“I just don’t think you are smart enough to get into medical school”, were the words my academic advisor uttered to me during my third year of college.  I went to a small school in southern NJ.  There was no medical school nearby and I did not have any mentors that were physicians.  My academic advisor was a biologist.  What exactly did she mean that I was not smart enough?  I had a full scholarship, plus a few other scholarships and a 3.45 GPA.  I am sure I could have had a higher GPA, but summertime biochemistry was not my friend.  However, in the eyes of some, despite my achievements, I still wasn’t smart enough to get into medical school.

Unlike some of my peers, I had to work during my undergrad years.  So, instead of volunteering/shadowing in the medical field, I found a job at a doctor’s office to be able to have that experience of being in the medical environment that would be crucial on my medical school application.  So, right before my final year in college, I left the casino and worked as an office assistant in a doctor’s office.  I took a huge pay cut, but knew it was what I needed to do.  This was my “volunteer” experience.  No, it was not a hospital, but my time there proved to be useful.

As graduation approached I had no solid plan moving forward.  I knew I would have my degree in Biology and a part time job as an office assistant.  Taking a year off was important to me as I kept the same pace with my studies and activities in high school and college.  I even took summer courses to make my final semester in college a little lighter.  Lucky for me I was offered a job as a medical assistant in the medical office I was working in.  That made my post graduate plan a little easier.

During my year working as a medical assistant, I did research on medical schools and the medical school requirements.  I had all of the requirements, an okay GPA, experience in the medical field, solid letter from a physician, and extra-curricular activities.  But there was this “year off” that stuck out in my mind.  I was out of my study rhythm.  So, I enrolled in a post-bacc program at my top pick school.  I commuted (an hour and change) for the first semester and worked full-time.  It was then I realized I had bitten off more than I could chew.  Did that year off kill my brain cells?  No.

This post-bacc program could have ruined my chances of getting into medical school.  I had a good GPA from undergrad and all of the required courses for medical school admission.  I absolutely did not need the post-bacc program.  I ended up withdrawing from one of the courses during my first semester.  This could have been detrimental, but my decision to withdraw was logical.  With that being said, there are pros and cons to post-bacc programs.

Considering the one I was enrolled in was through my top pick school, it made a few things a little easier.  Some of the programs let you test out of certain labs or classes in medical school.  Some post-bacc programs are in the evening, while some require you to take certain courses with medical students.  Some “guarantee” you a seat in medical school if you maintain a certain GPA, while others will simply “highly consider” your application if you do well.  The one I went to highly considered your medical school application and if you did well in the histology lab as a post-bacc student, you could test out as a medical student.  Yes.  That is what I did.

Post-bacc programs can be helpful or they can be hurtful to your medical school application.  If you are just taking a year off for fun and not doing anything medical related, this may be a good option to get you back into the swing of things.  I had several medical school classmates that used a post-bacc program to improve their GPA from undergrad.  Looking back, had I had a mentor during that time I may not have attended the post-bacc program.  However, I did learn how to study more effectively and was exposed to the medical school environment.  So, I guess for me, although it was rocky in the beginning, it worked out in my favor in the end.

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