You know you want to become a doctor, but you also realize that you’re not quite ready for medical school. Whether it’s because your profile isn’t as competitive as it could be or if you simply just need more time to study the basics to determine if this is truly the right path for you, a postbac could be your ideal starting point for your future medical career. In fact, any student who would like to become a more competitive applicant to medical school can benefit from completing a postbac program or postbaccalaureate coursework.
Let’s jump right in and determine if a postbac is a solid plan for you, which programs would be a good match, and what steps you need to take to get started.
- 10 postbac benefits
- What types of postbac programs are available?
- 5 tips to help you get accepted into a postbac program
- Postbac program letters of recommendation that will get you accepted
10 postbac benefits
Postbac programs or coursework can help you:
- Fulfill your premed prerequisite requirements
Some students take additional coursework to complete the required prerequisite courses to apply to medical school.
- Improve your GPA (cumulative and science)
Other students take additional science courses to improve their academic record.
- Boost your MCAT scores
If you have a low MCAT score, simply retaking the MCAT – with a course – may be the best approach for you, unless you need assistance in other areas as well.
- Become active in more activities, if opportunities are included
If you need to participate in more activities to strengthen your application, you may consider pursuing clinical experience, expanding your volunteer work interests, or applying to a research program. Most formal postbac programs offer these activities and more.
- Write strong application essays
Often, programs provide support in outlining, drafting, and finalizing your application materials. Sharing your personal statement draft with the writing center on your college campus can also be helpful, if you do not have the support of a formal program. For more advice, see How to Write a Perfect Postbac Admissions Essay.
- Secure impressive letters of recommendation
The additional coursework that you complete – with stellar grades – will provide opportunities for you to request current letters of recommendation from your science instructors. Formal programs also provide these letters.
- Strengthen your team-building skills
It is attractive to be able to include your postbac program or coursework on your application because it indicates that you thrive on teams in the classroom. Taking lab classes or completing research will show teamwork is a strength of yours, if you achieve positive results with high grades or publications.
- Build confidence
Taking additional classes will boost your confidence, as long as you excel academically. If you are struggling, ask for help. Don’t give up on yourself!
- Grow and mature
By taking additional time to prepare for medical school, you will be gaining more life experience and therefore approaching your professional education with more maturity and more clearly defined goals.
- Evaluate your profile
By evaluating the strength of your primary application, realistically and kindly, you can identify the areas you would like to strengthen. Hopefully this list will provide you with the evaluation criteria to locate areas you can change and improve. By using your energy to become a stronger applicant, you can avoid the self-doubt and uncertainty that often accompanies the decision to apply to medical school. Focus on those areas of the application that you have control over and do your best!
What types of postbac programs are available?
There are many different types of premedical postbaccalaureate programs. They are all designed to assist students with matriculating into medical school, but provide different levels of support and target different parts of the application.
- Single focus programs
This type of program allows students to focus only on improving their academic record or taking the premed requirements. This option is great for students who already have an extensive record of long-term service in multiple areas but who simply need to demonstrate that they are ready for the rigorous curriculum of medical school.
- Dual focus programs
While taking coursework, students are encouraged to participate in research, clinical, or volunteer work. This combination allows students to strengthen their academic record as well as their activities section. Students often take coursework only part-time in these programs, which frequently provide outstanding opportunities in community outreach or research.
- Multi focus programs
This type of program provides the most comprehensive level of support – often in multiple areas. Depending on your needs, this may significantly increase your success in the application process. They may help with general advising, class selection, study skills, academic achievement, MCAT preparation, and activity opportunities, as well as the application process. Each program is unique in its structure and strengths. It’s a more comprehensive option.
Which one is for you?
Postbac programs, just like medical schools and applicants, differ. First assess your needs and what you want to accomplish in a postbac program. Then, look for the programs that provide what you seek. This approach will most effectively enhance your chances of medical school acceptance. Check out our Postbac Application Package to learn more about working with an admissions expert to create a winning postbac application strategy.
5 tips to help you get accepted into a postbac program
These tips can help you formulate the best strategy in applying to a postbac program. For over five years, I managed the postbac program application process for UC Davis School of Medicine. In this position, I reviewed thousands of applications. I have created the following tips to help you avoid the most common mistakes that applicants make in their application.
- Do your homework
Before applying to a program, be sure that you fit all the basic requirements for the program. These are often listed on the program website. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hours on an application, only to find out later that you are not eligible for the program based on a technicality.
- Attend informational workshops
At these events, the program faculty or staff will provide presentations on their program. They can provide inside information that is not available on the website. Sometimes, students in the program host a panel, answering any questions that prospective applicants might have. This is a valuable source of information and an opportunity to network.
- Request letters of recommendation early
It can take a while for your letter writers to submit their recommendations. Be sure that you give them enough time to write you a great letter! Request your letters early. The most common reason that students’ applications are not given serious consideration is because they are missing letters of recommendation to support their application.
- Submit required materials by the deadlines
To be successful in any type of application process, it’s critical that you meet all deadlines for required materials. If there is any confusion about a deadline, contact the program staff and double-check the dates. Give yourself enough time. Meet those deadlines.
- Complete all sections of the application
If there is any confusion as to whether a section of the application may be optional, be sure to ask for clarification. Additionally, check the word or character limits on all essay sections and use the maximum amount of space available – writing an essay that uses only half of the allotted word limit will just make you look lazy, or boring, or both (read our next post in this series for more advice on writing your postbac application essays). This demonstrates your interest in the program.
The above advice can ensure that you are successful in matriculating into a postbac program. If you have any questions, you can always contact the program staff. Often, this is a great opportunity to get to know the people who will be working with you during the program.
You can also check out our Postbac Application Package to learn more about working with an admissions expert to create a postbac application that gets you accepted.
Postbac program letters of recommendation that will get you accepted
Your letters of recommendation strongly influence the admissions committee that reviews your postbac application. They can make or break your review. Given their importance, it may feel like you do not have much control over them. However, how you request them and whom you request them from actually determines the type of letters you will receive. The following guidelines can ensure that you will get the best letters to support the success of your application.
- Create a timeline
Set up a timeline for yourself that includes the deadlines for your application materials. Request your letters of recommendation as early as you can. Most professors are not easily accessible during the summer months or towards the end of each semester or quarter. The earlier in the term you can secure your letters, the better.
- Choose letter writers carefully
Only request letters from professors in whose classes you earned A’s or mentors with whom you established a strong rapport. By making a list and thinking carefully about who knows you best and is therefore in a better position to write about you knowledgeably, you’ll be ensuring that you receive strong letters. If you only have a couple of names on your list, start going to office hours and networking to find a suitable mentor.
- Request the letter in person
It is always best to request letters of recommendation in person. This way you can demonstrate by your actions how important the opportunity is to you. When you request the letter, it’s best to look the person in the eyes and ask, “Would you be willing to write a strong letter of recommendation to support my postbac application?” Based on the person’s response, you can provide them with the materials they need.
- Prepare a letter packet
Prepare a packet for each letter writer that includes a copy of your personal statement, resume or CV, and any other information they might need to write you a strong letter. If your recommender is not familiar with or confident about writing a letter for a medical school applicant, feel free to share this useful link: Letter of Recommendation for Medical School: 9 Tips for Recommenders.
Don’t forget the holistic, big picture: your LOR strategy
Using these guidelines can help you to formulate a successful strategy in gathering the types of letters that will lead to your acceptance. Be confident and focus on each small goal you set for yourself in your strategy. Even the most intimidating professors were students once who also had to request letters from their mentors.
Oh, and don’t forgot to send thank you notes to your recommenders!
You’ve decided that a postbac is a wise move for you. Now it’s time to create the application that will get you ACCEPTED. Explore our Postbac Admissions Services and work one-on-one with an expert advisor who will work with you to create your winning postbac application.
Alicia McNease Nimonkar worked for 5 years as the Student Advisor & Director at the UC Davis School of Medicine’s postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and other health professional programs. She has served Accepted’s clients since 2012 with roughly a 90% success rate. She has a Master of Arts in Composition and Rhetoric as well as Literature. Want Alicia to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
- 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Statement of Purpose, a free guide
- How to Write a Perfect Postbac Admissions Essay
- Temple University’s Postbac Programs: A Plethora of Possibilities [Interview with the Admissions Director]