There is no single “correct” path to medical, dental, or veterinary school. Postbaccalaureate (or postbac) programs allow students to take classes after graduation.
There are two main types of programs: career changers and academic record enhancers. There are also programs specifically focused on increasing the success of students who are underrepresented in medicine in terms of their race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.
For students with no or few science prerequisites.
- HPA Postbac Paths: Career Changers Guide (google doc).
- List of career changer programs in which Princeton alums have found success.
For students who need an academic “boost” from courses taken after graduation.
HPA Career of the Month Slides (updated 2020)
HPA Postbac FAQs
Many factors 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. Come meet with us to discuss!
If you aren't feeling drawn to medicine now and aren't doing well in the classes, taking a break and spending the summer really exploring your options may be a better plan than trying to slog through the classes, doing poorly, and wasting the opportunity to study what you're passionate about. But there are pros, cons, and nuances to every decision -- definitely come talk with us so that we can get a fuller picture of your specific situation and provide some insight for you.
It varies significantly. Do you feel ready to commit to a rigorous program that will require significant time and focus? Are you financially able to take on a program? Are you as sure as you can be that medicine is for you? It's very common to take some time to take stock in your motivation, to recover from any academic burnout, to earn money, to shore up non-academic preparation, and to learn to "adult" before jumping into a postbac program. But, we have students every year who feel like they're gaining momentum and want to take advantage of that by going directly into postbac.
It'll depend on how many prereqs you have left and how you did in the ones that you already took. For example, if you didn't do well in the sciences you have taken, it may make sense to go back and repeat some classes, see how you do, and then decide whether you're in a place to apply or whether you'll need additional record enhancer course work. You could do this at a state school near home as a non-degree seeking student or through a program with a lot of curricular flexibility. If you're just one or two courses shy of completing prereqs, it may make sense to do those over the upcoming year while working, then applying to postbac record enhancer programs after that if your GPA isn't competitive for schools of interest, or just applying to medical school if it is. Stop by to chat with us about when and where to take courses (state residency is a factor to consider, for example) -- we can help you work out a timeline and school list.
See more in the Life After Graduation FAQ.
For more information
- A Second Opinion: The Post-Baccalaureate (NY Times, April 2012)
- 3 Questions to Ask Before a Postbac Med Program (US News, March 2019)
- Almost Everything You Need to Know about Postbac Programs (mshq podcast)
- All Access Medical School Podcast: Postbac Programs (March 2020)
Postbac Program Resources
- AAMC Post-baccalaureate Premedical Programs Database: The Association of American Medical Colleges' database. Search according to program type and other program characteristics. This is the most comprehensive list of programs available.
- HPA Record Enhancer Programs Guide (google doc)
- HPA Career Changer Programs Guide (google doc)
- HPA Career of the Month highlighting postbac programs (Google Slides, Dec 2020)
- HPA Sample Template for gathering information about postbac programs (google sheet)
Princeton University does not have a postbac program. If you are a Princeton student applying to postbac programs, please refer to these guidelines. Any Princeton student or alum who seeks advice about postbac programs is welcomed to contact our office.