Carol Hagan, Associate Director
You may have heard other students talking about postbac, or are thinking about it yourself in a preliminary way. It can be confusing because “postbac” is something people undertake for different reasons and in varied ways. Here is a quick primer on postbac:
- “Postbac” is short for post-baccalaureate and refers to classes you take after receiving your bachelor’s degree. It is not the same thing as enrolling in a graduate program and working towards a degree like an MPH or MA.
- Pre-health alumni take postbac classes for two reasons. Either they need to take classes to fulfill requirements for health professions schools and/or they want to take additional courses beyond the requirements to demonstrate their academic ability and raise their GPA.
- Postbac classes can be taken as a non-matriculated student or in a formal postbac program. “Non-matriculated” simply means that you are not enrolled in a graduate program; you are taking classes “a la carte” as it were. Some alumni call this “Do it Yourself Postbac.”
- The decision between a formal postbac program and independent classes is an individual one. People choose a path based upon their reason for doing postbac classes, the number they may want to take, their geographic location, and budget.
- “But don’t medical schools prefer a program at certain schools?” Medical schools prefer to see you building a strong application and making good personal choices. It’s important that you do very well in the classes and one institution may be better than another for that to happen. Also, health professions schools understand that you may want to pursue your goals in a way that minimizes your expenses. They will not question a sound financial decision.
- You can find postbac programs in the AAMC’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical Programs database. Filter your search to find programs aimed at fulfilling the requirements (“Career Changer”) or boosting your academic credentials (“Academic Record Enhancer”). Contact the individual programs if you have questions about your eligibility, previous coursework, or to see if they serve pre-dental and pre-veterinary students.
Knowing the basics and accessing information about postbac is a starting point. You may have questions about which option is better for you. Sometimes it isn’t clear. You can always make an appointment, in person or on the phone, with a pre-health advisor through Handshake to discuss your plan. Know that many Penn alumni have pursued postbac studies with success, taking different routes that worked with their post-graduation lives.