A Guide to Post-Bacc Classes for Medical School
April 21, 2017
A Guide to Post-Bacc Classes for Medical School
As a future medical school candidate, you’ve started to take a look at what you need to get your application in order so that you can set yourself up for success. Alongside a strong MCAT score, a compelling personal statement, and excellent extracurricular experiences in shadowing, research, and volunteering, you need to make sure you’ve met all the pre-med prerequisite courses. Similarly, you may have completed the requirements, but are still wondering whether your GPA is high enough to compete with thousands of talented students. Whether you’re missing a class or two, or you want to raise your GPA, you may want to consider taking post-bacc classes for medical school.
According to the AAMC, 279 colleges and universities offer post-baccalaureate options for medical students. Even though they don’t all serve the same group of people, each of these courses can help improve your preparation for medical school and help enhance your application. To help you understand the nitty gritty details of post-bacc classes for medical school, I have elaborated more on what they entail, how they can benefit your application, and what you need in order to gain admission to these programs.
What Are Post-bacc Classes for Medical School?
As the name suggests, post baccalaureate classes, also known as “post-bacc,” are courses designed to enhance academic records for students who have already received their bachelor’s degrees. They typically last for 18 to 24 months and equip students with the academic experience and coursework necessary to boost your application. Not all post-bacc programs are the same. Different ones cater to different types of students.
- Career changers: Many people make the decision that they want to apply to medical school after they’ve already graduated from college. So, they require certain pre-med prerequisites before they can take the plunge. Example schools offering post-bacc classes for career changers include Dartmouth College, Columbia University, Drexel University, Case Western Reserve University, Brandeis University.
- Academic record enhancement: This is another common reason students pursue post-bacc classes for medical school. If you are a candidate who was pre-med in college but isn’t happy with your GPA, you might want to consider a post-bacc program. Example universities which offer post-bacc options for GPA enhancement include Arizona State University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Northwestern University.
- Groups underrepresented in medicine: Post-bacc classes for medical school are also geared towards helping underrepresented groups gain access to medical school admissions. The AAMC defines the groups as ““those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population.” Colleges that offer options for underrepresented groups include Boston University, Duke University, Florida State University, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Johns Hopkins University.
- Economically or educationally disadvantaged groups: Some post-bacc classes are designed to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds. If a student lived in a low-income community or experienced social hardship growing up that may have not given them proper access to education, they make up this group. Schools that offer programs specifically for disadvantaged students include Colorado State University, Des Moines University, Texas Tech University, City College of New York.
You can find the full list of post-bacc programs on the AAMC website, along with the specific group that these schools cater to helping. If your main goal with post-bacc classes is GPA enhancement or prerequisite fulfillment, as you take a look, make sure that you apply only to programs that offer undergraduate credit, because graduate credit won’t boost your college GPA.
Why Apply to Post-bacc Programs?
You may not be sure whether taking post-bacc classes for medical school is the correct route for you. You might wonder whether your gap year before medical school could be a more productive use of your time. While it’s certainly true that you should strengthen all components of your profile, there are several benefits to attending post-bacc programs as a pre-med student. These include:
- Greater access to advisors and enhanced letters of recommendation: As you continue your pre-med education, post-bacc programs allow you to meet instructors who are specialized in helping prospective medical candidates. Because these classes are often smaller than undergraduate science courses, your science professors have the chance to get to know you better and as a result, write more meaningful letters when the time comes.
- Connection to medical schools and programs: Many post-bacc classes for medical school are hosted by the MD institutions themselves. While this doesn’t guarantee you admission to the medical school by any means, it does provide you with the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the schools’ facilities, faculty members, mission statement, and campus environment. That familiarity and knowledge can benefit your secondary essays or interview preparation during the actual medical school application season.
- Volunteering opportunities: Because post-bacc programs are preparing you for the medical school application process, the administration is well aware that you have other elements of your application to pay attention to as well. Many schools have specific days assigned to allow students to pursue volunteering initiatives that help their community. This in turn adds community service hours to your profile and helps convey your altruism and empathy to admissions committees.
- More chances to network: Not only do you have the chance to connect with other pre-med candidates and esteemed faculty members at top medical schools at your post-bacc program, you also can attend lectures by important figures in the medical field as part of your post-bacc experience. This exposure to medical professionals enables you to learn more about future career options, and lets you meet and talk to people who may end up becoming future mentors.
- MCAT preparation: If you haven’t had the chance to take the MCAT — or you plan to retake it for a higher score — post-bacc programs usually include MCAT test prep classes to help you practice and gain the confidence to take the exam once you’re ready.
- Student success: While admission into medical school isn’t guaranteed if you take post-bacc courses, most of these programs have seen general trends of success with their students with regards to acceptance rates. Bryn Mawr College, Goucher College, Johns Hopkins University, Scripps College, and Tufts University all have medical school acceptance rates above 90% for their post-bacc students, which is far higher than the national average of 50%.
Admissions Requirements for Post-bacc Classes
Post-bacc programs can be competitive and admission is by no means guaranteed. If you’re convinced that taking post-bacc classes for medical school is the right path for you and can help boost your application, it’s time to take a look at what you need to do to get started on your application:
- GPA eligibility: Many post-bacc programs have a GPA cutoff for admitting students. California State University, East Bay, for example, requires a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.8, while Temple University wants applicants to boast a GPA over 3.4. Research requirements for programs and make sure you meet the eligibility criteria before applying.
- Standardized tests: Different programs ask for different test score submissions to get a better understanding of your academic capabilities. While not all schools require test scores, you may be asked to submit one of the results from your SAT, ACT, MCAT, GRE, PCAT, DAT, OAT, and even CASPer scores.
- Essays: Writing essays for your post-bacc application can help prepare you for your eventual MD personal statement. Note that not all schools require essays, and those that do have varied requirements. For example, Bennington requires a full-length personal statement while UC schools want a 2500-character essay. Temple University on the other hand asks why you want to apply to Temple for your post-bacc. No matter the prompt, when you write your response, remember to convey a story that is unique to you as well as elaborate on why you want to be a physician. For a “why school” essay, carefully highlight the features that will aid your path to medicine specifically.
- Application deadline: Similar to MD application timing, it’s extremely important that you apply for post-bacc classes for medical school as early as possible. Some post-bacc programs have two different deadlines: an earlier one for medical school reapplicants around March or April, and one in May for first-time candidates. However, because admission is rolling, you need to submit your application as soon as possible in order to gain an edge over the competition.
While post-bacc classes for medical school aren’t for everyone, they can help medical students give themselves a greater chance in standing out in the extremely cutthroat admissions process. If you believe your application can benefit from one of these programs, work hard to apply and take advantage of your time there. Hopefully, you’ll come out of it a stronger candidate. Good luck!