Prior to getting into medical school, I did a post-baccalaureate (Otherwise known as a post bacc) program. Specifically, I did a Special Master’s Program (Sometimes referred to as an SMP) as my post back program.
More on why I did that later…
So, after a year of doing a post bacc program, do I think it was worth it in order to get into medical school?
Read the post to find out.
Why Did I Decide To Do A Post Bacc Program?
If you are new to my blog I recommend checking out my about page to get a better idea of my undergrad situation. Before getting into medical school I had to jump through a lot of hoops. As always, I recommend following this blog if you too are struggling to gain admission into medical school.
I took a gap year between my undergrad and the start of my post bacc program. One thing I learned during this gap year is that taking a break from academic studies introduces some new challenges.
When you are pre-med in undergrad your “focus” is more or less the same — get good grades and do as many extracurriculars as possible. However, once you enter into a gap year you are on your own, so you have to motivate yourself to be more successful without grades hanging over your head.
So, the challenge is not losing focus, and not letting things like paying the bills get in the way of improving your chance of medical school admissions.
For the most part, I kept my gap year productive. I scribed, I started blogging, and I continued to keep myself involved with the premed community. Nonetheless, not having a structured program left an uncomfortable amount of mystery with my application.
Was I doing everything I could be doing to get into medical school?
The answer was no. Although scribing was a great experience, I haven’t proven to medical schools that I could handle the intensity of their programs.
A post bacc program is designed specifically to turn regular students into medical school caliber students (Most post bacc programs are very intense!). This was exactly what I needed. I had already proved to medical schools that I was motivated, I hadn’t proven that I was capable of the workload.
Here Is An Explanation Of What A Premed Post Bacc Program Is
First of all there are two kinds of post bacc programs — those designed to enhance your undergraduate performance, and those designed to provide you with the necessary pre-reqs for medical school.
For the enhancer post bacc you have 2 options. You can find a program that offers a master’s degree (AKA the Special Master’s Program or SMP), or you can do a program that offers a certificate. Both types share the same goal: greatly improving your chances of medical school admission.
Personally, I believe that the master’s route is the way to go. If you end up completing the program and for whatever reason you decide not to attend medical school, you are still given a master’s degree which carries more weight than a certificate.
In addition to this, if you are attempting to obtain a master’s degree you will have a lot less trouble qualifying for student loans. Like medical school, these post bacc programs are very difficult and take up all your free time. Because of this, you are left with little to no time for a side job, this means you will probably have to find an alternative source of income to pay for the tuition and your daily expenses.
I hate loans and I try to avoid them at all costs, but a program like this (or medical school) may make student loans unavoidable.
How Does The Post Bacc Program Work?
I applied to about 5 programs and looked at probably 20 (all master’s programs). They are all essentially the same. The biggest difference I could find is that some programs are 2 years long while most of them are 1 year long.
The idea is to replicate the rigor of your first year in medical school, sometimes even taking classes WITH the medical students. The post bacc program will prove to medical schools that you were able to improve your academics and that you are capable of handling the workload of a med student.
In order to demonstrate this, you need to do really well in the program, which makes it a double-edged sword.
If you do awesome, you have proven your worth to medical schools. However, if you do poorly, you have shown that you weren’t able to improve academically and therefore you don’t have what it takes to be successful in medical school.
There is no post-post bacc program, so this is really your last chance to prove your success to medical schools.
In addition to challenging you academically, post bacc programs will help you improve your resume, providing opportunities for volunteering and research, MCAT prep courses, and much more.
Post Bacc Programs Are Successful
Check this podcast (the premed years session number 198) out for one excellent example.
The programs are proven to be successful. Some programs will even offer link agreements with Medical Schools for enrollment if you keep a certain GPA. I am very confident that if you do well in one of these programs you WILL get into medical school sooner than later.
It worked for me. The first year after my post bacc program I was able to get into medical school.
Are Post Bacc Programs Competitive?
For the most part, no. I applied to about 5 post bacc programs and got into every single one.
That being said, post bacc admission’s committees have told me that they tend to lean towards pre-med students who are already demonstrating an improvement. They want everyone to be successful as much as possible, and the students that do well in post bacc programs tend to have already been showing improvements.
Post bacc programs prove their success by having a high percentage of students move on to medical school, dental school, veterinary school, or PA school. Therefore, they won’t just take someone that is showing no sign of motivation to succeed.
Although this may not have been the only way for me to get into medical school, I’m convinced that the post bacc program was a surefire way of getting in.
That being said, the decision to go or not is difficult because post bacc programs are generally pretty expensive. You’re almost paying for 5 years of medical school instead of 4. In addition to the extra expense, the program will also suck up a year of potential work that could contribute to medical school savings.
In the end of the day, it’s important to focus on the end goal — being a physician. The journey there is long, difficult, and expensive, but anything good in life requires sacrifice.