Postbac Record Enhancer FAQ

I had a rough first year, but I’ve been doing better since then. Is there an approximate GPA where you’d definitely suggest doing a postbac program?

It’s impossible to put an exact number on this and we would want to learn more about you and gain a more holistic understanding of your candidacy before deciding whether or not we’d suggest postbac course work, and if so, what type of course work. Some factors that come into play: how many sciences you’ve taken, the level of rigor in your course choices, academic trajectory, BCPM and cumulative GPA, strength of letters of recommendation, MCAT score, state of residence, factors that may have affected your ‘distance traveled’ to medical school (such as coming from a first-generation, lower-income, or underrepresented in medicine background), and any external factors that affected your academic performance. Generally, it is very difficult to gain acceptance to medical school with a BCPM below 3.0, and we have seen students participate in postbac programs with GPAs up into the 3.4/3.5 range, but again, it is very case by case. Please schedule a time to come in and chat so that we can strategize with you!

I think my grades are good enough to apply to medical school this year, but I’m really not sure. Should I apply to med school this year and then if I don’t get in, should I look into taking classes, or should I just try to take classes next year?

This question is too nuanced to try to answer by email – a one on one meeting would be much better! We will also be talking more in depth about how to evaluate your own candidacy when we have our Applicant Info Session and Intake appointments in the fall: anyone who is thinking about applying to health professions school is encouraged to attend (and if you’re definitely applying this year, you are required to attend).

It’s fine to wait until those sessions to learn more and then come and talk with us about your specific situation, but if you’d rather not wait, please feel free to make an appointment now so that we can sit down and talk about all aspects of your medical school candidacy. We’ll want to look more holistically at your academic preparation for medical school (including grades, MCAT scores, letters of recommendation, trends in your performance, reasons for difficulty if you have pinpointed them, etc.), as well as your overall candidacy (activities, motivation, readiness for the challenges of applying in and of themselves, etc.) and see where you are.

There’s a certain point where we might recommend more academic record enhancement, but it can differ from person to person based on this “big picture.” For some students, it might be that a few more courses taken part-time while pursuing other opportunities in the coming year is a reasonable option. For some students, we might see a chance to gain entry to medical school and suggest that you could apply this summer, but to take courses full-time in the coming year in case you have to reapply. For others, we might recommend taking classes first and then applying after that. Some students may not have the financial resources to support the ideal path, and we can help you try to negotiate that, as well. We try to outline some of this on our Record Enhancers handout, but even this does not capture every scenario.

Remember: we believe that any and all of you are capable of becoming health professionals, but the path might not be as straightforward as it once seemed – we can help you look at the options, and evaluate whether or not you’d like to continue on the path!

I struggled with some of my sciences but I don’t think my family will be able to help me finance the classes and I don’t feel like I can take on the debt of a formal postbac program. Are there more cost-effective ways to take classes?

The advice may differ depending on how many science courses you’ve taken, your academic trajectory, where you’re from, and a number of other factors. Please come in for an appointment so that we can look holistically at your candidacy and brainstorm next steps based on your specific situation – it’s hard to give advice without knowing the whole picture!

Generally speaking, yes, there are less expensive ways to pursue classes, though they may take a little longer. If your family is willing to take you in for a year or two, and you feel that you could live at home and manage courses and work, that can save significant money. We recommend going to the best possible school that you can access, but at the same time, if finances are a concern, medical schools will take this into account – doing very well in the classes and on MCAT is key. Many students choose to attend a state school near a place where they can live for free/cheap and look for jobs in the area. Some alums take full-time jobs to help finance classes that they fit in part-time. If you work at a college or university (or an affiliated institution like a research center), you may be offered tuition benefits for free or reduced-price courses. If you still have to take the MCAT, consider working for a test prep company teaching ACT or SAT – you’ll gain communication skills and have access to discounts for your own MCAT prep.

Keep in mind that it’s important to know your limits – don’t try to do too much and sacrifice your academic performance – and be ready to take initiative: one of the benefits of a formal program is that you’ll have built-in advising and support from your academic institution that you won’t have as a non-degree seeking student. We’ll help as much as we can, but we won’t be experts on other schools’ curricula. In any case, we’re happy to talk with you about potential timelines and pros and cons to different preparation routes.

I'm a senior and I'd like to keep improving my GPA in order to be competitive for med school. I'm definitely planning to apply this year, though - is there any point to taking classes since they won't be in my application when I apply in June?

We hope you're willing to come in to discuss your candidacy with us holistically so that we can help you think about the "when to apply" issue! But to answer your specific question, schools will place the most weight on what's on your initial application, but many will accept updates throughout the year, so you will be able to send grades as you take the classes. Front loading courses into summer and fall is helpful so you can send some grades early in the application cycle.

In general, it's always a good strategy to continue to work on the weaker parts of your application, which may include service, work with patients, academics, communication / interpersonal skills, or other important aspects of your preparation for medical school. Life doesn't end with submission of the application—intentionally choosing endeavors that help you develop into the physician you want to be should continue! We're happy to brainstorm with you about ways you may seek personal and professional development.

I know my GPA isn't competitive for med school but I'm really hesitant about spending more money on classes. What other options do I have?

First, come in and chat with us so that we can look at your candidacy holistically and give you a data-driven opinion on how much postbac coursework you might need. We'll want to look at your whole academic trajectory, course choices, MCAT score, state residency, and a number of other factors.

One alternative option is to look at other medical paths, like dental and podiatric medicine, where seats aren't in as high demand (making admission less competitive). Or you could spend some time in another profession of interest with less of an initial entry cost for a while to see if you could be satisfied in a life outside of medicine, then return to it if it's still calling to you.

The more experience that you accrue, the more evidence medical schools will have to consider holistically when you apply. At the end of the day, you'll still need to convince them of your readiness for the rigor of the curriculum, so you can't completely substitute experience for metrics, but stepping away from the application grind for a few years can leave you even more renewed and ready to return to it, which can make postbac courses go much more smoothly.

If you're 100% set on the traditional medical route, there's often a trade-off between time and money. You could work for a year or two to save up money to put toward a formal postbac program. You could work part-time and take classes part-time, which may mean taking more years to build up your academic profile. If there's a science discipline that you're passionate about, you could consider pursuing a PhD since that degree will most likely be fully funded, then return to medicine after the program. both options sacrifice time but subsidize cost. On the other extreme, you could go directly into a postbac program and take out loans to pay for it--maximizing time but accruing more debt along the way (knowing that once you become a doctor, you'll be able to pay off that debt).