Informal Post Bac, How To Apply?


I’m debating on informal and formal post bacs. If I go the informal route, how do I apply to universities without specifying what program I am applying to? I can’t just go to an university and say I want to take two classes, right? Do I apply to their general studies program so I can freely select what classes I want?

Thank you.

Most universities probably will let you say I want to just take some classes.

One option is to enroll as a second degree seeking undergrad, but never actually finish the degree. I did this at my undergrad university for a semester to finish my premed prereqs. If you have a bachelors already med schools won’t care if you finish the degree or not.

My current university has a “non degree seeking” graduate post-bacc status, which required me to only submit an unoffical transcript proving I obtained a bachelors degree. It’s more expensive being listed as a grad student but it gives me the ability to register for graduate spots in classes.

Give your local universities a call. They’ll be more than happy to accomodate a paying customer :).

It might depend what kind of post-bacc student you are. If you have absolutely zero pre-med requirements completed in the sciences (i.e. you majored in French or History, etc.), a formal post-bacc program would offer some structure and support. In fact, every formal post-bacc program I’ve looked at only accepts people without pre-med experience since that is who their program is designed for. Many of these programs have “linkages” with medical schools, meaning that your chances of admission to those med schools are good if you do well in the program. The three major drawbacks I see are:

  1. They can be extremely competitive. Formal programs attract solid students from other disciplines, and often puts them together in the same basic classes. This means you have many high-achieving and driven students setting the curve.

  2. You’ll typically just take the basics, so no Biochem, Genetics, Cell Bio, Molecular, etc. that many med schools require or strongly recommend.

  3. Formal programs usually cost a ton of money.

    The option that OwenO mentioned is much better if you have some pre-med requirements completed and just need to add some upper-level science courses and/or retake a few low grades in the basics (gen. bio, gen. chemistry, physics, orgo). These are called DIY (do it yourself) post-bacc programs and you can tailor them to fit your needs. Plus, at state schools they are much cheaper than the formal post-bacc programs.

    Either way, I’d say the determining factor is whether you’ve had any pre-meds before. If not, formal might offer more support and guidance. If you do, you probably know what you’re doing somewhat and can do a DIY program to fit your needs.

Different schools have different setups. For example, UVA has a “Community Scholars” program. Very inexpensive to register and you can then register for any course you want to take.

At other schools you may theoretically be able to “just take some classes” without going thru applying for admission. However, the difficulty many students find is that you have lower priority for registartion, and after the degree-seeking undergrads have registered, there are no openings in the courses you need (Chemistry, for example, is a prereq. for many disciplines). That’s the situation I ran into - checked with EVERY college in my city and surrounding area and couldn’t get into Chemistry anywhere.

So you can apply, as a chemistry or biology major, and register for the courses you need, but not plan on completing the major. It gets you in the system and able to have access to the classes you need.


Thank you all for the helpful information! I received my bachelor of science at penn state. I’m only missing organic chem. I’m in the process of applying to post bac programs but thought it might be a waste of money. I’ll look into taking org chem and use the rest of my time studying MCAT. I sure could use the money towards med school.

I’ve heard mixed reviews on online courses, but I’m taking a couple of my “missing” pre-req’s online from Oregon State University (a recognized four year brick & mortar school)…I still need to work full time (4 kids w/ wonderful husband that’s still looking for permanent employment) and cannot fit three days a week plus lab into my work schedule. I’ve taken genetics (no lab offered/required) and organic chem I; I’m currently taking Organic chem II online and looking at the spring lab on campus w/ 4 hrs once a week for lab and lab lecture next quarter. The local med school I’m most interested does not require labs for all science courses, so missing o-chem lab is not a deal-breaker there. OSU also offers biochemistry on-line. I figure I’ll take physics and biochem in person so that I have a chance at faculty letters of recommendation…my other prereqs from my bachelor’s are now around 14-17 years old, so LOR are not likely there. Hopefully I’m not shooting myself in the foot taking the online classes, but I don’t believe they are any easier than “on campus” classes…if anything, you have to be more motivated, more self-aware, and able to clearly figure out where you are missing something in order to ask the professor a question that is focused enough for a helpful response.

Good luck!

i’m not an expert and have not yet been accepted (dental school) but i may be able to add some of knowledge from my own ridiculous amt of research. as for my situation, i’ll be starting a post bacc program this fall at UNCG (well technically we’re considered 2nd degree students but it isn’t required to finish the 2nd degree). I graduated from The College of New Jersey in May’10 yet to continue to try to work on my BCPM gpa in the meantime before NC i’ve been taking classes at my local community college and some at TCNJ.

i was worried at first that community college and such would look bad but from what i’ve been told/read, it can be fine… as long as one doesn’t do ALL postbacc work (whether to finish pre reqs as in your case or for gpa/academic enhancement as in mine) at CC or online etc. in a way sevenwheels has the same game plan in mind - some courses online bc it is only feasible for a particular person/time… combined w some classroom to prove some so-called ‘rigorous’ study schedule for when ADCOMS scrutinize your application.

i’ve seen so many success stories from ppl who’ve done informal post baccs. some say the committee letter of a formal program is a plus, but i don’t see how a strong LOR from a department chair or even science professor is much less noteworthy.

in sum - i’d go for what is most financially and realistically practical for you personally. for me the question was: where can i take extra science courses and actually do very well. one thing i’ve learned about this whole pre-med/pre-dent process (other than the fact that not every1 goes into medicine/dentistry after a ~100% successful undergrad experience+1 effortless application cycle) is the importance of keeping in mind at all times that you are you, yours is yours and, tho it might be easy to get distracted by others’ processes and what has worked for them, you’re situation - obstacles, successes, defeats - is what in the end will get you into med school. i know what i’m saying may seem cliche and corny, but for real. this whole process can get confusing and extremely stressful. swallow one thing at a time, remembering that end result you want so bad for your future, and be ridiculously proud of each step you take.