Undergrads interested in pursuing medicine often ask us about whether or not it is worth it to do a premedical post-baccalaureate “post-bac.” A premed post-bac is a focused program that provides the required coursework for medical school admissions. As the name suggests, these programs are designed to complete after you have earned your Bachelor’s degree.
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Doing a post-bac program means taking an additional year of full-time classes, or more if you are studying on a part-time basis. While adding a year or more to your education may seem like a tall order, consider that doing a post-bac has the advantages of allowing you to:
- Focus Solely on the Premed Curriculum: Undergraduates confront so many competing priorities – graduation requirements, new friends, sporting events, volunteering opportunities, work, study abroad programs, and the list goes on. It can be difficult to schedule and focus on the classes that count towards medical admissions requirements. The premed post-bac has the major advantage of a focused curriculum that you complete without the distraction of being in college.
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- Improve Your GPA & BCPM: By the time you are in a premed post-bac, you have already spent four years improving your study habits and learning how you best learn. With the additional experience of being a student and in a focused environment where there is a clear purpose of going on to medical school, you will likely achieve higher grades than you would have as an undergrad in the same classes. The grades you earn in your post-bac program will impact your overall GPA, and since you will be taking premed classes, your GPA here will largely make up your BCPM (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math grades, used as a separate metric to assess medical school candidates).
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- Ready Yourself for the MCAT: Rather than spacing out all of the classes that correspond to MCAT subjects over four years, why not consolidate them into one high-intensity year and study for the MCAT simultaneously? The premed post-bac classes will reinforce the MCAT material, and the MCAT studying will help you do better in your classes, and might even give you some successful studying strategies that bring up your in-class test scores.
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- Get Strong Letters of Recommendation: Letters of recommendation from science faculty that have taught you are required for medical school applications. However, as undergrad premed classes tend to be large, (sometimes over 300 in an intro science class), it is really difficult to get to know your instructors well enough to ask for a letter of recommendation and even more difficult for them to remember who you are well enough to write a compelling letter. By contrast, premed post-bac programs tend to be small with classes sizes generally not larger than 30 students. You have the opportunity to stand out and to get to know your instructors well during the academic term. As a result, you can get more personal and meaningful letters of recommendation from your science faculty.
- Explore Other Disciplines during Undergrad: Increasingly, medical schools are differentiating candidates by their breadth and diversity of experiences. While science majors still make up a significant portion of applicants and admits to med school, admissions committees are increasingly looking for students that demonstrate cultural competency. The premed post-bac frees up your undergraduate course load and allows you to take advantage of unique opportunities at your undergraduate institution. For example, without having to worry about when you will be able to take Physics I, maybe you will be able to spend fall semester abroad in Krakow studying music, literature, and WWII history. Or perhaps without being quite so stressed about weekly O-Chem problem sets you will be able to volunteer at a local Emergency Department on weekends. Surprisingly, by removing the premedical curriculum from your undergrad years, the laser-focused premed post-bac actually helps you become a more well-rounded, culturally competent candidate.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ProspectiveDoctor. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter @ProspectiveDr