Financial Aid for a DIY Post-Bacc?

First, I just want to state how amazing the OldPreMeds Conference was a few weeks ago! I learned so much it was incredible. In fact, after I got home I spoke to my wife for about an hour non-stop about all the ins and outs of the MCAT and applying to med school. She was completely shocked at how much I learned at the conference. I have a rock solid understanding for pursuing a career in medicine. It was worth way more than the time and cost for me to go!

[marq=left:1isjxgfb]Now for the craziness to begin:[/marq:1isjxgfb]

I am starting a DIY post-bacc at LSU in August. I already have a B.A. and M.A. so I applied as a non-matriculating student. My advisor indicated that non-matriculating students can apply for an exemption to get FAFSA for 12 months. The reason being that I am taking courses that are required for a degree down the road and so I am allowed for 12 months of financial aid during the post-bacc.

After getting excited and submitting the application I ended up getting [glow=red:1isjxgfb]denied[/glow:1isjxgfb] the financial aid because I have not taken the MCAT yet. I told them I need the pre-req courses to be successful on the MCAT and the courses are required for me to apply to med school anyway. They still denied me because the courses are not required to take the MCAT. They concluded that if I take the MCAT then I will get approved for financial aid to take the required courses for med school. So they want me to take the MCAT without the courses that will help me succeed :shock: Not doing that.

I feel like I have been denied incorrectly. It doesn’t make sense that I would have to take the MCAT first then pre-reqs—that is backwards. I also cannot find a document by FAFSA requiring the MCAT before allowing financial aid for a post-bacc. I keep trying to call FAFSA, but their system hangs up on me after 10-30 minutes on hold every time. I finally sent an e-mail to them and will wait for a response.

Does anyone out there know if the MCAT is required to receive FAFSA for a DIY post-bacc?

The only stuff I’ve seen says you are still eligible for a Stafford loan for a post-bacc.

If you look toward the middle of that page, it shows basic info about dollar amounts and time limitations. I couldn’t actually find anything on the FAFSA site.

It seems really strange that they want you to take the MCAT to be eligible for a loan. Is that a school program or did that come directly from the federal government?

Yeah - filled out FAFSA, got the available funds for my postbacc (16,000 that year). I’d suggest talking to financial aid at your school and they can likely help you with that. There was no suggestion of requiring taking the MCAT.

lhedian did you already have a degree? This being my second degree seems to throw a wrench in it. I have spoken at length with the financial aid office - they are a brick wall about it. I guess in the grand scheme of things the size of the private loan I need for the post-bacc is nothing compared to the size of the med school loans I will have to take out!

If you’re enrolled as a non-degree seeking student, financial aid will probably be difficult to come by.

On a side-note, I’m in the Baton Rouge area and am starting at LSU-NO in the fall. If there’s something I can help you out with, let me know.

Thanks for the offer bennard. Only thing I really need help with so far is letters of recommendation. I will be approaching a professor to request my first one next week - any advice on how to go about asking for that? Hope things have been going well for you at LSU-NO.

I have some more strangeness regarding the financial aid issue. I researched the issue and found that there is absolutely nothing FAFSA or the federal government does to regulate that a student must take the MCAT before being able to receive financial aid in my situation. I am completely eligible. I brought this information to the student aid office at LSU, the rep said I would have to “speak with Congress” about my situation because they are the ones that mandate the MCAT must be taken before prerequisites. I expressed to her that I felt there was some misunderstanding and requested that they help me by pointing out what document this law is promulgated in by Congress. I waited in the office alone while the financial aid rep spoke with her supervisor for about 20 minutes.

When she came back, she apologized, said they were wrong and that there was no policy issued by FAFSA or Congress about the MCAT needing to be taken before prerequisites for non-traditional students. I said, “Great, so I can get aid”. She responded, “No”. Now the reason I cannot get aid is because it is an internal LSU financial aid policy to not allow non-matriculating students financial aid before they take the MCAT :shock:. When I asked if she could tell me where this policy is written she said no. It is a private internal policy book we do not allow non-employees to see :roll:. Something just doesn’t seem right about that one… They are going through a lot of trouble to keep me from getting financial aid and are being very secretive about it.

No matter, I can get a lesser desired private loan and since it is in-state tuition it isn’t very much to borrow at all. I was able to save up enough to pay out of pocket this semester too. I thought about taking this up to a higher level because it seems so fishy, but I don’t want to be a trouble maker or get a bad stain on my record because I would like to apply to the medical school here.

LORs were tough for me (and I suspect for most non-trads). I was fortunate that where I took my DIY post-bacch courses wrote me a committee letter that covered the classes I took there. Beyond that, I got a letter from one of the doctors I scribed for, and a letter from a former supervisor.

I felt that I didn’t have enough history with the professors that I took by post-bacch classes with to ask them for a letter. After all, I’d taken one course from them, so I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to build rapport with them. On top of that, I was working and taking care of a family, so it wasn’t like I could hang around and wait for their office hours all day.

So, if you want a LOR, I think the best way is to ask them, in person, if they would be able to write you a STRONG letter of recommendation. If they balk at that, move on to someone else.

I would definitely inquire if LSU will write a committee letter for you. If you can get that, it will be a big help.

One final note on LORs, a lot of schools list different requirements for LORs, about the number and who they can come from. If you’re interested in specific schools, it might be worth calling and seeing if that’s a hard requirement, or if there’s some flexibility for the non-trad.