Post Bacc FAQ: How To Pay For It + Why Program Advising is Invaluable

I posted a while ago about some post-bacc basics and how it prepared me for medical school, but I’ve gotten more questions since then and thought I’d address them here!

Real quick reminder: a post-bacc program allows students that have already attended college to complete all the prerequisites for admission to medical school, physical therapy school, veterinary school, and other health professions schools. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has an extensive list of post-bacc programs. Programs have some variation in extra courses and program length, but they all get you the core basic science classes required for medical school and to prep you for the MCAT.

I was specifically interested in programs geared towards career changers. I wanted to start this transition on the most level playing field possible, meaning that I didn’t want to take undergraduate level science classes with people who had already taken it in college and were repeating it to improve their grade. I also didn’t want to take the classes with current undergrads — being graded on a bell curve with 18 year olds was pretty unappealing.

Ultimately, I attended Thomas Jefferson’s postbaccalaurate premedical program (you can read more about that decision here). Today I’m chatting about two big issues that should be considered before choosing a program– the cost and the value of advising within a post-bacc program.

How do I pay for it?

Yep, I’m going to start out by talking about the money. Attending a post-bacc program is not a cheap endeavor. It’s why a lot of people choose to do it DIY style over the course of a few years at a community college. And there is no shame in this! For me, I knew that I didn’t want to take my classes with undergraduates and be graded on their curve — especially for physics and organic chemistry. So I knew I was going to have to find a way to pay for a true post-bacc program.

I was fortunate enough to be debt-free coming out of undergrad thanks to an incredible in-state tuition scholarship, but the thought of adding to my graduate school debt really freaked me out. Those loans were going to be accruing interest for the entire year of the post-bacc and then I would have to start paying them back during my glide year. Which meant I’d need a job. I was thinking 1000 steps ahead of just picking a program…it’s who I am. Especially since the plan at the end of it all was medical school, which can cost more than a nice house in an D.C. suburb.

As I mentioned, I knew the DIY route wasn’t for me — so I accepted that I was going to have to take out the loans. I ended up with a mix of public and private loans, along with some money I had saved over the years. I worked with my school’s financial aid office to figure all of this out and suggest that for everyone. They know how to navigate this complex system better than anyone. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, loans are the name of the game when you’re on a medical school track. You just have to accept that you will pay them back one day. [And for a little peace of mind, there will always be a need for physicians, so you will earn an income to pay them back. I love the White Coat Investor for all things medicine-related finance!]

My program was the best bang for my buck when it came to what I needed and wanted out of my post-bacc year. It’s a different calculus for everyone — I used a good old fashioned pro-con chart for each program.

The Advising Was Worth Every Penny

One of the big draws to a formal post-bacc program was the intimate advising it offered. I applied to relatively small programs (15-60 students), which would give me the opportunity to really know my peers, the faculty, and the program director. From the moment I met the program director, I knew that I wanted to attend Thomas Jefferson. I honestly still can’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but during my interview, I just knew that she was the person I wanted to advise me through this totally foreign process. There are no physicians in my family — actually there are no medical professionals at all! Up until that point, everything I knew had come from the internet and a friend from graduate school who was applying to medical school.

I needed someone by my side for every step of the medical school application process, and that started the first day of my post-bacc. Our program director advised us on balancing activities and shadowing with our packed course schedule. She offered an ear to listen and shoulder to cry on — it was a true open door policy. And when it came time to create the first round of “the list” (the schools we wanted to apply to), she sat with us and gave us a dose of reality. There was no reason not to aim high, but it was also important to be realistic based on our grades, activities, practice MCAT scores, and what we really wanted out of a medical school.

Getting into medical school IS NOT EASY. And some days I don’t even know how I did it on the first try. I know so many incredible people who were a perfect fit for a school and were rejected or who had incredible applications and weren’t accepted anywhere. It’s getting harder and harder each cycle, so the intimate advising I received was truly invaluable.

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