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Six Things to Look for in a Pre-Medical Post-Bacc Program

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Many aspiring physicians are attending pre-medical post-baccalaureate programs before applying to medical school. In 2019, 14.9% of medical school students responding to the American Association of Medical Schools’ Matriculating Students Questionnaire said they had spent time in a post-bacc, either to improve their record or to make up prerequisite courses.i These programs are ideal both for career changers who’ve been working in another field for a while and for people who are finishing up undergrad and know they need to strengthen their application.

There are more than 300 post-baccs in the U.S. right now (we should know; we rank them all). How do you find the one that’s right for you? Here are six factors to consider when looking for a pre-med post-bacc.

Is This Program for Students Like You?

Different post-bacc programs have different purposes, so make sure you do your research before applying to work out if your needs fit that purpose. Some post-baccs are for career changers: older students who have been pursuing another career who now want to switch to medicine. Some are for application improvers: those people fresh out of undergrad who want to boost their science GPA or get more access to research opportunities.

Others focus on serving pre-meds from cultural or ethnic backgrounds that are underrepresented in the medical community, such as the Wy’East Post-Baccalaureate at Oregon Health Sciences University for Native American pre-meds.

Does This Program Have Linkages to Medical Schools that Interest You?

We’ve talked about post-bacc medical school linkages before. These are formal agreements post-bacc programs make with medical schools. Usually, these agreements involve offering preferential admissions consideration to students who successfully complete the post-bacc program.

It might be tempting to apply to a post-bacc program that has linkages to extremely prestigious schools, or many linkages. However, think carefully. Linkage programs often restrict you from applying to other schools during that application year. They’re not a guarantee. Unless you’ve done your research and absolutely know that a linked medical school is right for you, it may be a good idea to keep your options more open.

Are There Research or Clinical Experience Opportunities?

Career changers may want to consider this point more than other pre-meds. Medical schools consider applicants holistically, so if you don’t have any clinical experience, such as shadowing or volunteering, you will want to ask whether a post-bacc offers it as part of the program. If not, you’ll have to arrange your own clinical experiences.

Some programs also include research experience as part of the curriculum. If you’re interested in a PhD or an MD/PhD program after your post-bacc, these kinds of programs could be right for you.

Is There Advising or MCAT Prep Available?

One major bonus of pre-med post-bacc programs is that they are specifically focused on getting you into medical school. As a result, they’ll often provide personalized application advising as well as prep for the MCAT. This can be especially beneficial if you didn’t have a pre-med advisor during undergrad, or if you went to a large university where you didn’t get much time with your advisor.

Make sure you ask about advising and MCAT prep: how soon in the program does it start, and what kind of help is offered? If you’re weak at interviewing, for example, will there be seminars or role-playing sessions that focus on improving interview skills? What’s the average MCAT score for students in this program? Most of our best-ranked pre-med post-bacc programs offer this kind of advising and test prep.

What Financial Aid Is Available?

It’s a myth that post-bacc programs don’t offer financial aid. As long as you qualify for federal financial aid and you haven’t already hit your federal borrowing limits, you should be able to apply for some kind of federal loan support. Scholarships, private loans and private grants can also help defray the cost.

You can check out our best-value post-bacc programs, which match scholastic effectiveness with cost-effectiveness.

How Many Students Matriculate into Medical School?

Finally, the million-dollar question: how many of the students from this post-bacc program go on to become medical students? If you’re applying to a just-launched program, this question may be difficult to answer.

However, most established programs will be able to offer you a breakdown of outcomes: how many graduates entered medical school and how they did there, plus what happened to non-matriculants who completed the post-bacc.

Good luck in your search!

i https://www.aamc.org/system/files/reports/1/msq2018report.pdf, p. 6

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