factor in your choice of a post-bacc. Choose the one that offers the development you need to improve your profile as a medical school applicant first.


i https://krieger.jhu.edu/postbac/on-to-medical-school/medical-school-linkages/

ii https://krieger.jhu.edu/postbac/on-to-medical-school/medical-school-linkages/

iii https://ucollege.wustl.edu/programs/post-baccalaureate/premedical/linkage-faqs

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