Ah, the infamous question that pops during small talk of all kinds because people just genuinely want to know what you’re doing in life because they are nosy they care. Post-baccalaureate programs are essentially intense focused programs that gear their participants (usually those who have already acquired a bachelor’s) into or toward a certain field. It could be for medicine or it could be for a certificate to teach or for something else. Each program is different. Sources of the increasing number of these programs, specifically pre-medical programs, have been credited to the economy or to the overall shift of the culture of medicine itself. Medical schools are tapping into those students that upon successful completion of these programs tend to do well in medical school due to their non-linear paths (not coming straight from an undergraduate institution). I guess you can call it…resilience? Tenacity? Determination? Perseverance? Whatever, it doesn’t matter. You get my point.
Despite my understanding that many people don’t know what these programs are, I find myself constantly tempted to shout “Google it!” when asked, but instead, the conversation usually goes like so:
In the grocery store:
“What are you up to today?”
“Nothing really. Just studying!”
“Oh, so you’re a student! Are you at the medical school or the college?”
“Um, I am a post-bacc student. So, I am in-between college and med-school.”
*Awkward smile and silence*
At the coffee shop:
“What are you studying?”
“The cardiovascular system”
“Cool! Are you a medical student?”
“No, I am a pre-med post-bacc student. I already have a bachelor’s degr—“
“OH MY GOSH I WAS THINKING OF DOING THE SAME THING. I am really into studying how the body works and you know…helping people.”
*Feigns a sincere smile*
At multiple family/friend gatherings:
“Why hello there, honey! How is medical school!?”
“Oh, I am not in medical school. I am in a post-bacc so, I am trying to get into medical school.”
“But you’ll be a doctor eventually, right?”
“Oh of course you will! You only have like four more years of school and training right?”
“Eight or so excluding applying for medical school which I am not in yet.”
“Oh, stop! We should start calling you Dr. Willies!”
“Please don’t. You’re jinxing me.”
For lack of my complete description of said post-baccalaureate program, here’s the AAMC description:
“The purposes of these programs vary. Some are designed for persons wishing to change careers; these individuals have not yet completed the science courses required for medical school application. Other programs are designed for persons wishing to enhance an existing academic record; these students have taken the requisite courses, but need to improve their GPAs to increase the competitiveness of their medical school applications. Still other programs are specifically designed to assist persons from groups currently underrepresented in medicine or from educationally or economically disadvantaged backgrounds.”
In a nutshell there it is! Everyone does these programs for different reasons but for the same goal. The program I am in encapsulates all of these reasons so yes, every program is different. All of the students have bachelor degrees and are getting molded into the country’s future doctors.
To get a better idea, here are some clips from an old NYtimes article:
“What a student misses by going alone, however, is the support provided by an academic adviser who will act as sounding board, guide and writer of the all-important letter of recommendation to medical school committees.”
Of the programs listed on the A.A.M.C. site, about 40 identify themselves as for “groups underrepresented in medicine.”
But in the past decade, it has been the older student looking for a second career in medicine that has driven the growth in the number and profile of the pre-med post-baccalaureates: about 80 programs are listed specifically for career-changers who lack science prerequisites; about 80 are labeled “academic record enhancers,” for recent graduates who took math and science but did poorly, or failed to get into med school the first time around. The programs are not interchangeable: programs intended to enhance grades assume a second pass at the material, and undergraduate and post-bac grades in those subjects are usually melded to present to medical schools.
As Ms. Grassini notes, the time and money needed for a post-bac is worth it only if you are getting into medicine for altruistic reasons. “Health care as a career choice can be good if you want to help people,” she says. “If you are looking for notoriety or the big bucks, that’s a tougher road and maybe you should have been a doctor at a different time.”
These programs have been known for their positive voodoo on medical school admission, but not all of them come with a guarantee of admission. Nonetheless, if you are able to do so, post-bacc’s are a great way to become not only a more competitive applicant, but a more competitive medical student.
The post-bacc program I am currently in has done nothing but better myself as a person, a student and potential physician. So, if you’re interested in making a change in order to do medicine I would check the growing number of post-bacc’s popping up around the country. There are more than you think.