Post Baccalaureate Information

The Postbac Interest Group of NAAHP has compiled a variety of articles to help advisors and students understand what postbac study is all about. We suggest you begin with the FAQ & Glossary found on the main postbac page and then proceed to read through the articles that have been published over the years in The Advisor. There is also a presentation from the 2006 NAAHP National Meeting. We hope this information provides clarity and guidance regarding postbac study.

Article and PDF Links

NAAHP Postbac Interest Group

Chair Jodi Domsky
Bryn Mawr College
CAAHP Representative Harold Bardo
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine
NEAAHP Representative Betsy Merideth
Goucher College
SAAHP Representative Rob Cannon
UNC-Greensboro
WAAHP Representative Jodi Olsen
Scripps College
NAAHP Liaison Carol Baffi-Dugan
Tufts University

FAQ & Glossary

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  1. What is the difference between a “career changer” and an “enhancement” Postbac Program?
    Generally the target population of these two programs differs. A “career changer” program is geared to students who have completed little or no premed science requirements whereas an “enhancement” program targets students who have done those sciences but need to redo some or do additional science courses to strengthen their science GPAs. For more information on the former go to this article and for more information on the latter go to this article
  2. What are the differences between a structured and an unstructured PB program? Do some PB programs allow both kinds of students?
    A structured program usually has an admission process, reviewing and selecting its students. A structured program has prescribed curricular scenarios that a student can undertake with varying degrees of flexibility; it offers a certificate, and a defined community of students who receive regular advising. A structured program usually provides assistance with all the elements of the medical school application process and provides a letter of recommendation or committee letter along with a service to send letters as part of the application process.
    An unstructured program will be very flexible, with little or no admissions process, allowing all those who are interested to enroll. Some schools may have both types of programs at their institutions simultaneously.
  3. Can I expect PB programs to provide MCAT/DAT/GRE review or prep courses? If so, will there be extra costs for test preparation?
    Whether or not test preparation is included as part of a postbac program varies. Some offer test prep as part of the program, but most do not. Some offer low-cost test preparation, usually taught by former students, but the majority do not. In most programs students have to seek out a commercial test prep course or prepare for the MCAT/DAT on their own.
  4. Will I be considered a graduate student or an undergraduate student as a PB student?
    There is not a definitive answer to this question. It depends. Colleges and universities classify post baccalaureate students differently. For example, some post baccalaureate students are considered seniors with degrees or second bachelor’s degree candidates. Post baccalaureate students at other universities may be considered non-declared graduate students. As a post baccalaureate student you should review the admissions classifications at the university or college of interest to determine where you would best fit. Also, you should consult with the program of interest to determine how you would be classified.
    Your status will impact, if not determine, whether you take undergraduate or graduate courses, as well. Students who are “career changers” are always taking undergraduate courses since those are the premed requirements. Those who are enhancing a record may want to consider the pros and cons of undergraduate versus graduate level work.
  5. How long does a typical PB program take to complete?
    The length of PB programs varies. Many can be completed in one to two years, which may include summer study. In terms of sequencing of courses, two semesters of General Chemistry are taken prior to two semesters of Organic Chemistry.
  6. How much will a typical PB program cost?
    Program tuition costs can vary dramatically from $16,000 to $45,000.
  7. What is the typical course load for a PB student?
    Two – three courses with laboratories per semester are what might be expected in a typical career changer PB program. If a PB student needs to improve his math background, an additional course might be added. To receive financial aid, there are often regulations about how many semester hours of classes must be completed per semester. In a grade enhancing PB program, a PB student might take 3-4 courses per semester in order to demonstrate academic success.
  8. Can I expect a PB program to provide volunteer/service activities for me?
    Generally a structured program and some unstructured programs assist students in locating health- care related volunteer, service and shadowing opportunities. However, many postbac programs will expect you to have already obtained some of this experience before admission in order to demonstrate that you are making an informed choice in pursuing a health profession.
  9. Do PB programs help students in the application process?
    Typically, a structured program, whether a career changer or enhancement, will work closely with each student as s/he embarks on the application process. This likely will include a letter of recommendation, advice about the timing of the application, the personal statement, and selection of schools. Unstructured programs may offer these services but are less likely to do so.
  10. Do PB programs provide letters of recommendation for PB students?
    Many PB programs do provide letters of recommendation/evaluation. These can be in either a Premed Committee Letter format or letters written by individual faculty who teach the required premedical science courses. In some PB programs, PB directors may provide a cover letter for the letters of evaluation.
  11. Will the students in my classes be only PB students, or will there be undergraduate students taking the classes as well?
    Whether or not classes are mixed with undergraduates or separate varies from program to program. Some programs offer classes exclusively for post-bacs, others do not; yet others are a hybrid in that some classes are for post-bacs and some classes mix undergrads and post-bacs. In some enhancement programs, classes may be taken with other graduate students or, in some cases, with medical students.
  12. If I have already had some of the prerequisite courses offered in a PB program, can I still apply?
    It depends on the PB program. Some structured, career- changer PB programs require that PB students take all their premed science courses during the PB program. Other programs, either for career-changers or grade-enhancers, may allow students to enter the programs after having taken a number of the premed prerequisite science courses at other colleges/universities.
  13. Can I retake prerequisite courses in a PB program that I’ve already had in college?
    This depends on the type of postbac program in which you enroll. For career changer postbac programs, the policies can vary. Some allow students to repeat coursework that was completed at least five years prior to enrollment. Others do not allow students to repeat coursework if the only purpose is to improve a poor grade.
  14. Do PB programs provide tutoring support specifically for PB students to help them succeed in their classes?
    Postbac programs differ in services provided to students. In some self-contained programs where everything is done within the confines of the program, tutoring may be offered. In other programs where students rely on services outside the program, students may have to use college or university tutoring services. Postbac students need to have a realistic self appraisal of their strengths and weaknesses and seek postbac programs that will address their weaknesses and enhance their strengths. As such, those students who need tutoring should seek programs that make it a point to provide tutoring within the program.
  15. Are there student clubs specifically for PB students?
    Typically, there are not specific clubs for postbac students. At some programs, postbac students can join the same clubs that other undergraduates can join. There is a national association called the National Association of Non-Traditional Premed and Medical Students whose website is www.oldpremeds.org.
  16. What is typically required in the application process to PB programs?
    Typically, programs require applicants to submit a formal application (including essays), application fees, two letters of evaluation, official transcripts, and standardized test scores. Some programs with more open admissions policies may only require an application, an application fee, and official college transcripts.
  17. What makes a successful postbac applicant and subsequent postbac student?
    Post baccalaureate students are expected to have certain qualities and characteristics. Whether it is an application to a post baccalaureate program or an application to the profession school, successful students demonstrate both ability and work ethic to succeed academically and the motivation based on a mature understanding of the profession. As older students, post-bacs are typically more self-aware. Ideally they have sought out exposure to their chosen profession and also developed qualities of resilience, respect for others, integrity and dedication. These students should seek help where needed but also need to be self-motivated and independent. Once enrolled in a postbac program, a student will find the help necessary to prepare for professional school. The student will, however, be expected to work very hard and handle what is expected as a mature adult.
  18. How can I find out more about postbac programs?
    We suggest that you read the articles on the NAAHP website and then investigate individual programs by starting with the searchable database maintained by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Post baccalaureate (PB) program
A program of study at the undergraduate or graduate level, which allows students who have already earned a baccalaureate degree to either obtain for the first time their premedical prerequisite coursework or allows them to enhance their current science coursework in order to make themselves more competitive for the medical school admissions. These programs are available only to those students who have earned a bachelor’s degree.

Structured PB program
A structured postbac program is one in which the curriculum is highly defined and generally inflexible. Students usually enroll in two semesters each of chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, and physics.

Unstructured PB program
An unstructured PB program is often more flexible with how students begin and end their program of study. They often have more liberal or open admissions policies, and may offer fewer support services. They can usually serve both career changing and grade enhancing students, and may or may not grant a certificate at the completion of the program.

Certificate-granting PB program
A certificate-granting postbac program gives students a certificate upon completion of all the requirements of the program. This is not the same as a degree.

PB student
A student who has already earned a bachelor’s degree who is currently in a postbac program or is simply taking courses after they have received their bachelor’s degree even if s/he is not in a formal program.

Career-changer
A person who has decided to pursue a career in medicine or other clinical health profession after receiving a bachelor’s degree with undergraduate coursework that did not include the premedical prerequisites.

Grade-enhancer
A person, possibly a biology or other science major in college, who may have already taken the premedical prerequisites, but who needs to retake courses for higher grades. A grade-enhancing PB student may also need to take upper level science courses to demonstrate the capability to be academically successful. Grade enhancers may or may not have taken the MCAT. If MCAT scores are low, a grade enhancing PB student may use a PB program to help bolster their MCAT or other standardized test scores. Grade or Academic Enhancing PB programs may offer courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Some programs located at medical schools may offer PB students the opportunity to take first year medical school courses.

Special master’s program
Special master’s program are designed for grade enhancement and serve students who prefer to earn a master’s to taking further undergraduate science courses to strengthen their candidacy. There are a number of Special Master’s Degree granting programs available and most, if not all, are affiliated with specific medical schools. Be sure to read the articles here and here to learn more about these programs. Many are noted on the AAMC website.

Groups underrepresented in medicine
“Underrepresented in medicine” means those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the medical profession relative to their numbers in the general population.

Educationally or economically disadvantaged students
Educationally disadvantaged students are those students who experienced barriers to learning by the social, cultural, regional, political, and economic environments in which they live.
Economically disadvantaged students are those who come from families with an annual income below a certain level, which is based on low-income thresholds according to family size published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, adjusted annually for changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Glide or gap year
The glide or gap year is the year after completion of a postbac program, during which students apply to medical school. The medical school application process is more than a year long and cannot be started until courses are completed and the MCAT is taken. Therefore postbac students must apply during the year following their program completion. Most students use this year to do beneficial things within the medical profession that enhance their view of medicine and their application to medical school.

Post-bachelorette program
Students are often unable to pronounce the word “post baccalaureate,” so instead they say “post bachelorette.” There is no such thing as a post bachelorette program. However, Webster’s Dictionary defines a bachelorette as a bachelor (or unmarried) woman, so a post bachelorette would be a woman who is no longer single. Therefore, a post bachelorette program would be a special program for women who are no longer single or unmarried. It probably would not be designed to help them gain admission to medical or other health-related professions schools.

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