If you broke down topics of questions I receive, postbac pre-med programs are right up there with eating disorder recovery. It just shows two things — more people switch to medical careers than I thought, and there isn’t very much good information about them out there!
For those new around here, I graduated from college with majors in marketing and graphic design. After a few years working I decided to change careers and pursue medicine. To get all of the prerequisite courses, I attended UVA’s postbaccalaureate premedical program. To read more about my career change and experience with a postbac pre-med program, check out these posts. Note that I did my FAAW before the MCAT change, so things may be slightly different now!
5. Your Postbac Pre-med Questions Answers <–this one has a lot of good info!
Today I’m going to share some advice and answer a few more of the questions I get. I hope this helps you on your journey!!
Am I too old?
It would be very rare that I told someone they were too old to change careers. In my opinion, it’s always worth it to make a change for something you’re passionate about. If you look at it as future years worked, you probably have more than you think. For example, I’m the oldest girl in my class and I will get my MD at age 31. That means I have over 30 years of work ahead of me!!
The only situation I would say it was “too old” is maybe if you were in your 50s or 60s and would only have a few years of work ahead of you. But even then, maybe you plan on working til you’re 90! So no, you aren’t too old. That’s probably some society-placed timeline or pesky voice in your head telling you that. You may be one of the older ones in your class, and that makes certain things about being in medical school a little different, but you can always do it.
Do I have to do a postbac?
Nope. You can definitely just take the required classes on your own at a local college. However, postbac programs make the process a bit easier. The classes are organized so your schedule works instead of having to contact professors and work it all out yourself. You get an adviser and usually some help with shadowing and volunteering. There is often MCAT prep asl well! Many of the programs boast 90-100% med school acceptance rates, which says something. They are more expensive, but to me it was worth it.
Which postbac should I go to?
I had this question while I was applying and deciding which to attend. I didn’t know if one would look better than another. And yes, there are a few that are a bit more well known because they have been around longer. But after talking to a few medical school faculty I learned that the best way to get accepted was to have good grades, some medical experience, and a solid MCAT score. You can do that at a lot of places! So, my advice is to go to the place that feels most comfortable to you. What felt right? What clicked? The people felt like your people, the professors seemed well-liked, current students seemed happy, etc. So long as you can do well you can’t make a wrong decision.
What should my essay say?
There are two main things I believe your essay should convey:
- Why you want to become a physician. Was there one experience or series of experiences that led you here? Where does your passion for medicine come from? What makes a medicine the right career for you?
- That you understand what it means to be a physician. Show that you have some knowledge of the benefits and struggles of a career in medicine and the current state of the medical field. This can be done in a number of ways, but show why your personality and goals fit best with medical school. People may very well ask you why not PA or NP, so be prepared to answer that.
What if I don’t have any experience in medicine?
That’s an okay place to start! They understand that you are making a career change and you haven’t been in the medical world. They’ll be looking to see that you have been involved and doing well in whatever field you’re currently in. However, you should start trying to gain some experience by shadowing or volunteering. Reach out to family friends or local hospitals and see how you can help.
What are your tips for interviews?
Be yourself! Be professional, but you don’t have to be super stiff. It’s okay to smile and laugh! Many programs are looking for people that would make for a cohesive, well-rounded class. They want to see that you can have a good conversation because that shows you will be good with patients. That want to know how you plan to contribute to the class and any goals you have for medical school. Want to start a club? Get involved in a current club? Volunteer in some way? Tell them!
Also, make sure you can share your story well. You’ll be asked a lot since you’re a career changer, so practice speaking about it intelligently. And have a reasonable answer to your opinion about the state of healthcare, just in case you get one of those killer interviewers that wants to ask you controversial questions about politics. It doesn’t have to be “right”, just well thought out and knowledgable.
How did you pay for it?
Loans are no fun. If you have the savings or a family that is willing to pay for it that is wonderful. However, it’s very normal to take our loans for your postbac. Unfortunately postbags aren’t degree seeking programs so you’ll have to look into private loans. These don’t have some of the benefits of the government subsidized loans you can get during medical school! It’s definitely something to take into consideration, but if you’re serious about a long term career in healthcare you can do it. The vast majority of medical students graduate with a significant amount of debt. I would never encourage you to be irresponsible about it, but medicine is a career where you can be confident in having an income that can pay them back.