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Post-baccalaureate programs learning environment

What Are Post-Baccalaureate Programs? A Complete Guide

July 7, 2022
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What Are Post-Baccalaureate Programs?Types of Post-Bacc ProgramsPost-Baccalaureate Program Pros‍Post-Baccalaureate Program ConsiderationsHow to Apply to Post-Baccalaureate ProgramsHow to Apply to Post-Baccalaureate ProgramsPost-Baccalaureate Program FAQsWhat Is a Post-Baccalaureate Program? The Key to Your Future


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 5/13/22

If you’re trying to boost your profile for med school, you might consider a post-baccalaureate program. But what does post-baccalaureate mean? We’ll cover everything you need to know below, including what types of post-bacc programs, pros and cons, and more.

If you’re a premed looking to boost your med school profile, you may consider a post-baccalaureate program. Perhaps you’re a student with a bachelor’s degree in a non-science subject and need to complete prerequisite course requirements. Or maybe you’ve been rejected from med school and need to strengthen your application before reapplying.

If this sounds like you, then you’ve come to the right place. So, what’s a post-baccalaureate program, and how much does a post-bacc program cost?

We will review these programs, weigh the pros and cons of enrolling, and review post-baccalaureate requirements. Finally, we’ll discuss everything you should consider when choosing a program and how to apply to a post-baccalaureate program.

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What Are Post-Baccalaureate Programs?

Post-baccalaureate programs can support your transition to medical school after completing your undergraduate degree. Their purpose is to strengthen your application and help you become a more competitive candidate during a gap year. Overall, you can define a post-baccalaureate program as a stepping stone to medical school.

Post-baccalaureate programs are typically one to two years long. They may award a master’s degree, a certificate of completion, or no degree or certificate at all. Some programs offer undergraduate credit, while others offer graduate credit. So, if you want to take post-bacc classes to raise your GPA, it’s crucial that the program awards undergrad credit.

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Types of Post-Bacc Programs

There are four main post-bacc program types. For allopathic schools, these are:

Your post-baccalaureate experience depends on which program you take. There are over 270 programs in the AAMC post-bacc database. Be sure to browse and search the AAMC post bacc database to find the programs that match your needs and goals.

Programs for Improving Your Academic Record

Post-bacc programs for academic record enhancement are for premed students who believe their academic standing isn’t as competitive as they’d like it to be. These programs help students boost their academic stats, such as GPA and MCAT scores.

Remember that you should enroll in a course for undergrad coursework if you’re unsatisfied with your undergraduate academic record.

Graduate programs will only affect your graduate GPA, not your undergraduate GPA. In the AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service), the application separates your undergraduate and graduate GPAs.

Programs for Changing Your Career

Post-baccalaureate programs for career changers are designed to help non-traditional students get ready for medical school. Typically, these students hold a bachelor’s degree in a subject other than science and decided they wanted to become a doctor after undergrad.

Post-bacc programs for career changers help students complete prerequisite coursework. These programs also provide additional support to meet medical school requirements, such as studying for the MCAT and CASPer. Students may also receive help with their medical school applications.  

Programs for Underrepresented Groups in Medicine

Post-bacc medical programs for minority students and underrepresented groups can help these groups gain acceptance into med school. The AAMC defines underrepresented groups as the following:

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

If you belong to an underrepresented group, then this type of post-bacc program may be right for you.

Programs for Disadvantaged Groups in Medicine

Post-baccalaureate programs for disadvantaged groups in medicine exist to help economically and educationally disadvantaged students. This applies to students who come from low-income families or have faced societal hardship that negatively impacted their educational and professional opportunities.

In addition to allopathic post-bacc programs, there are special master’s programs and osteopathic courses.

Special Master’s Programs (SMPs)

Special Master’s Programs are for students interested in getting a graduate degree. While post-bacc programs are designed for students to fill application gaps, SMPs exist to enhance applications. Students enrolled in SMPs generally already meet med school requirements but want a competitive edge.

Because SMPs are graduate-level coursework, and do not affect undergraduate GPA.  

Osteopathic Programs

Osteopathic post-baccalaureate programs are affiliated with osteopathic medical schools and their DO programs. Osteopathic post-bacc programs are similar to the above programs; however, they emphasize osteopathy, not allopathy.

The AACOM (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine) has a list of post-baccalaureate programs at over 20 osteopathic schools.

It’s worth mentioning that there may be an overlap between program types. For example, programs for underrepresented groups may also be academic record enhancers or career changers. You must do research and look for programs that best align with your circumstances and goals.

Post-Baccalaureate Program Pros

There are several pros and cons of enrolling in post-baccalaureate programs. We’ll discuss them below.

Post-Baccalaureate Program Pros

The benefits of enrolling in these programs include the following:

Extended Access to Pre-Health Advisors

Pre-health advisors help you prepare for medical school and provide guidance based on where you are in the application process. They also help with scheduling classes, managing application timelines, and providing additional resources.

Several Post-Baccalaureate Programs Are Affiliated with Specific Medical Schools

These are called post-baccalaureate linkage programs. Some of the best-post baccalaureate programs are affiliated with medical schools. While enrolling in a linkage program does not guarantee acceptance at that medical school, it is beneficial to know the ins and outs of the campus, faculty, mission, and environment.

Volunteering Opportunities

Many programs include built-in volunteering opportunities. This can help you gain relevant experiences that you can discuss in your medical school interview and the AMCAS work and activities section.

Networking Opportunities

You will have extensive networking opportunities with faculty, staff, colleagues, and mentors. Because so many programs are affiliated with medical schools, renowned lecturers and professors often give presentations and network with students.

Flexible Program Structuring and Scheduling

Program lengths vary, but you can check out part-time or online options to accommodate your schedule. Just be mindful of any limitations of part-time and online programs.

For example, if you need to improve your GPA but a part-time or online program doesn’t factor that in, it may be best to look at full-time, on-site academic enhancement programs.

Improve Other Aspects of Your Medical School Application

Post-baccalaureate programs are a great way to complete prerequisite coursework in less time (accelerated coursework). If you’re a non-traditional student or didn’t complete all required science coursework/labs, then the accelerated path may be right for you.

These programs also help you prepare for the MCAT. If you’re unhappy with your score or have not yet taken the MCAT, post-baccs give you more time to study. Additionally, MCAT prep classes are often built into post-bacc curricula.

Post-Baccalaureate Program Considerations

While post-bacc programs have pros, there are also some items you should consider. So, let’s explore several of them.

Cost of Attendance

Simply put, more education means more debt. You should consider your finances and financial aid options before deciding to accrue debt on top of possible existing student debt and the future cost of med school.

Not Improving Your Undergraduate GPA if You Enroll in Graduate Programs

If your goal is to improve your undergraduate GPA, ensure the program you choose impacts your undergraduate GPA, not your graduate GPA. The primary difference between post-baccalaureate and master’s programs is that an SMP will give you a graduate-level degree, but it will not affect your undergraduate GPA.

The Pressure to Succeed and Bolster Your Application

Because your goal is to boost your profile, you may feel tremendous pressure to achieve the highest marks and gain the best relevant experiences. This may cause burnout before you even get to medical school, so prioritize self-care and ask for help when needed.

Several Programs Do Not Award Degrees or Certificates

If your goal is to obtain credentials, apply to the programs that provide them. For example, if you want to improve your academic credentials with a graduate degree, an SMP may be the ideal choice for you compared to a post-bacc certificate or diploma.

How to Decide if You Should Enroll in a Post-Baccalaureate Program

To decide if you should enroll in a post-baccalaureate program, consider how you want to improve your application and your circumstances:

How to Apply to Post-Baccalaureate Programs

Because there are various types of post-baccalaureate programs, application requirements vary. You will have to follow the specific program’s application requirements and recommendations.

What Are the Post-Baccalaureate Application Requirements?

General post-baccalaureate requirements include:

Ensure you check program websites for more information on specific post-bacc requirements and to determine how to apply to post-baccalaureate programs.

Post-Baccalaureate Program FAQs

We have outlined several answers below to help you further understand post-bacc programs and how you can get into one.  

1. How Do I Find Post-Bacc Programs?

The AAMC’s post-baccalaureate database is a valuable tool. You can filter your search results to yield public, private, undergraduate, or graduate programs. Additionally, you can select:

2. Are There Part-Time Post-Bacc Programs?

Part-time post-bacc programs are less common than full-time programs, and there are pros and cons to attending part-time. You will have more time, but you will also limit your options for enhancement. For example, part-time programs are not beneficial for improving your undergraduate GPA.

3. Do Post-Bacc Programs Increase My Chances of Acceptance to Med School?

There is a correlation between acceptance rates and successful completion of post-bacc programs. Most schools report an increased acceptance rate of post-baccalaureate students, likely due to improved GPAs and MCAT scores, and more experience in relevant extracurriculars such as medical shadowing, volunteering, and research.

4. Should I Apply to Post-Bacc Programs Affiliated With Medical Schools?

There are advantages to applying to the post-baccalaureate program offered by your preferred medical school. For example, applying to their post-baccalaureate program will make you more familiar with the application process and timelines.

If you are accepted, you will have ample opportunities to network with instructors, professionals, and colleagues at your dream school. That said, you should also apply to other post-baccs that match your needs. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — it’s best to apply broadly.

5. How Much Do Post-Baccalaureate Programs Cost?

Cost varies greatly depending on the school and program length. Some programs can cost upwards of $10,000 per term when you add fees and other costs. Check with programs, and speak with the Student Financial Services office to go over your options for financial aid.

6. What’s the Difference Between Post-Bacc and Master’s Programs?

The main difference between master’s vs. post-baccalaureate programs is that the former contributes to your graduate GPA while the latter can boost your undergraduate GPA. Most students enroll in SMPs to enhance their profile: they’re happy with their undergraduate GPA and have met medical school requirements.

7. How Much Can Post-Bacc Programs Raise GPA?

How much a post-bacc can raise GPA depends on how well you perform in your classes. Acing your classes can raise your GPA by a few tenths of a point: for example, from 2.8 to 3.1.

What Is a Post-Baccalaureate Program? The Key to Your Future

Post-baccalaureate programs are a great option to bolster your application before applying to med school. If you want to improve your GPA, gain relevant experiences, or prepare for the MCAT, post-bacc programs can help you reach your goals.

You should consider your circumstances and reflect on your medical school readiness. Do you see gaps in your application? Are there areas that need improvement? Have you completed all requirements? These questions will help you determine whether a post-baccalaureate program is right for you.

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