Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thoughts On Formal Post-Bacc & Pre-Med DIY

Great question!

Here are my initial thoughts and questions.

I was asked what my thoughts were, paraphrasing here, on doing a formalized post-bacc pre med program vs. DIY.

First, when I evaluated the post-bacc programs nearby, my GPA would not have qualified me to even apply.  So, at the outset I was not qualified and had to do the courses DIY.  If I had been qualified, I'm not sure what I would have done because I also do not qualify for financial aid of any sort until I matriculate into medical school.  Given I had no money, no grades, no financial aid, formal post bacc was not an option for me.

Second, after reading other sites and questions there, I'm not sure the value of a specific post-bacc is unless you specifically want to apply to THAT associated medical school.  That said, it is IMPOSSIBLE to deny the outstanding list of med schools that Columbia's post-bacc graduates matriculated into:

Columbia Post-Bacc Matriculating Schools

However, I would not pay for a Columbia post-bacc unless I specifically wanted to apply to Columbia. Most often, it appears, that the post-bacc programs are geared at those students attending that particular medical school associated with a particular post-bacc program.

My thinking is that any solid, 4-year, land granting institution (PhD granting) can offer the sufficient and more-than acceptable pre-med courses for less cost and at my pace, not the school's pace. I also like the ability to take courses in advanced biology and biochemistry that are not in the regimented list. I will be headed to the Galapagos and doing research; in addition, there is a course on evolution/creationism that I'm taking as well. There are more courses in biochem and neuro and muscles and physio that I am taking... none of which would be allowed in a formalized post bacc.

Third, a formalized post-bacc program is regimented. According to Columbia, Creighton, the coursework includes: shadowing, chemistry, MCAT prep, biology, neuroscience, academic advising, biochem, physics, and other outside-the-academic application enhancements. A student enrolling the programs is full time, doing what the insist without variance. This is awesome training for those who need it, awesome for those who are unable to find shadowing opportunities on their own. With instructors who are specifically trying to get their students to matriculate into medical school, it is hard to say no. And, the results, posted by Columbia of where their students matriculated, is hard to describe as anything but outstanding.

Fourth, when I started this path in three years ago, my son was a teenager in high school, my parents were elderly (still are, actually!) and in failing health (still are, actually!) and my house was still mine.  Moving was really not an option and even if it had been, I was not ready to pack up and move (though I still did, actually!).

Fifth, and this is related to grade redemption.  I did not take any class with the hopes of it overcoming my u-grad GPA coursework.  My GPA is too far gone, too abysmal, too long ago (30 years in some cases).  With that in mind, I started school as if this were my first go-round and never looked back.  Yes, AMCAS will still get those very old, very terrible grades; so will the med schools.  Yes, AMCAS will still get ALL those W's and all those F's.  They will also get all the A's from the past three years, 1 "B" (and only one if I can get ochem to cooperate with me :D ).  They will also get all my experience, my LORs, my MCAT score and everything else.  So, I'm less concerned with a 25+ year old GPA and retaking courses.  In the end, if you got an "F" and now get an "A", AMCAS will see that as a "C".  Is that "C" average worth the effort?

In my mind, no.  I'd rather just get the required pre-reqs done and apply.

If I had to choose DIY over formalized again, I'd do this the same way.  DIY.  However, I'm older than most students who attempt pre-med and maybe my focus is pinpoint where maybe my younger peers would be better served by a post-bacc.  I think it really depends on learning styles, how far awry u-grad GPA is, how many courses need to be taken, etc.

LAST:  These are only my opinions.  Others are WELCOME & ENCOURAGED to respond and I will post the responses.  I'd love to hear what others think about post-bacc vs. DIY.


Solitary Diner (Also Known as The Frugalish Physician) said...

I've never even heard of a post-bacc (must be an American thing?), so I can't really comment on that. What I would say is that people who want to get into medicine should focus on doing things that are interesting and useful to them, not the things they think will get them into medical school (other than prerequisites of course). It's always easier to get a good grade in a course that interests and challenges you than it is a course that you're just taking because it's "easy". As well, interviewers will want to know about the courses that you've taken and the things that interest you, so I think it's better to have some courses that you're actually passionate about that you can discuss.

XOXO Dr. Kay Elizabeth said...

Funny you said this because I was wondering the same thing. So thank you very much for your post and information!

Mi said...

This is a very interesting post. I have been wondering which path was better lately. I have been on a long DIY post-premed path. The major disadvantage has been lack of discipline and focus due to other obligations... A person who functions better when there is structure and pressure may benefit from a formal postbacc.

Unknown said...

I'm a little late to the game (it's near the end of the semester and got formal lab reports to write! and other projects to finish, so been MIA), but here's my thoughts.

I agree that a post-bacc program isn't really necessary, unless you're interested in applying to the med school it's attached to. (I hear that does help you get into that particular school.)

I'm in a post-bacc program, but it is not tied to any specific medical school. The state university I attend has a premedical advising board that coaches you along the med school path and helps with personal statements, planning and things like that.

The school is really awesome about inviting medical school admissions directors and former post-bacc/now residents or doctors back to talk with students.

I could have went to a post-bacc program tied to a medical school closer to home, but I didn't. Instead I'm attending school 2 hours away (and in a different state). I also could have also did a DIY at one of the closer state universities, but I decided to attend my alma mater and get the support of the post-bacc program that school offers.

In the end, I just really like the support of the school, but am able to take take the courses I need, when I can take them and also take courses I'm interested in.

In the end, it really depends on a person's financial ability, educational needs and desires. Really, going to a 4-year school and taking the courses you need plus some that you are interested in is all you really need to do.