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After College, Before Medical School

 


 Taking Time Off

Many students choose to take time off between college graduation and medical school, whether because they finish their required coursework later or because they wish to explore another interest before attending medical school.  The years in between college and medical school are an excellent time to pursue research opportunities or to gain work experience in other fields of interest, which may help you decide whether medicine is the right career for you.  Some also choose to take time off during school, allowing them time to explore various activities on campus without schoolwork. More information about taking time off can be found below.

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Taking Time Off Before Medical School

Traditionally, there was one way of applying to medical school; taking the MCATs sometime during junior year and then applying to medical school as seniors to go directly from college to medical school.  Recently, this has changed because students now have the opportunity to take time off between college and medical school.  Several reasons for taking time off include taking more classes to improve their academic standing, pursuing non-academic goals such as a Fulbright fellowship or the Peace Corps, earning money before medical school by working, or exploring the medical profession further to make sure it is the right choice for them.  Regardless of the reason, students who take time off before medical school can gain valuable life experiences or improve their academic records.  This section includes suggestions of how to make the most use of the year (or more) off in between college and medical school.

–Peggy Wong, U.C. Berkeley

Taking a Year Off

Post Baccalaureate Programs

Formal post baccalaureate premedical programs are designed to make students more competitive applicants for medical school admissions and are open to students who have already completed their undergraduate Bachelor's degree. Although there are many different types of programs that vary in structure, they generally can be divided into two main categories: career changers and academic enhancers. Additionally, there are a small number of programs specifically designed for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and groups underrepresented in medicine.

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Career Changer Programs: 

Students who decide that they want to become a physician but did not take the basic science courses as an undergraduate or individuals who become interested in medicine later in life after working in a different field can still pursue a career in medicine through a post-bacc program for career changers. These programs help students from a "non-traditional" background complete the admissions requirements for medical school; they are designed for students who have completed none or very few of the basic science prerequisites.

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The programs typically last around a year and a half, during which all of the basic science courses are taken. One of the biggest advantages to these programs is that they offer extensive premed advising and help with med school applications, MCAT preparation courses, and often provide students with composite letters of recommendation. They also will often help students arrange internships or volunteer positions in local hospitals. Another attractive feature of these programs is that many offer linkage programs with provisional early acceptance to certain medical schools; in a few linkage programs, it is not even necessary to take the MCAT provided that a high GPA is maintained throughout the duration of the post-bacc program (for example, post-bacc students at Johns Hopkins can apply for a linkage with Brown University and the University of Rochester without having to take the MCAT[1], and post-baccs at Bryn Mawr can waive the MCAT requirement through linkages with certain schools[2]).

Admission to this type of formal post-bacc program is very competitive, and undergraduate GPA is usually one of the most important factors taken into consideration. Additionally, students must demonstrate their commitment to healthcare through volunteer or internship experience. The medical school admission success rate is on average very high for students in formal post-bacc programs. The post-bacc program at Scripps College, for example, has a 97% acceptance rate into medical school[3], Bryn Mawr College has a 98% acceptance rate[4], and Goucher College boasts a 100% acceptance rate over the past 10 years[5].

However, this success does come at a price. The principal downside to formal post-bacc premedical programs is that they tend to be rather expensive. While some financial aid is usually available, students often must apply for private loans. Enrolling in a post-bacc program is a serious financial commitment; interested students should consult the financial aid advisors at the schools they are interested in.

For a complete list of schools that offer post-bacc programs for career changers, visit the following link from the AAMC website and search "career changers" under the special program focus category:
http://www.services.aamc.org/postbac/

Academic Enhancer Programs:

Post baccalaureate premedical programs for academic enhancers are designed for students who have already taken all or most of the science prerequisites for medical school but need to make their academic record more competitive; typically the goal is to strengthen their science GPA. The basic idea is to give students the opportunity to prove themselves by taking demanding science courses, and in the process of doing so students are typically awarded a master's degree or certificate. These programs are designed for students who perhaps did not do as well as they would have liked during their undergraduate courses, but are dedicated to pursuing a career in medicine.

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Typically, a formal academic enhancer post-bacc program consists of a combination of coursework, seminars, MCAT preparation, and healthcare related internships or volunteer work. The students pursuing this type of program often come from very different backgrounds and have different needs; for some, their biggest concern is improving MCAT scores, for others it is obtaining higher grades in competitive science classes. Because of the diversity of students, these programs are much more individualized and unstructured than career-changer programs. Most of these programs offer upper-level science courses and the opportunity to obtain a Masters of Science (MS) in order to demonstrate science mastery and be a more competitive applicant for medical school. Keep in mind that these programs do not replace your undergraduate GPA, but rather provide additional coursework beyond your Bachelor's degree, in most cases, at the graduate level.

For a complete list of schools that offer post-bacc programs for academic enhancement, visit the following link from the AAMC website and search "academic record enhancers" under the special program focus category:
http://www.services.aamc.org/postbac/

Economically disadvantaged/groups underrepresented in medicine programs: 

This type of program is designed for students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds or students from racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession. The goal is to increase the number of these students who successfully gain admission to medical school and therefore to increase diversity in the healthcare professions. For the most part, these programs fall under the category of "academic enhancer" programs. While there are some that focus on helping students complete the basic science pre-medical courses, most consist of upper/graduate level science coursework, MCAT preparation, and advising during the application process. Given how few of these programs exist, admission is usually very competitive.

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For a complete list of schools that offer this type of post-bacc program, visit the following link from the AAMC website and search "groups underrepresented in medicine" or "economically or educationally disadvantaged students" under the special program focus category:
http://www.services.aamc.org/postbac/

Additional links and information:

For a complete database of schools that offer post-bacc premedical programs, visit the AAMC website which is searchable by type of program, state, public vs. private school, and specific institution:

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http://www.services.aamc.org/postbac/

This is a useful summary of post-bacc programs and provides links to other topics of related interest:
http://www.doctorpremed.com/post-baccalaureate.html

This page is from John Hopkins University's Pre-Professional Advising page. It provides useful information relating to the different types of programs and notes important questions to consider when researching and choosing a program:
http://web.jhu.edu/prepro/health/post_baccalaureate.html

This is a link to the Student Doctor Network Forum page for post-baccalaureate programs. Current, past, and prospective post-bacc students share advice and information relating to post-bacc programs.
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/forumdisplay.php?f=71

[1] http://web.jhu.edu/post_bac/medical_school.html
[2] http://www.brynmawr.edu/postbac/linkages.shtml
[3] http://www.scrippscollege.edu/academics/postbac/index.php
[4] http://www.brynmawr.edu/postbac/program.shtml
[5] http://www.goucher.edu/x15377.xml

 

Contact PCPR

General Contact:
Vy Tran

Mailing Address:

Premedical Career Pathway Research 
PO Box 19456
Stanford, CA 94309 

Phone/Fax: 626-487-6797

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