Are you a college senior or graduate who has begun just recently to think about a career in medicine? If so, your first step should be acquiring patient care experience through volunteering. Once you’ve done so and have made a well-informed decision, your next step is to sort through the available options for academic preparation.
Colleges and universities throughout the U.S. now offer post-baccalaureate pre-medical programs for college graduates who have completed no or few pre-medical science courses. A complete listing of these programs is available on the website of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) at http://services.aamc.org/postbac/. Read the entries very carefully as some of the programs have limitations with respect GPA, state residency, under-represented minority status, and the like. A number of programs are “feeders” to specific medical schools; many offer both full-time and part-time enrollment, and some offer financial aid. All offer structured preparation (which often includes MCAT review) and solid advising support.
The downside to these programs is that they tend to be pricey, particularly at private institutions. Before you commit significant amounts of money and time, you may want to try one or two introductory science courses (first-semester biology or general chem, for example) at your local state school or community college — a less costly way to see how well you handle “hard core” sciences, particularly if you’ve been away from them since high school. Simply completing all the pre-med requirements on your own, without a formal program, is also an option. Should you choose the independent route, it’s best to take the courses at a four-year institution rather than a community college.
By Joan Davis, who for eighteen years advised medical school applicants at the University of Rochester, can advise you as you go through the medical school application process.