Many medical school applications do not apply to medical school straight out of college. More and more students are having to do post-bacc programs whether it is to enhance their GPA or change their career focus to medicine after college. There is a plethora of post-bacc programs available on AAMC’s post-bacc database. So how do you choose a post-bacc program when there are so many options? The following are the factors you should consider. Prior to committing to any school, you should always talk directly to representatives to the school to gather more information. Usually finding information online is not sufficient.

Most important factors

Program focus

Why are you going to a post-bacc? Were you a life science major and now you are trying to increase your GPA before applying to medical school? You should be going to Academic Record-Enhancer programs. Did you decide on going to medical school later in college or after you graduated? Have you taken no medical school pre-requisites? You should attend a Career-Changer program. Are you an underrepresented minority? Or have you had significant disadvantages in your education? You should heavily consider a program that focuses on underrepresented minorities or disadvantaged students.

Previous Success

This is the most important factor. How successful are the students who previously attended the post-bacc program? What percent of the class is accepted to medical school? You’ll notice that as this percentage gets higher, the harder it is to be accepted to the post-bacc program. These data usually are not obvious from the program’s website or AAMC’s post-bacc database.  You might have to talk to the program’s representatives directly.

Linkages/Affiliations

Often times post-bacc programs are linked or affiliated with medical schools. This means that there is some sort of partnership between the program and medical school. Not all partnerships are created equal. Some programs have linkages where their students are guaranteed interviews at a specific medical school. Other programs have a strong track record of sending students to specific medical schools. Investigate the nature of the linkages/affiliations. Normally the more the linkages and affiliations, the better.

Application Advising

Does the program help you when you are applying to medical school? Are there people to guide you in writing your personal statement, selecting medical schools, and practicing interviews? Or is this something you have to figure out on your own? Having experienced advisors help you on your application is extremely important. Stronger post-bacc programs tend to have good advisors that will appropriately lead you through the medical school application process.

Secondary Importance

Academic support and extracurricular opportunities

Consider your post-bacc program an extension of college. You need a high GPA but also a strong resume. Is the program you are interested in invested in the success of their students? Is there tutoring available if your struggling? Similarly, can you be involved in extracurricular opportunities when you are attending the post-bacc? Can you do research? Volunteer? Shadow? These factors are especially important if you are changing careers because it is likely that you have not done any of these extracurricular activities yet.

Cost

How expensive is the program? Remember that you’ll also be spending roughly $200,000 on medical school as well. Is there financial aid? Scholarships? Although the quality of the program is most important, don’t forget cost.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to properly do your research before choosing a program. Don’t just rely on information you find online. Talk to people from each program to get more data. Most importantly, talk to people who’ve attended the program and see what their thoughts are. Choosing the right post-bacc program can make a big difference so don’t take the decision lightly.

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Edward Chang

Edward Chang is the Co-founder and Director of Operations of ProspectiveDoctor.com. He graduated from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and is currently a urology resident at the University of Washington. He also attended UCLA as an undergraduate, graduating with a major in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology. If you are interested in contributing to ProspectiveDoctor.com, please contact him at edwardchang@prospectivedoctor.com. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter, @ProspectiveDr.

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