New to the Site, its good to find a Non-Trad geared site

Hi. I’m a 26 year old professional currently attending law school in DC at GULC. I entered law school as it seemed to be the right fit for my life, based on my current occupation and the fact that I am able to go without incurring much (if any) debt.

However, deep down I have always been drawn to medicine. I took an EMT-B course in college, did some volunteer work in a hospital, but never really made anything of it since my BA is in the liberal arts.

Now I am in law school and realizing I really do not like what lawyers do. Law school is interesting, but the process is miserable (although I’m sure medical school isn’t much fun either). One thing is certain, though, is that I don’t really want to be a LAWYER and that is why I think so many lawyers hate their jobs… Many end up in the profession by default.

Anyway, I’m currently looking into post-bac programs around here, as well as Goucher and Bryn Mawr, Hopkins, and others that would require up and moving. I just feel like it is a big risk to leave what I currently have, leave law school, and take on thousands of debt for a post-bac program in order to pursue my dream.

Any input or advice is appreciated. I noticed there are a few lawyers on here, maybe there are a few law students contemplating leaving as well, who knows? Either way, your input is appreciated.

Well, the first thing is that if your undergrad grades are good, you don’t have to do a formal post-bacc to apply to med school. You may be able to get a job and take your require prerequisite courses one or two at a time so you don’t rack up additional debt before applying to med school. I hope a former attorney will drop by and help you out with your larger question.

Welcome to OPM!

Hey Gooble,

Welcome to OPM! I noticed that in your post you spoke of schools that offered a formal postbac, well as samenewme mentioned you may not need to do a formal post-bac. One option that is available to you (since I do believe you are in the Baltimore/DC area) is Univ of MD offers a sciences at night program. And I do believe they offer most of the basic requirements for pre-med. Take a look and see if that is what you need. There is no certificate with it. But the courses count just the same.

Not sure if you still volunteer or not as an EMT-B but that may be something to do just 2 make sure you aren’t making a decision for the wrong reason. maybe even volunteer in an ER (looks good for applications as well).

I just moved from Annapolis MD up to NY to work and take my pre-reqs so I know alot of whats in MD, so if you have any questions send me a msg!

Good luck!

Denise -

You say “if your undergrad grades are good you may not need to do a formal post-bacc”. Would you mind explaining why you say that a little? (Especially as I am about to disagree with you on that. ) When I started looking at going back for the pre-reqs I actually found that my undergrad GPA was going to KEEP me from being able to do a formal post-bacc. The few programs that I investigated had GPA requirements of 3.0 or higher.

I fretted about the formal post-bacc thing for awhile - not only were my grades not good enough, there weren’t really any programs in my area anyways. However, after talking to a pre-med counselor and admissions counselors at two different schools, I came away assured that I did NOT need to go through a formal post-bacc program and also with the feeling that other than a program with a linkage, they didn’t feel that a formal program would give me any kind of advantage over taking the courses on my own.

My personal opinion on formal programs - only do them if the location and cost (some of them are ridiculously expensive) are workable for you or you want the security of having a linkage program. (and be careful on those, because even many linked programs do not guarantee you a seat in medical school).

I was hasty, and I realize that many formal post-bacc programs have such high standards that people who need a boost can’t get in anyway. I think I was trying to say that if you have good undergraduate grades, do well on the MCAT, and get good letters of recommendation, etc., you don’t really need whatever linkage or special support a formal post-bacc program gives you, and for me I decided it clearly wasn’t worth the money.

My main point was that you can take the prerequisites at a university that fits your schedule, often with less disruption to your life or your job, and save a big ol’ pile o’ money. I think sometimes people get the idea you HAVE to take a post-bacc program to get into med school if you already have a bachelor’s and don’t have the prereqs, and I wanted to make it clear that this is SO NOT TRUE.

Now back to studying anatomy!

(Denise, who did her own informal post-bacc and is in med school now and is BUSY and can’t write well anymore).

Snulma: Do you know anything about the UMD program? They keep NO stats on their matriculation successes of their students, so that concerns me.

Emergency: Why don’t you like formal programs? I agree they are obscenely expensive (I am looking at Georgetown’s) however they generally have much higher success rates than just randomly taking courses.

  • gooble Said:
Emergency: Why don't you like formal programs? I agree they are obscenely expensive (I am looking at Georgetown's) however they generally have much higher success rates than just randomly taking courses.

I really have no background to say I don't LIKE formal programs as I didn't do one. From what little research I have done, though, they just don't seem worth the money (among other things).

A do-it-yourself isn't necessarily "randomly" taking courses either. (Although, I will agree that some people do approach their post-bacc in a rather random approach) I knew exactly which required courses I was taking for each quarter of my post-bacc. The only decisions that really arose for me were what "recommended" courses I was going to take during my last quarter (when I only had one required course left to take).

When you start talking about success rates - I think you need to wonder how they arrive at those success rates. First, some programs have high standards for getting in (i.e. a 3.0 GPA or higher) and even higher standards for staying in. Secondly, some programs (have no specifics on which ones) have a way of "weeding" people out long before they apply to medical school, and don't count those people in their statistics. Also, I don't know how you could really do any kind of good statistical analysis on people who do their own post-bacc and apply to med school because the system just isn't set up to track them.

I'm not at all saying that you shouldn't consider formal programs. There are many excellent programs out there that will prepare you well and may very well give you an advantage in applying for medical school. My big point is that many people seem to think they HAVE to do a formal program. If a formal program works for you, great. But, don't move across the country and go tens of thousands of dollars in debt just to attend a post-bacc program unless you truly feel that program is the best option for you.

There are some pluses to some formal programs - many have small classes, extra tutoring, an opportunity to get to know profs one-on-one, some have great application services (personal statement reviews, assistance with LOR's, mock interviews, practice MCATs, MCAT prep, etc). However, you can also get most of that at some schools without being in a formal program. Many formal programs are also structured so that you can get all of your courses completed in a shorter amount of time than you might be able to if you took them on your own.

Negatives - cost, cost, cost. (My big one). Also, there may be very little flexibility about when you are taking your courses. For some people with families and those who need to continue working, this may not be an option. I have also heard that some programs are ridiculously competitive - everybody in your gen chem class (for example) is planning on applying to medical school, so it can be very difficult to stand out. In this scenario, people may also be less than helpful and will do whatever it takes to make them stand out/get the A.

Investigate your options thoroughly and do what is best for YOU. If you are more comfortable with a formal post-bacc than with doing it on your own, then by all means do so.

So where did you do your informal post bac requirements? My major reasons for looking at Georgetown and some of the more formal programs is they have pre-med committees that write letters and relationships with med schools.

UMD has science in the evening that is dirt cheap and GMU is a VA school so in-state tuition is dirt, however, these schools do not necessarily have the name recognition and reputation that the formal post-bac programs have.

I took my courses at Ohio State and Capital University (Columbus, OH). Ohio State does not do committee letters, so students are responsible for their own letters. The pre-med office encourages pre-med students to use Interfolio (an online service) for their LORs. Even though I was enrolled as a “continuing ed” student, I was still able to make appointments with pre-med advisors. Medical schools are aware that some colleges/universities do not do committee letters, so whether or not a school does a committee letter is not necessarily a big deal.

Your questions does bring up a good point about things to consider when looking at doing your own post-bacc. What kind of services does the school provide for pre-med students and are you eligible for them? Some schools have no problem letting students enrolled as continuing ed/non-degree students having the same access to pre-med advising services, committee letters, etc. Others do and this is where problems can arise. If you are attending a school that does pre-med committee letters, but the “committee” won’t write a letter for you because you aren’t technically a “pre-med” student, this can be a problem.

Some schools have horrible pre-med services even for traditional pre-meds. So, checking out the pre-med services of a school is certainly not a bad idea. If their services are less than ideal, are you comfortable with that?

Name recognition and reputation, IMO, may be a bit overrated. If you strongly desire to attend one of the medical schools that a formal program has a relationship with, this might be a valid reason to consider the program. Outside of those schools, though, this may be of limited value.

Again, you have to decide for yourself if the benefits of a formal program are worth the cost and other considerations for you. What is most important to YOU? The services provided? Cost? Flexibility of scheduling? If you KNOW you want to go to Georgetown Medical School, their program guarantees you a seat if you are accepted, then it may be worth it to you to pay the extra $$$ to attend their program if you are accepted. You might want to contact some of the medical schools you are interested in and ask their opinion on formal post-baccs vs. doing it yourself. I actually would be very interested to hear what they say.

Of course things change and it has been 7 years since I was doing my applications, but with that caveat let me point out:

  1. When I did my informal self-styled post-bacc at GMU, my classes were excellent, I did well on the MCAT, and got a good committee letter (from what I’ve heard; I did not see it).

  2. The admissions director at Georgetown at the time told me that GMU had a “good reputation” among medical schools for writing a thoughtful, thorough and helpful committee letter.

  3. When I was there, you qualified for a committee letter if you completed 30 credits with a certain GPA (I think 3.4), and achieved a certain score on the MCAT (I think 27). This certainly may have changed since then.

    As Amy pointed out, formal post-baccs will have criteria you must meet in order to qualify for their “endorsement” (committee letter), and they may be quoting stats only for those candidates who “successfully complete” the program; they may define successful completion as qualifying for a committee letter rather than simply going through the program. You just don’t know. I’ve always felt that stats on websites should come with a big flashing BUYER BEWARE!!! sign because they get to invisibly select the group they’re manufacturing statistics on. (Caribbean schools are particularly creative at this.)

    Don’t go putting THAT much stock in a committee letter. It undoubtedly is helpful. However, it’s not a make-or-break proposition. Honestly I think the most useful thing about it is the way it saves you, the candidate, a good bit of time and hassle. Having sat on an AdCom, I saw lots of both committee and individual letters and they were of varying levels of helpfulness that did NOT relate to whether they were from individuals or institutions.

    Post-bacc schools want you to believe that they give you a decided edge. They certainly can help to organize your approach to the application cycle and if you don’t think you’ll be able to really launch a top-notch application without a lot of support services, they may help a lot. But you can do it yourself successfully if you are strongly self-motivated and aggressively proactive in your approach. Good luck!


Thanks for that. I’ve been feeling a little uneasy myself lately about doing an informal post-bacc, specifically regarding the committee letter. I’ve been pretty worried that it would hurt me. You’ve made me feel a lot better.


I would LOVE to hear your take on the GMU post-bac cert. I am a current law student here in DC contemplating leaving to pursue my dream of medicine.

I was looking at Georgetown’s program but it is SOOOO expensive and UMD’s science in the evening is a deal, but meant for part-time study. I can’t seem to find any info. or statistics on GMU’s success rate and would love to hear your input. Since I am a VA resident the tution is dirt cheap.

Any information or advice is appreciated!


I’m at GMU at this moment and I’m going to finish in May. I didn’t do the postbac program though. I was doing BS, since my first degree was from overseas. Anyway! I had a bunch of older, non-trad people in my classes along the way; some of them are applying this year, some of them have already started dental schools…

All the science classes I’ve taken at GMU were good…that can’t be said about some non-science classes…

If you have some specific questions, feel free to pm me.


  • gooble Said:
I would LOVE to hear your take on the GMU post-bac cert. I am a current law student here in DC contemplating leaving to pursue my dream of medicine.

I have no idea if GMU has any sort of formal post-bacc certificate. When I say "I did my post-bacc at GMU," I simply mean that I took the prereqs there, as a continuing education student. It worked out great for me but I had a very flexible job schedule during my first year (when I took gen-chem and cell biology) and then I quit work to go full-time during my second year (physics, o-chem, more biology). It was cheap, too!


So how are your medical school apps. coming mad? I am looking at post-bac programs, but can’t seem to get a feel on the quality of GMU’s and their name weight in terms of getting into medical school.

It is sooo cheap though and I could easily go full-time and do this in a year rather than 2-3.

I think (and this is my opinion only) that you are placing WAY too much emphasis on whether or not the “name” of the institution you take your pre-reqs at will help you get in to medical school. As long as you get good grades in them and do well on the MCAT, I don’t think that WHERE you did them (unless you go to an institution that is notorious for grade inflation/poor quality instruction) is going to play that significant of role into your application. (If I’m wrong on this, I hope some of you current/former adcom committee people will correct me).

However, it seems you are truly worried about this, so I would recommend that you make an appointment to see an admissions counselor at a couple of med schools that you would like to attend and ask for their opinion. (i.e. - how much does where I take my pre-reqs weigh into the overall package of getting an interview/getting accepted). Unless they tell you that they DO give significant weight to pre-reqs from certain institutions, I would base your decision on where to take them on convenience (location and class schedules), cost, and quality of instruction (you want to learn the material for the MCAT - not just get a good grade).

As mentioned a couple of times, success rates of getting into medical school are very subjective. There is no “standardized” formula that schools/programs use to determine what percentage of their students get into medical school. You are better off visiting some schools, talking to some current/former students and making your decision based on where you think you will be most successful AND happy in this pursuit.

Lots of thoughts about this thread… But I think I’ll just explain my own experience and why I made the choices I did, vs that of some of my OPM classmates who went different routes.

I went to San Francisco State instead of the formal Mills College program nearby, which for me was the formal option. For a lot of reasons I didn’t think too seriously about other programs (e.g Bryn Mawr, etc). Money was a paramount concern; I also asked med students and residents and found that the Mills program was not necessarily going to be an advantage for me in particular, because at the time I wanted to go to UCSF and there were a fair number of SFSU post-bacs going on to UCSF–it wasn’t going to require convincing the admissions folks that I’d gone somewhere reasonable for my courses.

I had an unusual situation in that I had no grades for undergrad; I did get honors in my major. I think I probably could have won admission to a formal program, though.

I do not regret going to SFSU at all. It allowed me to take additional courses. This might be a story worth telling. I really wanted to take immunology, because of my interests in HIV and in vaccine development, and most of all because I think the immune system is gorgeous and beautiful and great. The immunology course required advanced pre-reqs which I didn’t have time for–cell bio and biochem, I think. So instead, I talked my way into an independent study with an immunology prof (he supervised me going off-site to work with a scientist at UCSF and signed off on giving me credit, and read my final paper). And then, after I took an immunology course at an extension school which had less stringent pre-reqs (you just had to have completed intro bio), I took an immunology graduate seminar with the same professor who by that time could see that I was clearly very motivated. Then I took an immunology lab methods course while I was studying for the MCAT… and went on to work in an immunology lab while I was applying to schools.

Without a doubt, it was this part of my experience much more than my o.chem or chemistry or bio classes that got attention from schools I wanted to pay attention to me. I personally think that informal programs are more likely to offer this kind of possibility, especially at larger institutions. However, this takes a lot of personal initiative–no one is going to set this sort of thing up for you. You have to go in knowing what you want to do (in my case, learn immunology whether or not a med school let me in.) I think OPMs often forget to think about how you can use a post-bac program as a stepping-stone to pursue what is unique about you, and thus distinguish yourself from other applicants.

Because I came into SFSU with a public health background already, and did clinical volunteering and then clinical research work, and then did basic science coursework and lab work well beyond the required courses, by the time I was done I had a monster CV. Despite going to first a kinda hippie-flaky school (UC Santa Cruz, before it had grades) and then an urban public four-year school serving mostly kids from working-class and lower-middle class families, I got to choose between three great med schools populated mostly by Ivy grads and the like. (Which, ironically, did not include UCSF, for which I had spent so much time and energy.)

Now, let’s take the contrasting example of a certain med student close to my heart who is maybe the prototype of a successful student who went to a more formal post-bac program. She did well in her undergrad Ivy League non-science major and had excellent study skills from the get-go; had high-powered and health-related work experience; got a masters degree doing interesting research within medicine; went to Bryn Mawr; and went from there to the same med school I’m attending. If I had been in a program competing mainly with people like her I think I would have done poorly. (She definitely kicks my ass academically in med school!) Also I would have had a much harder time establishing my uniqueness and credibility. She had credibility walking into her post-bac program–all she needed was the coursework and some clinical exposure/volunteer time. She then had people who already had credibility with med schools (e.g., the Bryn Mawr program) who were ready to vouch for her.

As a somewhat more quirky applicant, I think that if I’d gone to Bryn Mawr I would have gone on to med school but I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities I was able to find at SFSU. I had my immunology prof vouching for me, because he saw me as this really motivated individual; as well as my lab scientist mentors who also appreciated that I was starting from 0 and trying to rev up to 70 mph very quickly. That was quite different than the recs I would have had from a formal program. If I’d gone to one of these programs, I suspect would have said, “We like this guy, he’s a nice fellow, and he’s an OK student.” (I was almost never best in my class even at SFSU.) The letters I suspect I had said something more like, “This guy loves the immune system and worked his ass off to learn about it.” Which one of these versions of me would you admit to your med school? And so if I’d taken the formal route, I would have had less choice of schools, I think.


A side note on the issue of post-bac program selectivity. The programs basically place bets on who is likely to be able to get through the process and get to medical school at the end. In addition to the cynical goal of improving their stats, this also helps them build relationships with medical schools who, over the years, begin to trust that most of a given programs’s students are worth looking at. This latter goal is less cynical. It means that if they accept you they’re already placing a bet on you–and that if you get through the program they are going to place an even bigger bet. If you turn out to be a poor med student, it hurts them and all their other students–so it’s not in their institutional interest to take risks, even if you’re paying them a boatload of money in exchange. (To put in a more business-world frame, the issue is basically preserving the value of their brand with admissions committees.)

The alternate approach is one taken by a number of programs affiliated with Univ of California med schools (and probably others) which take people from underrepresented groups who have some challenges in their applications (e.g., may have failed to win admission on the first round), but with coaching and help may be able to win admission. These programs are willing to take risks on less high-achieving students that the private programs won’t, because it helps the med school and affiliated undergrad institution achieve another goal: get more students from underrepresented groups into medical school. If not all those bets pay off it’s OK because if even some of them do, the med school has done more to reach its goal than if it had done nothing.

In summary, if you don’t look like you’re going to help someone meet an institutional goal (e.g., building trust between a post-bac program and med schools, or helping increase numbers of underrepresented groups in medical school and clinical practice), you are less likely to find, and less likely to benefit from, a formal program. Kind of a bummer, but medicine just doesn’t see it as a priority goal to help individuals transform their lives when they have so many applicants who were made for this in the first place. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it–it just means the system doesn’t provide you with as many clear footholds up the cliff. You can still climb up there, but you’re going to the peak via a tougher approach. The ideal is finding individual professors within informal programs who do have it as their personal goal to help individuals transform their lives–who believe in and support this kind of personal project. Those are going to be the best allies if you’re not walking in with instant credibility.

good luck all


WOW! Joe’s post outta be a stickie.

No kidding, Crooz. Great post, Joe. You said what I was kind of trying to say in a much more diplomatic way and with more concrete examples. Nice food for thought for future post-bacc students.


I think I’m going to apply to bryn mawr, but I really have no shot. I graduated with a 3.4 overall gpa, but I got a D+ in Bio II and a C in Chem I way back when. It was five years ago and I was a 21 year old college kid that just transferred to a new school and wasn’t really focused on my studies.

Obviously it panned out alright for me as I am a 1L at Georgetown law, but like Joe said, these formal post-bacs look for students to boost their numbers and likely won’t see past my youthful stupidity 5 years ago.

I will likely end up either at the cheaper UMD or GMU options, or maybe the super expensive formal program at Georgetown, but the thought of 40K on post-bac undergrad classes is frightening.

We will see what Bryn Mawr says though. They said to apply and submit my LSAT scores (in the 89th percentile) to show that I am capable of a doing well on standardized exams as well as mentioning in an essay how I overcame the D+ and C to still graduate with a 3.4 overall. We will see.