Post Bac VS State School DIY Opinions?

Hi all,

I know this will be a decision that only I can make, but I would be grateful for your opinions.

And Gonnif, you’ve really helped over on another forum with this, and I’m very appreciative.

Anyway, here goes:

I’ve been accepted into a post-bac program that is two years long, with (slim) possibilities for linkage to med schools I really like.

It has specific and separate lecture classes just for post-bacs, and is supposed to be very supportive. It also has a built-in community of other post-bacs going through the same process.

On the downside, it’s incredibly expensive. And the linkage might not happen. And – I’d have to take calculus for their physics courses.

My other choice is a big state school. It’s totally DIY post-bac, though. And, no shot for linkage – so at least 3 years before starting med school, instead of the possibility of 2.

But, it’s super cheap, and algebra-based physics – so no calculus. It also has a good med school attached, so, hypothetically, I could be making contacts at the SOM while doing my undergrad work.

As an older student, and knowing myself, I really feel like I’d do better in a structured environment with other post-bac students – like the formal post-bac program. But, then the calculus worries me, and the cost scares me.

I’m pretty sure I could do quite well in the state school, too, but since I’m not from there, I’d be moving to a new place with no real community, going to classes with a sea of undergrads as a mid-30’s post-bac. Though I’d hope I would meet new people, I’ll have to be honest and say there’s a possibility that it could get pretty lonely.

Any thoughts or opinions? I’d be grateful for any and all!

I should add that I also really like the state school SOM, and will be applying there, as well as the possible linkage schools, regardless.

There’s a state school close to me (my Alma Mater) and an expensive private school close to me. Registration at my old state school was an absolute nightmare, I still work and there was no way to do more than 1 class with lab at a time. I opted for the expensive private school that rolled their labs into the class, and I always get into the classes I want.

It’s your call, but doing this is plenty challenging already, don’t underestimate the importance of where you’re most comfortable! Sometimes you get what you pay for. Would I go private school again? In a heartbeat.


Honestly, math is my worst subject. I had to take 4 classes of it before I was able to take calculus, which I then proceeded to get a B in. I was shocked to do so well.

It’s scary, but you can get it. And now you have resources like MIT’s openCourseware ( Math Section ) and Khan Academy (Starting from basic math through algebra and calculus) which make it so much easier to learn.

I’m not sure what’s the best option for you, but I would say don’t let a math class be a deciding factor.

Thank you both for your great responses.

Excellent points, and good to hear that the cost of a formal program might be worth it, and that calculus (probably) won’t kill me!

I’m still torn, but leaning towards the formal program. Have until end of July to decide.

Would love to hear any other opinions in the mean time if anyone has anything to add.

Thanks again guys.

I guess I am in a DIY type of situation myself. I’m married so I really didn’t have the lonliness factor too bad. I understand moving out of your comfort zone to a new area as I started 2009 in one school and then we moved for my wife’s work and started 2010 in another school.

Taking classes with the traditional students wasn’t that nad, as a matter of fact most of them were really friendly with me. My first half of my first semester I was really lonely, but I am not good at meeting people. About the middle of last semester I feel in with a pretty good group of folks (trads and non-trads and post-baccers). I guess I was just telling you all of that to say that don’t let the fear of being with the General Population of college scare you, it’s not like prison (ha ha).

I just started a DIY in January of this year at University of North Carolina - Charlotte. It’s a big state school, nothing special academically, and has no med school. Still, our post-baccs regularly go to schools like UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest every year, along with strong representation at DO schools. Last year, we had someone get interviews at Stanford and Duke (don’t know if they got in, but that’s still pretty cool for a post-bacc from a state school).

Linkages are nice, but it’s not guaranteed as you stated. If you’re starting the pre-med requirements from scratch, a formal program is nice due to the structure. But it’s also a cash cow for the school and competition can be stiff. At my state school, my classes are larger than they were at my undergrad (50-90 students), but I’ve found that it’s easy to get to know my profs. Since it’s a state college, there’s a huge mix of students, many of whom don’t care about school, so it’s not too difficult to stand out academically.

There’s no clear answer, but I don’t think an expensive or even prestigious post-bacc program always results in better chances of getting into med school. Plenty of people, if they can get the grades, can be quite successful coming from a DIY program at a state school. It’s also that much less debt we’ll end up with.

Assuming the state school is the “feeder” school for the attached SOM, that’s pretty much a built-in linkage if you are also a resident of that state. Going the DIY route you described would put you in a good position to apply as an early-decision candidate to the SOM, which would also boost your chances for acceptance (with of course good prereq grades, MCAT score and LORs).

I did the DIY route, and since I worked on campus I was able to roll it all into my schedule while I was working, so for me the savings were huge. I did not have to move so I didn’t have to make friends, but I did end up starting study groups with my traditional classmates, and surprisingly the closest friends I made in med school were traditional students and not fellow non-trads. The friendships will come if you study and complain with people.

I’m a big tightwad and I would DIY again in a SECOND. Merely the intensive schedule of the prereqs forces a degree of structure on you, so don’t worry too much about the “lack of structure” in a post-bac. Yes, there may be a little more bureaucracy to navigate in a state school. Okay, maybe a lot more. But hey, it’s good practice for the many fun bureaucratic mazes you will navigate in medicine. You’ll have to figure out your own priorities, but I’d go cheap. The med school loans are plenty big enough.

Thank you guys so much for your varied and thoughtful comments – and experiences!

It’s hugely helpful. Truly.

Thanks again.

DIY-postbacc worked well for me, and for Emergency! here at the forums. Can search our usernames to see some more details.

Obviously, few people have done both, so we can’t really say which is better. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, which you’ve nailed pretty well in your post. So just a matter of your priorities. For me - and trust me, I never saw myself as the most motivated individual - I was sufficiently motivated to build it myself and work through a state school DIY-style. That also allowed me more flexibility, so I worked full-time or part-time through most of it. YMMV, but DIY worked well for me, and I imagine it would work well for most.

Agree, DIY worked well for me. If you are really interested in your state school for med school, taking the pre-reqs there may be just as good or better than the formal postbacc with the slim chance of linkage. I took most of my pre-reqs at Ohio State and I think that helped my chances significantly when I applied to medical school. Each year, ~15-20% of Ohio State’s entering class did their undergrads there. (That doesn’t count people who did pre-reqs there or masters there).

I also agree that it’s relatively easy to do well in and stand out at a large state school. Many people taking the pre-reqs are taking them because they are required for their degree and not to get into professional school, so they are happy with C or better. Most of the pre-reqs are also freshman level courses which works to your advantage as the freshmen struggle with adapting to college.

Sit in the front, where you can make eye-contact with your prof. Ask (reasonable) questions. (Nobody likes the person who asks questions just for the sake of asking questions - save those for after lecture). Ask the prof questions after lecture, go to office hours, etc. You’d be amazed at how helpful some profs are. My Gen Chem prof would eat lunch with us once a week with whiteboard in tow and we’d go over homework problems together.

Just on the other side, I did a formal post-bacc and felt that for me the advantages outweighed the disadvantages (and the advantages did NOT include a linkage). It was at UVA but very few students in the program got into UVA’s med school…there was not any apparent favorable effect (except perhaps having academic LOR’s written by professors they knew). However, the special sections for the post-baccs (in Chem I and II and Organic Chem I and II (taught by the head of the chemistry dept who was also our academic dean for the post-bacc program) were much exceptional. The program provided a physics tutor in addition to the physics TA. We were all in the same lab sections in physics and bio (which worked against us as far as grades in physics as the grades were “curved” based on a standard distribution. 90’s were C’s…I think you needed a 94 for a B. All the standard premeds were also in the same physics section.)

We got great advising and an extra course on the health care system which helped us to be well-informed on issues that came up during our interviews. Was it worth the money? For me, the advising, quality of teaching, and comraderie of other non-trads (although I was still the oldest made it very much worthwhile. That’s my 2-cents.


You can certainly do the DIY route. Just make sure to do well in your classes. Also, be aware, some med schools want a year of math through single variable calc. Many want to see a stat class (and one of these days/years stat might be a requirement).