Postbaccalaureate (postbac) premedical programs are an increasingly popular option for aspiring physicians to secure entry into medical schools. For example, over 15 percent of the incoming class within medical schools in 2011 participated in such programs. There are a huge number of postbac programs out there, a list of which is maintained by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). Here, we outline the five most important elements to consider when choosing a premedical postbac program.
1 | Does the Program’s Model Fit Your Needs?
Your previous academic background will ultimately dictate what postbac programs you will apply for. In general, there are two types of students who apply for postbac programs: the nontraditional students who did not take premed courses in undergraduate but became interested in medicine later, and the premed students who finished the premed core requirements but had less-than-competitive GPA and MCAT scores.
Postbac programs are subdivided into two models that service each swathe of students. For instance, Bryn Mawr’s postbac program “offers highly motivated career changers who never took the premedical courses the opportunity to complete an intensive, full-time preparation for medical school in one year.” In contrast, UCSF’s postbac program is designed for “individuals who have been unsuccessful in gaining admission to medical school or who have completed the required undergraduate course work, but feel they need more preparation before initiating the medical school application process.” Furthermore, keep in mind that some programs are geared specifically towards students who came from underserved backgrounds.
2 | Does the Program Offer Financial Aid?
Look for postbac programs that have robust financial aid programs and packages, as many postbac programs are extremely expensive. For example, the tuition for Johns Hopkins’ postbac program is $40,100 for the 2018-2019 academic year. This cost can further compound the debt accrued in college (an average of $30,000 in 2015) and medical school (an average of $200,000 in 2017). Take the time to visit each postbac program’s associated financial aid website. Determine if their financial aid office offers grants or scholarships, and if you qualify for them. At the minimum, make sure they offer Federal Direct Loans and that their office is well-versed in processing financial aid applications.
3 | Does the Program Have a Successful and Transparent Track Record for Getting Students into Medical School?
Make sure that the postbac program has a proven track record for getting students into medical school. As previously mentioned, postbac programs can be extremely expensive and require an investment of 1-2 years. Therefore, it is important for you to see a commensurate return on your investment.
Start by visiting the program’s website. They should at least advertise their overall medical school acceptance rates. For example, Bryn Mawr’s postbac program clearly states that they have “a consistent medical school acceptance rate of more than 98 percent.” It is a red flag if the program does not readily advertise their success rates.
4 | Does the Program Have Linkages to Medical Schools You Want to Attend?
Visit each program’s website and see what linkages to medical schools they have. A major strength of reputable postbac programs is that they offer linkages to specific medical schools. Essentially, these are conditional acceptance to a linked medical school provided you do well in the postbac program. A definition of a linkage can be found on the Columbia postbac program’s website: “a formal agreement between the Postbac Premed Program and a medical school, which enables highly qualified Postbac Premed students with a strong interest in one of these schools to accelerate the application process.” In general, the more reputable postbac programs will have greater quantity and quality of linkages. Keep in mind that the difficulty of getting into such reputable postbac programs increases concomitantly.
5 | Does the Program Offer Support and Opportunities Beyond the Classroom?
Look for postbac programs that offer extracurricular services that will help you distinguish yourself and ultimately get into medical school. These include writing a personalized letter of recommendation for your medical school application, one-on-one advising for when you apply to medical school, and integrated MCAT preparation. Some programs might even feature built-in opportunities for clinical shadowing, research, or community service. To reiterate, postbac programs are expensive and you want to ensure you maximize your investment.
Getting into medical school is difficult, and postbac programs are an increasingly popular path for students to secure entry into medical school. It is important to thoroughly research and select the postbac program that best fits your needs. Start by visiting each program’s website and focusing on the five elements we discussed. Then, contact representatives and staff from the program to get more information. Finally, ask for access to the contact information of current and/or former students and seek testimonials on their experiences in the program. If you’d like additional help in deciding on the best post-bacc program for you, our team has the experience (including top medical school admissions experience) and expertise to help you navigate the process and ultimately maximize your chances of securing a medical school acceptance. Learn more on our services page.