As you head towards senior year of college, you may find that you need additional academics post-graduation in order to be a competitive med school candidate. Many universities offer a post-baccalaureate program in the medical sciences that ranges from coursework for credit to a master’s degree. There are two different types of programs that satisfy different goals for potential med school applicants:

  • Career-Changer Programs: For students who decide late in their college career to pursue medicine and need to complete required pre-med coursework.
  • Academic Enhancer Programs: For students who have completed the pre-med coursework, but whose undergraduate science GPA is not competitive enough for admission to medical school and who therefore need to demonstrate stronger mastery of science coursework through a Master’s program.

In addition to offering an academic curriculum, post-bac programs may provide guidance on preparing for the MCAT, engaging in activities such as shadowing and research, and developing an appropriate medical school list. Another advantage of attending a post-bac program and applying to med school after college is that it provides the opportunity for your senior year grades to be taken into consideration in the med school review process.

Often post-bac programs have “linkage” arrangements with certain med schools in which students receive strong consideration by these “consort” schools of medicine and may receive conditional acceptance during their post-bac year. This may eliminate the need for a “glide year” (also known as a gap year) between the post-bac program and matriculation at med school. Candidates would be reviewed in the spring of the post-bac program based on academic performance to date and MCAT scores.

Career-Changer Programs

While some students enter college knowing that they want to pursue a pre-med track with the goal of applying to medical school, other students do not decide to do so until junior or senior year, and therefore are unlikely to have taken the pre-med requirements. For these students, an excellent option is to attend a post-bac program that provides all the pre-med coursework in one year.

One of the oldest, most well-established programs is the 12-month Bryn Mawr College Post-baccalaureate Premedical Program. Bryn Mawr does not have its own medical school, and its post-bac program has linkages with 18 cohort schools, including some of the top med schools in the country, such as Weill Cornell Medical College, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Post-bac programs at universities with their own med schools, such as Tufts University, typically have a linkage program with their school as well as other med schools.

Academic Enhancer Programs

Academic Enhancer programs are ideal for students who have completed the pre-med requirements but whose academic performance in college does not place them in a competitive position for acceptance to medical school. Typically, these students have a weak science GPA as well as a weak overall GPA. This could be due to a variety of factors such as a difficult adjustment to college, a lack of understanding of the strong role of grades in the med school admissions process, or an inability to prioritize schoolwork over social or extracurricular activities.

A few common options for academic enhancer programs include Master of Science in Medical Sciences (MAMS), such as at Boston University; MS in Biomedical Sciences (MBS), such as at Duke University, Mount Sinai, and Vanderbilt University; and MS in Medical Physiology (MSMP), such as at Case Western Reserve University. Other more specialized programs include MS in Anatomical and Translational Sciences (M-ATS), such as at George Washington University.

Impact of Grades in Post-Bac Programs

Med schools look at the science GPA, non-science GPA, and overall GPA in both undergraduate and, if applicable, graduate courses. Courses in both Career Changer and Academic Enhancer Programs are all science courses and would count towards the overall science GPA. Here are the differences:

  • The courses in Career Changer programs are at the undergraduate level; strong grades could help offset weak grades in college science courses and boost the overall undergraduate GPA.
  • Courses in Academic Enhancer Programs that culminate in a Master’s degree would factor into the graduate-level science GPA, and would clearly demonstrate the applicant’s ability to handle the academic challenges of medical school work.

Planning for medical school is a complex process. If you would like guidance on any aspect of the med school application and admissions process, contact us at As always, we’re happy to help!

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