Published on 2012/07/06

Post-Baccalaureate Programs Allowing Non-Traditionals to Reinvent Themselves

After graduating from an undergraduate program and taking your life down one road, it can seem daunting to have to turn around and start from scratch. However, as Cecilia Capuzzi Simon reports in the New York Times, struggling actors with fine arts degrees are finding pathways into medical school through post-baccalaureate programs.

Post-baccalaureate programs typically require a first undergraduate degree as a prerequisite, but are not considered typical graduate education. While some post-baccalaureate programs lead to degrees, certificates and credentials, others can be used to prepare students for graduate or professional schools.

According to the President of the Association of American Medical Colleges, Dr. Darrell G. Kirsch, these programs serve as a vital gateway to the medical profession.

“In the absence of these programs, a number of people who would be great doctors would give up,” he told Simon.

Despite the expense of such programs—which typically carry the same rate as undergraduate for-credit tuition—enrollment for post-baccalaureate programs is booming. Columbia University’s enrollment has more than doubled since 2000. Washington University in St. Louis has seen its enrollment triple since introducing the program in 2006.

Post-baccalaureate programs have their roots in the post-war era when they were established to help a generation re-invent itself, professionally. In recent times, these programs have been geared towards recruiting and training minority students who showed promise in undergraduate programs but did not have the GPA or MCAT scores for medical school. Since the 2002, though, these programs have been largely geared towards assisting old students start a new career.

A major element drawing students towards specific programs is the opportunity to successfully develop a new career. Marissa Lipton, who is entering her third year of medical school at the University of Connecticut—where she also completed her post-baccalaureate after earning a psychology degree at Tuft’s University—said strong connections between ‘post-bac’ and professional schools was a major element of her decision.

“I didn’t want to spend two years of very hard work without the reward,” Lipton told Simon, adding that she knew the University of Connecticut’s post-baccalaureate program had a reputation for high medical school placements, especially in its own school. “If I was going to go back and do that, I wanted to make sure my goal was attained.”

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