Increasingly, students are taking time off in between completing their undergraduate and medical school, often referred to as “gap” or “bridge” years. For many, this additional time is used to help strengthen their applications to medical school. While there are many different ways to do this, one way is to complete a post-baccalaureate (post-bacc) program. But how do you know if a post-bacc is right for you? Here are seven benefits to consider when deciding whether to complete a post-bacc program or not.
It’s important to remember that as you prepare for, and apply to medical school, there isn’t one set path you must take; it’s okay if your path takes different twists and turns along the way. Increasingly, applicants are taking gap years, sometimes called bridge years, between graduating from college and applying to medical school in order to gain more medically-related experience, pay down educational debt, or prepare for the MCAT exam.
One way to help strengthen your application during a gap year is to complete a post-baccalaureate (post-bacc) program. Enrolling in a post-bacc program may offer you a chance to strengthen your transcript and knowledge base before you apply to medical school, and can be a good bridge between completing your undergraduate studies and entering medical school.
You may be asking, “How do I know if a post-bacc program is right for me?” Here are seven benefits to consider when thinking about completing a post-bacc program:
1. Extended access to advisors
Pre-health advising extends beyond your undergraduate years as you continue through a post-bacc program. The advisors in these programs may better understand your challenges and concerns, as they specialize in helping students preparing for medical school.
2. Medical school linkage programs
Post-bacc programs are sometimes housed in, or affiliated with, a specific medical school. While attending and successfully completing a post-bacc program does not mean that acceptance in the affiliated medical school is guaranteed, participation in an institution’s post-bacc program will give you the advantage of becoming familiar with the medical school faculty, mission, and environment before you apply.
3. Built-in volunteer opportunities
A number of programs have community service woven into their curriculum, or allow time to pursue your own volunteer interests. For example, an institution may designate every Tuesday as a day that students can take an extended study break and make a difference in their community.
4. Exclusive networking and programming
Due to their relationships with medical schools, many post-bacc programs bring in prominent lecturers and faculty members to present to their students. This exposure to medical professionals gives you the opportunity to learn more about potential career paths, and allows you to engage with people who may become role models or mentors for you in the future.
5. Flexible structure and scheduling
Because post-bacc students have already graduated from college and may be looking to support themselves financially while also gaining experience in the field, many programs offer one- or two-year plans so that you may choose between attending school full- or part-time.
6. Accelerated coursework
One of the most common reasons students elect to attend post-bacc programs is that they did not satisfy the necessary science course requirements while earning their undergraduate degrees. These programs condense the necessary classes into a more streamlined schedule that can take less time to complete.
7. MCAT preparation
If you haven’t already taken the MCAT exam or are looking to improve your score, MCAT test prep classes are often included within these programs to help you feel confident enough to take the exam by the time you complete your coursework.
Keep in mind:
Post-bacc programs can be expensive. Programs are available at both public and private institutions, so be sure to explore programs where you may qualify as a state resident, and always ask for information about financial aid.
Programs vary in the length of time they take to complete. Most programs range from one to two years.
Programs are geared for different types of students. Use the AAMC’s post-bacc database to search for the program that matches your needs, such as academic record enhancers, underrepresented minority students, other health professions students, or economically or educationally disadvantaged students.
Programs can award different degrees. Some programs award a certificate while others grant a master’s degree upon successful completion of the requirements. In addition, both undergraduate and graduate level post-bacc programs are available.
See the AAMC website for more information and resources about post-bacc programs. A post-bacc is just one way to help you as you navigate your journey to medical school. Be sure to talk with your pre-health advisor to determine if a post-bacc program is right for you. And don’t forget to learn about other ways to make the most of your gap or bridge year.