No Holds Barred--Which Post-Bacc program is best?

What is the prevailing thought out there regarding which post-bacc premed program is the “best bang for the buck”? I want a program where I’m going to learn–I don’t want something that’s just going to be easy, and I want a program that is well respected. But, I’m not sure qualified to be in those programs–see below. There are a lot of programs, but it seems that nearly all are the same. And, in my opinion without seeing them or knowing too much about them, nearly all over-priced. Ha, I know I live in a dream world where college should be affordable.
I have only mediocre credentials to get into a program (3.28 undergraduate GPA, 4.0 in grad school–working towards Masters of Music, nearly 0 science and math courses and the ones I have are B’s and C’s, and no volunteer work in the medical area–I’ve given all my time, generally 12 or 13 hours per day, to my teaching) so I’m not even sure what programs I might be eligible for. On a teacher’s salary I don’t have a lot of $ to throw into applications, so I’d like to have a good idea before I apply to some (Groucher and Bryn Mawr have piqued an interest, although I have passed the suggested deadline for applying to Bryn Mawr, but I don’t have much to go on when I’m making any decision as to which school to attend or even apply to).
I am also considering University of Hawaii at Hilo with the hopes of getting into the U of H’s med school. I’m from Hawaiian descent and would like to get back to my roots. Does anyone have any background with these programs? In looking through the schools attended by students in the various post-bacc programs I wasn’t able to find a single school that listed University of Hawaii as a location their post-bacc students were attending. I’m guessing this isn’t because the U of H is that selective. Any ideas what might be going on there? Is the quality of U of H Med School low?
OK, that’s enough for one post. Any guidance anyone can give as to which post-bacc program to associate with, especially with my credentials (or lack thereof) would be greatly appreciated!!!

Larry, I don’t think you’re going to get an unequivocal answer to this question. People go into post-bacc programs with different needs and expectations and what will be the “best” program for one person will not suit another person well at all. And there aren’t rankings for these programs like the USNews & World Report!
So I suggest you be clear about what YOU need from a post-bacc program, and then look at the programs to see which of them might suit you best. You probably ought to talk to folks in those programs to get more detailed information - in other words, YOU should interview THEM to see if they’re suitable for YOU, not the other way around.
This last point is one that people have a hard time with. It’s your money that is going to be spent in pursuit of this education, and these schools need to show you that the expense is justified. So don’t think of this as “will I be good enough for them?” The real question is, are they worth your hard-earned money? Make them prove it to you.
And be sure you get ALL the details about program specifics. For example, many programs will mention that they have “linkages” with medical schools. Find out how they work - who’s eligible? what happens if you DON’T qualify? what else do they do to help you get in? etc.
Initially it’ll be hard to even think of all the questions you need to ask, because it’s unfamiliar territory and you don’t know what you don’t know. You’ll be ready to start talking to folks on the phone after you’ve read through several schools’ materials on their websites, and then don’t be shy about calling back, multiple times if necessary, to get more information or clarifications. Don’t worry about being a pest. Schools generally are glad to know of a student’s interest because that means they’re more likely to be a paying customer in the future.
Your credentials mean that some schools may not be interested in you - that’s okay. (although your GPA is definitely okay, and many schools expect that you come to them with few science credits) You can simply focus your energies elsewhere, or if you are discouraged by a program that really, really appeals to you, ask how you can become a competitive candidate for that program.
Finally, I hope you are also considering the possibility of NOT doing a formal post-bacc, because it isn’t necessary. There are lots of conversations about this in past OPM threads so I won’t rehash it here… just search for “post-bacc” and you’ll find lots of opinions. I’m probably biased toward not doing one because I didn’t, and it worked out just fine.
But back to the original question: If you are going to invest in a formal post-bacc, I think there are two key things: what’s it gonna cost? and, what do you get for your money? Only you can figure out exactly how that value works out for you. Good luck!

I would suggest doing a search on this topic on OPM. Many people have written on this very topic.
I’ve written several times about why I chose Towson Univ (a formal post-bacc at a respected state school @ $7,500) over Goucher ($20k+). I only applied to both and was accepted to both. While my husband and I had the money, I couldn’t justify spending over $20k when I felt that I could do just as well for less. The state school wasn’t “easy” by any means and the classes were small with a lot of personal attention. All of the instructors knew who the post-baccs were and supported us in every way. However, I also didn’t feel that I needed a big-name post-bacc to make up for a mediocre undergrad (which is why some people go for the big-name).
I also felt that Towson’s program was more of my type non-traditional (early 30’s, career changer) versus been out of school for one or two years but wasn’t a pre-med early 20’s non-traditional. I definitely felt very comfortable at Towson.
As for acceptabilty into med school…again, where I did my post-bacc was never an issue, not even at the top-20 out of state school I was accepted at (but turned down to remain co-located with my husband). It all probably may depend on what you feel you need to prove to an admissions committee.
Don’t get me wrong, Goucher has a great program, but at what price and is it where you will be happiest. Yet at the same time, appreciate that fact that some smaller/less well-known programs have a lot to offer.
Just my 2 cents,

I have a friend who went to the Bryn Mawr program who says:
you get it done quick
you’re paying someone to manage your portfolio who has a good idea of where you’ve got a good chance of getting in, and helps you do that
some arrangements with other med schools to get you in right out of the gate in some cases
you’re going to live in suburban Philly
it costs
you can’t work at the same time–full time program
you may or may not agree with the advisor’s take on your situation…
she endorses it and it did well by her. She was an extremely well-qualified person with good prior GPA, prestigious undergrad institution, and a health-related work history, who aside from not having taken the pre-reqs and MCATs, was a dream applicant walking into Bryn Mawr, and thus was best poised to take advantage of its plusses.
I went to San Francisco State, a good example of the non-formal option. I went to a not-prestigious not-unknown undergrad at which I had no GPA (evaluations, no grades), and honors in my major; and a health-related work history. I was probably a decent but uneven applicant before my pre-reqs and MCATs; I became a much better applicant in the process b/c of some of the stuff I did (work, research, volunteering) during the process. This was possible because I had a more flexible class schedule.
The advantages were:
I took the bus from my house where I already lived
I worked
I had other research and class opportunities at the same time
It was super cheap
Classes with undergrads meant that post-bacs dominated the top of the curve (b/c we’re maniacally devoted)
The disadvantages were:
Variable quality of fellow students meant I wasn’t challenged as hard as I might have been
Advising was good but not necessarily oriented towards lofty goals, and there was no hand-holding–I managed the process myself. (This was also an advantage: I kept my own counsel.)
Both of us are attending the same medical school now and it is a swell school–there are many paths to the same destination.
I would add that there is a different category of post-bac programs, often oriented towards students from traditionally underrepresented groups. If you are of Native Hawaiian descent you may qualify for some of these programs whether at U of HI or elsewhere. I can not speak to which of these programs are best; I can tell you that all or most of the UCalif med schools sponsor them. Most are oriented to those who have already taken some science courses and may have even applied to med school already, but need a boost up in a second app round. However some may be right for you and some may also be able to give you advice. The U of HI med school seems really great to me; if I was a HI resident I would have applied. Very progressive curriculum, lots of opportunities for good primary care work and infectious disease work–good and underrated by what I can discern. (I recently had a good conversation with an associate dean there who impressed me.)
Good luck!
best regards

So, to clarify the U of H question–it would be unlikely for a non-HI resident to get in there. Since there are only a small number of HI residents who would go to any other post-bac programs outside of HI, then it is unlikely that you’ll run into those folks. I’d recommend getting in touch with the U of H people directly.
good luck

Thanks for all the comments. I called the U of H’s med school and in fact the accept a few (6 out of c. 60) non-residents. And even if you are a resident that only gives you one point on their scale checking your connection with Hawaii. So that’s not looking too good. I also spoke with Goucher today–that doesn’t look good either. Don’t meet the GPA or ACT qualifications on that end, and added with a lack of medical volunteering they pretty much told me not to apply. So…looking at it positively, there’s two fewer schools I have to worry about!!
I would still love to hear other people’s thoughts if anyone has any. I did a search on the site and found a lot of people talking about post-bacc but only a very few posts talked about specific programs. Anyone that can give this pathetic person some info on programs that might actually want him he’d love to hear it.
Thanks again to all those who replied, and to all those who read through the posts!

Is your teaching appointment nine months? If you’re nearly finished your master’s, maybe you can spend a summer on some in-depth volunteering to help bolster your application.

I’ve speculated that the reason it’s hard to find people discussing specific programs is that once people actually leave the starting gate of pre-med, they tend not to come back to forums that discuss the early stages: they’re too busy with med school, or they only hang out in forums which discuss med school or residency.
I’m leaning more and more towards not doing a formal post-bacc. If these programs are going to give us the runaround and make us jump through hoops, forget 'em. I took a little poll of non-trad med students over at SDN and the general consensus was that it hardly matters where you take the courses. I can’t believe a 3.28 GPA isn’t good enough for Goucher! I suppose that with a 3.1, I wouldn’t stand a chance. It’s funny, I always see people saying “there are 2 kinds of post-bacc programs: those for people who need to take the science courses, and those for people who need to boost a mediocre academic record.” Some people forget that some of us are in both camps. If Goucher and Bryn Mawr don’t want us because we’re not already gunners fiercely jumping through all the hoops, we’ll take our tuition money elsewhere… and still be doctors in the end, right alongside those who went to those programs.
I’m in the Philadelphia area and currently looking at St. Joe’s, Villanova, and Temple. People from those schools get into med school, and if they can do it, so can I. Keep us posted on your progress.

I graduated in '96 with an English degree and a 3.74 GPA, but I hadn’t taken any science or math classes. I decided to go to my state school for a second degree in biology. Originally I was just going to do an informal post bacc and take the requirements, but I found out that in my case, a 2nd degree would fit better. I want to eventually attend a med school that requires both calculus and biochemistry, so I’d be in school earning a degree in almost the same amount of time that my informal post bacc would have taken me.
There have been a lot of advantages to being a bio major. The first advantage has been that my school offers degree seeking students the opportunity to have an alumni mentor. My mentor is an ob/gyn and I’ve gotten to shadow her both in her clinic and on call. I don’t know how else I would have been able to get this kind of opportunity, since I don’t know any other doctors well enough to ask if I could shadow them.
I’ve also been able to secure a really great funded research position in a fungal biology lab by being a bio major. I’ll be doing the project this summer, and then in the fall I’ll do an independent study class so that I can write a paper on my findings.
Bio classes outside of the med school requirements are really interesting and have helped me comprehend general bio stuff at a much deeper level. I’m reading my textbooks as if passages from the MCAT were taken from them, and ask myself how I would interpret the diagrams/ideas/ etc if MCAT style questions were asked.
On another level, this long time frame that it’s taking me to get my second degree is helping me to get the hang of “thinking like a scientist.” It’s deepened my personal drive to become a doctor. I’ve had to become very self directed and focused. I think if I had been in a formal post bacc program I wouldn’t have developed the internal personal skills neccessary for a professional job.