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Tips for Succeeding in a Pre-Med Post-Bacc Program


Maybe you’re thinking of enrolling in a pre-medical post-bacc program. Maybe you already have enrolled in one. While only 14.8% of medical students who enrolled in 2022 told the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) that they pursued a post-bacc program before starting their MD program (table 7), it’s still a valid pathway to medical school for thousands of students each year. Whether you’re completing a post-bacc to improve your academic record or need to make up prerequisites, we have some advice for how to make the most of your experience.

Level Up Your Study Skills

A pre-medical post-baccalaureate isn’t just an opportunity to boost your GPA or take science courses you couldn’t fit in during undergrad. It’s also an opportunity to cultivate the advanced study skills you’ll need to handle medical school after you complete your post-bacc.

You’ll need to be more proactive about planning your study sessions than you may have been while earning your bachelor’s degree. Use your course syllabi to create a calendar that includes any major tests or project due dates, then block out time to study for those tests or complete sections of those projects.

Commit to daily reviews of your notes, create or invest in flashcards, and consider pulling together a study group of classmates that meets on a regular basis. Finally, don’t forget about the MCAT—while some post-bacc programs will offer structured prep or coaching opportunities, others may not. Either way, you’ll need to balance studying for the MCAT and studying for class.

Get to Know Your Advisors and Instructors

Post-bacc instructors and advisors have one goal: helping you get into medical school. Take advantage of whatever access you have to them during your post-bacc program. Advisors can help you connect with extracurricular opportunities, refine your list of medical schools to target, and sharpen your application materials. Instructors can help you if you’re stuck with certain concepts in class, advise you of research opportunities, and connect you with other academic resources such as writing workshops.

Finally, of course, both instructors and advisors can write letters of recommendation if you need them.

Think Carefully About Pursuing a Linkage

Linkages are one of the main attractions for many students considering a pre-medical post-baccalaureate program. However, linkages are not for everyone, and can carry as much risk as reward. Make sure you have answers to the following questions:

  • How many students from this post-bacc have successfully pursued this linkage?
  • What does the linkage actually offer me (e.g., preferential consideration or a guaranteed interview)?
  • What academic standards do I have to meet to qualify for the linkage?
  • Are there specialized coaching or mentorship opportunities for students who pursue this linkage (tours of the linked medical school, talks with current students, etc.)?
  • If I pursue this linkage, will I be restricted to applying only to the linked medical school next year, or can I apply to others?
  • Is the linked medical school actually a good fit for me and my goals?

Doing your due diligence on linkage opportunities can help you stay on target during your post-bacc.

Take Full Advantage of Networking and Clinical Opportunities

Unless you’re doing a DIY post-bacc, you are likely to be offered extracurricular opportunities during your program. These can include networking opportunities with medical schools, such as medical student meet-and-greets or guest speakers, or clinical experiences, such as shadowing or volunteering. Make sure you participate in as many of these as your schedule allows.

The networking opportunities can help you get a better feel for how your goals align with those of different medical schools, while the clinical or volunteering opportunities can help you get a better feel for the kind of medical professional you want to become.

Have a Plan B (or C, or D)

While the vast majority of students who pursue a post-bacc are likely to be totally committed to a medical career, it does happen sometimes that post-bacc students get halfway through their program and realize their passions actually lie elsewhere.

Take time before starting your post-bacc to consider what else you might want to do if you change your mind about medical school. Would you pursue another health professional program, such as podiatry, dentistry, or even a physician assistant program? Would you apply the advanced science knowledge you’ve gained to a career in research, healthcare administration, or even medical device sales?

Exploring the other options you can pursue as a post-bacc graduate is a good backup plan, and can also help take some of the pressure off you to getting into medical school at all costs—if you change your mind about becoming an MD, you’ll know you’re still advancing your education for a reason

Care for Your Physical and Mental Health

While it’s crucial to work hard academically, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Unplug from your devices and close your books for a few hours a week. Eat a balanced diet, exercise, and try to get adequate sleep. This isn’t just common sense: prioritizing self-care is also a key professional skill you will need as a healthcare professional.

The epidemic of burnout among physicians and other practitioners is real, and it’s a real threat to the safety of patients and the integrity of our healthcare services. While some of the factors driving that burnout are systemic, making time to learn to cultivate a work-life balance during your post-bacc program can help you be better-equipped to survive in medical school—and beyond.

Find a Post-Bacc Program That Works for You

Haven’t found a pre-med post-bacc program yet? Our listings and rankings can help you find the right one for you. Start browsing Post-Bacc Program Guide today!

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