You’ve just graduated from college and you’re ready to take on the world! You want to apply to medical school, but as you do a competitive analysis of your application, you realize that your GPA is one of the low points. A tool like the MSC Score can help you understand where you stand amongst other applicants, and how medical schools may evaluate you. If it looks like your GPA is low compared to the average medical school matriculant GPA, pursuing a post baccalaureate or special masters program is a great way to strengthen your application and make sure you’re putting the best application forward.
The admissions process for medical school is highly competitive. In order to give yourself the best chance of getting in, it’s important to have a strong AMCAS/AACOMAS/TMDSAS application. One way to make your application stand out is by enrolling in a post baccalaureate program. These now ubiquitous programs are seemingly a right of passage for many premeds. While these programs are a great utilization of time and resources for many candidates, they are not for everyone. You must weigh multiple factors before diving into these programs, including the very high cost on one hand. On the other hand, you can sometimes even assure yourself a seat in a medical school class should you get into the right post-bacc program.
Digging a little deeper, a post baccalaureate program is designed for students who have already completed their undergraduate degree and are looking to enhance their academic record before applying to graduate programs. These programs are sometimes referred to as special masters programs, academic enhancer programs, or career changer programs.
The first type of post-bacc program is for the career changer. These are programs that are specifically designed (usually over 18 – 24 months) for students who have decided that medicine is what they want to do a bit later. If you were out in the finance world for multiple years and decided that your 7 figure salary is not cutting it and want to jump back into the world of helping others lead healthier lives, welcome! Even if you started out premed and took one or two science classes, these career-changer programs may still be for you. In essence, you will be taking the usual premed course load, which includes general chemistry, biology, organic chemistry and physics with their lab components, plus math, psychology, biochemistry and other courses to supplement your education. Many of these programs are somewhat flexible in terms of which supplemental courses you have to take (for example, if you took calculus as an undergrad, you won’t have to take it again and can instead take an elective course). These programs are great for those who are switching careers for a number of reasons, including most importantly providing a basic structure to follow. Some of these programs allow night classes as well if you need to work while going back to school. Most of the programs will also provide some opportunity for extracurricular work while you are there including research and clinical opportunities to improve your eventual medical school application. Most will also allow you to factor in at least some MCAT study time. Since the prerequisites classes are required for medical school, if you haven’t taken them as an undergraduate these career-changer post-bacc programs are a usually a great option. The other option if you haven’t taken the perquisite courses as an undergrad would be to find a four-year university and enroll in classes on your own. We’ll call this the “do it yourself” option, which may allow you to continue working full-time and find classes that fit your own schedule. This route has it’s pros and cons as well, so you have to find which one best fits your unique situation. We’ve outlined some of them below to get you thinking about which may be right for you.
These programs typically last one or two years, during which time you’ll take coursework in the sciences, complete clinical rotations, study for the MCAT and potentially even get to shadow physicians.
In their simplest form, academic enhancer programs provide a way to prove to medical schools you have the academic wherewithal to get through the first two years of medical school. These programs are for those students who took most or all of their pre-med classes in college, but their overall GPAs didn’t quite shine (although it varies on a case by case basis, think 3.6 or below as a good indicator that you should at least consider an academic enhancer program). These programs may also benefit students who got rejected from medical school the first time around or simply want to enhance their academic record before applying. In these programs, students are typically enrolled in graduate level classwork. The exact subjects vary from school to school but could include topics like:
You’ll find a lot of academic enhancer programs that have varied and interesting coursework. The goal of taking these advance classes is to prove to medical schools that you can do well in classes that are science heavy and difficult.
There are subsets of academic enhancer programs that will even put you directly side by side in the same exact classes as first year medical students. We believe that these programs truly help medical school admission committees look past less than desirable grades in undergrad.
Imagine you are on an admissions committee and come across an application that was a smattering of A’s and B’s in undergraduate level work. You may look at this applicant as a borderline applicant when it comes to academic promise and wouldn’t be sure he or she could handle medical school work. You’ll likely put aside that application. But now imagine reading that same application with a whole year of first year medical school classes on it. If the grades are good, the student has unequivocally proven they have what it takes academically to succeed in medical school. Now the rest of the application actually gets looked at (and all those great extracurriculars).
Let’s do a simple thought exercise from an admissions committee point of view to see why a special masters and post-bacc program may be so appealing:
All other things being equal, an adcom will select applicant B. Why? That applicant has proven they can handle medical school classwork, while it’s unclear if applicant A can. So a weaker undergraduate GPA can be made up for with a stong post-bacc GPA.
Imagine further you are on an admissions committee and come across an application that was a smattering of A’s and B’s in undergraduate level work. You may look at this applicant as a borderline applicant when it comes to academic promise and wouldn’t be sure he or she could handle medical school work.
You’ll likely put aside that application. But now imagine reading that same application with a whole year of first year medical school classes on it. If the grades are good, the student has unequivocally proven they have what it takes academically to succeed in medical school. Now the rest of the application actually gets looked at (and all those great extracurriculars).
How are these grades factored into your application? It depends a bit on the program you join. Some programs will offer advanced undergraduate courses which will be directly factored into your overall undergraduate GPA. This can help in bringing the undergrad GPA up, but given that most of these programs are only a year long and they will be factored into 4 years of undergrad courses, the GPA may have a hard time budging. Other programs will be considered graduate level and will actually be on a separate line in your application. This can help draw the eye of the admissions committee to a more impressive GPA which can help your application tremendously. Which route is best is dependent on your individual situation, but in general always aim for the program that will give you the best opportunity to succeed.
A very important consideration about your grades in an academic enhancer program is the timing of them. If you are applying to medical school in the same year you are doing the program, your grades will not be on your AMCAS application (ie you are trying to get into medical school right after you graduate your post-bacc program). While the program will still be impressive, and you can always update schools with some of the grades after the first semester, the full
Remember, the AMCAS application opens in May of any given year. That means that if you apply the same year you are doing a post-bacc program, your grades will not actually make it onto your AMCAS application. Of course, you can update schools later with letters of intent, however, this will not help you with initial filters set by schools. This is why it’s important to consider a post-bacc before you apply in many cases. Since most admissions decisions happen between November and April, the only schools that will typically wait for your full grades to come back before making a decision will be the school with which your program has a linkage.
You’ll hear the term linkage thrown out a lot when it comes to post bacc programs and it is a great opportunity offered by many programs, but there are several important things to consider that we’ve outlined below. A linkage may allow you an interview at a particular school, but an interview isn’t equivalent to an acceptance by a long shot. That said, there are many programs which take a substantial number of their own students who perform well in their programs which can prove to be a great opportunity for someone who can shine during their post-bacc year. It also eliminates the “glide year” which means that you can start medical school the fall of the year you graduate your post-bacc program (as opposed to waiting another whole year prior to having those grades be evaluated by medical school).
Linkage is a formal agreement between the a postbac premed program and a medical school (or several medical schools, of which you can typically choose one), which enables highly qualified students with a strong interest in one of these schools to accelerate the application process (ie apply while they are still in the post-bacc program)
However, beware of an “Interview only” linkage. Some programs offer a guaranteed interview for their applicants, but an interview is not an acceptance. Just because a school offers 50% of their students an interview don’t get too excited. How many of these students are actually accepted is the important question to ask.
Remember, linkages are typically only good for 1 school. That means that you can guarantee yourself an interview at just one school by performing well (and as above, a medical school interview may not mean much in the long run).
|Post-Bacc Program Name||Linkages/Affiliations|
|Agnes Scott College||Mercer University School of Medicine|
|Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences||Albany Medical College, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine|
|Arizona State University||Students complete their capstone projects at health care sites such as Mayo Clinic, Banner Health and Arizona Department of Health Services.|
|Arkansas Colleges of Health Education||Arkansas Colleges of Health Education|
|Barry University||Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM), Orlando College of Osteopathic Medicine (OCOM) & Barry University School of Podiatric Medicine (POD)|
|Benedictine University||Marian University, LECOM, AT. Still University, Ponce School of Health Sciences|
|Bethel University||Bethel University - Physician Assistant Program|
|Boston University School of Medicine, Graduate Medical Sciences||Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine|
|Bryn Mawr College||Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Boston University School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences|
|California Northstate University (CNU)||California Northstate University|
|California Northstate University, College of Health Sciences||California Northstate University College: Medicine, Dental Medicine, Pharmacy, Psychology, Graduate Studies|
|California State University, Los Angeles||Western University of Health Sciences|
|California University of Science and Medicine||CUSM MD|
|Campbell University Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine (CUSOM)||Campbell University|
|Case Western Reserve University, Master of Science in Medical Physiology||Cleveland Clinic Foundation, University Hospital Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center|
|Master of Science in Medical Physiology||Cleveland Clinic Foundation, University Hospital Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Hospital of Cleveland|
|Case Western Reserve University Master of Science in Applied Anatomy||University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Hospital of Cleveland|
|Case Western Reserve University||Cleveland Clinic Foundation, University Hospital Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Hospital of Cleveland|
|Case Western Reserve University Master of Arts in Bioethics and Medical Humanities||Cleveland Clinic Foundation, University Hospital Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Hospital of Cleveland, Neighborhood Family Practice and Hospice of the Western Reserve|
|Case Western Reserve University||University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Hospital of Cleveland|
|Case Western Reserve University Master of Science in Nutrition||University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Louis Stokes VA Hospital of Cleveland|
|Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science||UCLA|
|Chatham University, Master of Arts in Biomedical Studies (MABS)||West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Chatham University Master of Physician Assistant Studies program|
|Cleveland State University and Northeast Ohio Medical University NEOMED-CSU Partnership for Urban Health Postbacc||Students attend CSU in Cleveland, OH during 2-year postbacc portion and are granted provisional admission to NEOMED in Rootstown, OH, pending completion of all requirements at CSU. Students may not work full-time during regular academic year.|
|College of Science & Technology (CST); Temple University||Lewis Katz School of Medicine, George Washington College of Medicine, PCOM, SUNY-Downstate, Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine|
|Colorado State University||Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine (RVUCOM). RVUCOM has guaranteed up to 6 positions annually to applicants who have graduated from our Master's program.|
|Columbia University Irving Medical Center||Narrative Medicine - Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer - Irving Center for Clinical Research - Mailman School of Public Health - Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center - New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center|
|Creighton University||Creighton University|
|Des Moines University||Des Moines University|
|Drexel University College of Medicine Intensive Medical Sciences (IMS) Program||Drexel University College of Medicine, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (New York); (Drexel Undergrads ONLY: international students eligible for IMS and Drexel MD)|
|Drexel University College of Medicine Drexel Pathway to Medical School (DPMS)||Drexel University College of Medicine MD Program|
|Drexel University College of Medicine Interdisciplinary Health Sciences (IHS)||Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine, Salus University Doctor of Optometry & Doctor of Audiology programs|
|Drexel University College of Medicine Master of Biomedical Studies (MBS)||Drexel University College of Medicine, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (New York), (Drexel U. Grads ONLY: international students eligible for MBS and Drexel MD)|
|Drexel University College of Medicine Evening Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical (PMED)||Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine|
|Drexel University College of Medicine Master of Medical Science (MMS)||Drexel University College of Medicine, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (New York), (Drexel Undergrads ONLY: international students eligible for MMS and Drexel MD)|
|Eastern Mennonite University||program has a number of articulation agreements with various professional health programs including osteopathic, optometry, physician assistant, and podiatry. For more information http://emu.edu/ms-biomed/post-emu-study/|
|Eastern Virginia Medical School||Eastern Virginia Medical School|
|Elms College Postbaccalaureate Premedical Studies||Marywood University, Western New England College of Pharmacy, LECOM DO, Dental, Pharmacy|
|Elms College Master of Biomedical Sciences Degree Program||LECOM DO and DENTAL, WNEU Pharmacy, LECOM Pharmacy, Marywood PA, Assumption PA|
|Florida Atlantic University Post-Baccalaureate Medical Certificate Program||Florida Atlantic University|
|FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine||FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine|
|Furman University||University of South Carolina School of Medicine - Greenville|
|Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth||Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Graduate Programs in Arts and Sciences at Dartmouth, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction, VT|
|George Mason University/Georgetown University||George Mason University Georgetown University|
|George Washington University||GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences|
|GeorgeSquared GeorgeSquared Advanced Biomedical Sciences Graduate Certificate||Georgetown University Medical Center, George Mason University|
|Georgetown University MS Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences (IMHS) Program||Georgetown University Biomedical Graduate Education, Georgetown University Medical Center|
|Georgetown University Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Certificate Program||Georgetown University, George Washington University, New York University, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson and the University of Pittsburgh|
|Goucher College Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program||University of Pennsylvania, University of Chicago Pritzker, University of Michigan, Alpert (Brown), George Washington, Weill Cornell, Stony Brook, Univ. of Maryland, Hofstra, Univ. of Pittsburgh, NYU|
|Heritage University Master of Arts in Medical Sciences||Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine (PNWU-COM)|
|High Point University Masters of Science in Biomedical Sciences||High Point Univeristy's Graduate Programs in Physician Assistant Studies, Dental and Oral Medicine, Physical Therapy|
|Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai||Cooper Union|
|Keck Graduate Institute||Pomona College, Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College, Harvey Mudd, Scripps College, and Claremont Graduate University|
|Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine||LECOM Erie, LECOM Seton Hill, LECOM Bradenton|
|Larkin University Masters of Science in Biomedical Sciences||Clinical Shadowing available through Larkin Community Hospital|
|LaSalle University Postbaccalaureate Premedcial Certificate Program||Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine|
|Lawrence Technological University||Lawrence Technological University PA Program|
|Lewis University||Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine|
|Loyola University Chicago||Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine|
|LSU Health New Orleans School of Public Health||LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine|
|Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine||Marian University|
|Marymount Manhattan College Biology Post-Baccalaureate Program||Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Touro College of Pharmacy.|
|Medical University of South Carolina Master of Science in Medical Sciences||Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina College of Dental Medicine|
|Midwestern University Master of Arts in Biomedical Science||All Midwestern University Professional programs: medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, podiatry, optometry, veterinary medicine, physician assistant, physical therapy, cardiovascular perfuion|
|Mills College Postbaccalaureate Program||Linkage Agreements: Western University of Osteopathic Medicine|
|Quinnipiac University Graduate Biomedical Sciences||Frank Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University|
|Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences||Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science|
|Rutgers University New Brunswick Postbaccalaureate Prehealth Program||Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School|
|Saint Louis University Medical Anatomy & Physiology Certificate Program (MAPP)||Saint Louis University|
|Saint Xavier University Post baccalaureate Certificate in Medical Science||Ponce Health Sciences University, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, A.T. Still Osteopathic School, Midwestern School of Pharmacy|
|Saint Xavier University Master of Science in Medical Science||Ponce Health Sciences University, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, A.T. Still Osteopathic School, Midwestern School of Pharmacy|
|Salus University Post-baccalaureate Program in Health Sciences||All Salus University graduate & professional school programs: Optometry, Audiology, Blindness & Low Vision, Occupational Therapy, Speech Language & Pathology, Physician's Assistant, Orthotics & Prosthetics & Biomedicine programs|
|School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University Premedical Graduate Health Sciences Certificate (CERT) Program||VCU School of Medicine, VCU School of Dentistry|
|Scripps College Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program||Scripps offers linkage affiliations with University of Michigan, George Washington School of Medicine, Hofstra Northshore LIJ, University of Pittsburgh, Western University College of Osteopathic Medicine|
|South Dakota State University Human Biology||Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Des Moines University|
|Southern Illinois University Carbondale Master of Biomedical Science||Southern Ilinois University School of Medicine|
|Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Medical and Dental Education Preparatory Program (MEDPREP)||Southern Illinois University School of Medicine|
|Stanford School of Medicine REACH (Racial Equity to Advance a Community in Health)||Stanford|
|SUNY Upstate Medical University MedPrep Academic Enhancement MS in Medical Technology||SUNY Upstate Medical University|
|Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Graduate Medical Sciences, M.S. in Biomedical Sciences||Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso Paul L. Foster School of Medicine|
|The Ohio State University MEDPATH Post Baccalaureate Program||The Ohio State University College of Medicine|
|The University of Iowa Master of Clinical Anatomy||The University of Iowa|
|Thomas Jefferson University Postbaccalaureate Pre-Professional Program (P4)||Linkage agreement with Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine|
|Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine MS in Interdisciplinary Studies in Biological and Physical Sciences||Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine|
|Touro University California MS in Medical Health Sciences||Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine|
|Tufts UniversityPost Baccalaureate Premedical Program||Linkage Agreement: Tufts School of Medicine, BU School of Medicine, UMass Med and University of New England COM linkage; Joint Acceptance with Tufts Dental School.|
|Tufts University School of Medicine MS in Biomedical Sciences (MBS)||Tufts University School of Medicine|
|Tulane University School of Medicine One Year Masters in Pharmacology Program||Tulane University Tulane University School of Medicine|
|Tulane University School of Medicine One Year Masters Program in Physiology||Tulane University|
|Tulane University School of Medicine Structural & Cellular Biology ~ Masters Degree Program ~ MS Anatomy||Tulane University School of Medicine|
|Tulane University School of Medicine One Year Master of Science in Molecular Medicine||Tulane University Health Sciences Center|
|Tulane University School of Medicine Two Year Master of Science in Molecular and Cellular Pathobiology||Tulane University Health Sciences Center|
|Tulane University School of Medicine One-Year Masters Program in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology||Tulane School of Medicine|
|UCLA Extension Pre-Medical and General Science Studies Certificate||UCLA|
|University at Buffalo, State University of New York Masters Program (SMP) in Biological Sciences||University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine|
|University of California, San Francisco UCSF Interprofessional Health Post Baccalaureate Program||UC Berkeley Extension|
|University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine Master's in Pharmacology with emphasis on Preclinical & Clinical Drug Safety||Cincinnati Children's|
|University of Connecticut Pre-Medical and Health Professions Post-Baccalaureate Program||UConn School of Medicine, UConn Health Center|
|University of Delaware Premedical Post Baccalaureate Certificate Program||"Strong relationships with regional and international medical/health profession programs of study."|
|University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of MedicineʻImi Hoʻōla Post-Baccalaureate Program||University of Hawaii at Manoa|
|University of Louisville Postbaccalaureate Pre-medical Program||University of Louisville School of Medicine|
|University of Michigan Medical School, Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies (OGPS) Postbac MEDPREP Program: Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program||University of Michigan Medical School|
|University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Pre-Professional Program||Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine|
|University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine Master of Biomedical Sciences||University of the Incarnate Word|
|University of Vermont Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program||University of Vermont College of Nursing & Health Sciences|
|University of Vermont Master of Medical Science||University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine|
|University of Virginia U.Va. Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program||Linkages with George Washington University School of Medicine and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine|
|Virginia Commonwealth University Undergraduate Post-Baccalaureate Health Sciences Certificate Program||VCU, College of Health Professions, School of Dentistry, School of Medicine, School of Pharmacy|
|Wake Forest University Graduate School, Biomedical Programs Biomedical Sciences MS - Pre-health Pathway||Wake Forest School of Medicine (MD program and PA program)|
|Washington University in St. Louis Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program||Case Western Reserve University College of Medicine,University of Michigan Medical School.|
|Wayne State University PreMedical Post Baccalaureate Program||Wayne State University School of Medicine Office of Diversity and Inclusion|
|Western University of Health Sciences Master of Science in Medical Sciences||Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, College of Dental Medicine, College of Pharmacy, and College of Podiatric Medicine.|
Since the vast majority of students in SMP programs are pre-meds, it’s natural that the MCAT is top of mind. MCAT preparation can sometimes be built into a post-bacc program, and it’s a great extra perk if it is. One has to be considerate of timing of the MCAT in order to assure you are not taking it too early (ie before you really have a strong grasp of the fundamentals and time to study or too late depending on when you are applying). Keep in mind that for career-changers, this is the first time you are seeing the material on the MCAT, so don’t rush through trying to do MCAT prep and learn the material at the same time!
Below is a sampling of great post-bacc academic that are directly associated with at least one medical school (a more complete listing is available through referencing the AAMC searchable database):
While the answer for medical school applications is often 25+, for post-bacc programs you do not have to apply to nearly as many. In fact, 4-5 should be more than enough. Pick programs based on the curriculum you enjoy, the tuition, their other opportunities and location. You may also want to ask the program some specific questions, some of which we’ve listed below.
What are some questions to ask potential post-bacc programs?
There are many benefits of enrolling in a post baccalaureate program. First and foremost, these programs give you the opportunity to improve your academic record. If your GPA from undergrad wasn’t as high as you would have liked, taking additional classes can help offset that. In addition, clinical rotations give you first-hand experience shadowing physicians and working with patients—an experience that will be invaluable once you’re in medical school.
If you’re considering applying to medical school, enrolling in a post baccalaureate program is a great way to make your application stand out. The cost can certainly be steep, but the benefits are great too, including the opportunity to improve your academic record, gain clinical experience, and receive financial assistance for attending medical school. By taking advantage of all that a post baccalaureate program has to offer, you’re setting yourself up for success in both your application process and your future career as a physician.
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