“Postbaccs” is a generic term that encompasses both bachelor-level and master’s level programs. Record enhancement postbaccs may be an appropriate endeavor for you to pursue if you need to improve upon your academic credentials prior to applying to medical school, or if--after an unsuccessful application--you need to address some academic deficiencies before re-applying.
If you discovered your passion for medicine later in your academic career, or even after graduation, and need to complete your pre-medical academic requirements in an efficient and effective manner, you want to look into postbaccalaureate programs for career changers.
Note that in addition to programs for record enhancement or for career changers, there are also special societal programs designed for individuals who are underrepresented in the health field or come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Some of these programs accept applications directly from prospective students while others require a “referral” from a medical school where an individual previously applied unsuccessfully. Completing such programs at a specified performance level may guarantee admission at those referring medical schools.
Post-baccalaureate programs vary greatly in type, mission, duration, cost, financial aid opportunities, selectivity, structure and size. You should assess carefully your past record, your need for improvement, and the type of program that will best satisfy your specific circumstances. With the help of a pre-medical advisor/counselor and/or medical school admissions officers, you can make informed decisions about the types of programs that best fit your needs. Note however, that you can also take the necessary combination of courses on your own, although most students enjoy the structure and support that formal programs afford.
When evaluating post-baccalaureate programs, consider the following factors:
- Duration of coursework and implications for application timing (one or two years)
- Program focus (career changers, academic enrichment, societal programs aimed to increase the representation of minority/disadvantaged students, etc.)
- Program eligibility (beyond academic requirements, also residency, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, MCAT scores, previous unsuccessful application if applicable)
- Program structure (curriculum components, MCAT preparatory coursework, level of autonomy for students, support services, facilities, etc.)
- Program reputation and success rate (availability of bridge programs: with how many schools and where, how many slots, admission offer vs. interview offer, and early assurance programs)
- Pre-medical advising (access to a pre-medical advisor, reference letter service or pre-medical committee, etc.)
- Access to research and clinical opportunities (mandatory vs. elective, paid/unpaid)
- Alumni relations (opportunities for mentoring, networking, and shadowing)
- Marketability of program (particularly relevant for master’s level programs, and availability of career and support services for those who fail to gain admission to medical school)
- Class composition (class size, diversity, age span, full time vs. part time…)
- Timing of classes (day vs. night courses, ability to pursue employment while in school, etc.) Atmosphere (competitive, relaxed, supportive...)
- Geographical location (proximity to own support system, program recognition with medical schools of choice, etc.)
- Cost (one or two years, opportunities for financial aid, etc.)
- AAMC list of post-baccalaureate programs--searchable by state and type
- Postbaccalaureate programs sponsored by DO Medical Schools--download the most recent version of the Osteopathic Medical College Information Book and look under "Preparatory Programs" in each institutional profile.
- Postbaccalaureate Information compiled by the Postbac Interest Group of the National Association of Advisors for the Health Professions (NAAHP)--see a helpful glossary, robust Q&A, and articles.
Advisor Tip: While there are wonderful opportunities out there to conduct graduate work in a variety of disciplines, if your ultimate goal is to augment your science academic preparation (i.e, improve your science GPA as calculated by AMCAS and AACOMAS for application purposes), you need to focus on programs that afford you ample opportunities to take courses in the basic sciences.