Hey Guys, Feel free to add onto this thread- now that I'm well under way with my own Special Masters Program (SMP) I'd thought that I'd donate some of my time back here because it's been so helpful for me. I'll keep tacking on more when I have more time to spend on this. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Who is it for? SMPs are generally programs designed for several different populations of students 1) Those who completed their science requirements in college and need to improve their academic standings (mostly low GPA issues). 2) Those who completed their science requirements in college and will have a "gap" year(s) between graduation and their intended year of matriculation into medical school 3) Those who have graduated college a while ago who have their basic science coursework completed (either through a postbac or through their alma mater) and need to demonstrate that they can still handle the coursework years after such an academic atmosphere. These are nontraditional applicants and often, career switchers. 4) Those who have both a low GPA and a low MCAT. One program that I can recall in particular, though it may not be considered an SMP, offers courses built into its curriculum to raise a student's MCAT score if low, while offering science classes to supplement their science background. What is it? Students who have been accepted into an SMP generally take a repertoire of advanced science courses. Because an SMP, is after all, a master's graduate program, many, if not most, require graduate work alongside PhDs and other masters (M.S. or M.A.) students. When you take these graduate classes differ from program to program. Some SMPs offer exclusively only advanced graduate classes. Some require a thesis to be completed, amongst other diverse array of classes in the spectrum of graduate education. Some schools also only offer classes in which students watch a recorded lecture, and does not offer a live component to the class- be it size constraints, or school policies, or whatever. However, what makes a select few SMPs unique, and especially valuable, are those that require students to take classes alongside medical students. Not only does this offer medical school admissions committees a direct comparison of your abilities with already accepted medical students, it also demonstrates that (contingent upon doing well in those courses) despite having a lower GPA or longer period of time since graduating, you can stack up against medical students and give them a run for their money. This often gives SMP students a "get out of jail free" card, a second chance to show adcoms that you have what it takes, all while earning your masters degree. Additionally, some SMP or postbac programs offer a linkage to affiiliated medical schools contingent upon receiving a certain defined required GPA with a minimum required MCAT. Some offer an automatic medical school interview contingent upon grades as well. Again these vary from program to program How long is it? Most, if not all, SMPs have a minimum one year requirement to graduate. However, after this one year requirement, some programs will offer only a certificate of completion with an option to continue a second year to work towards the intended masters degree (usually in such programs, the first year is filled with medical school classes with the second year filled exclusively with graduate only classes). Other programs, offer the masters degree after only one year, and thus, does not require a second year to continue your education. These programs usually combine two years of medical and graduate education into one, and thus, a masters degree is earned quicker. When should I apply? The application cycle for many SMPs open up around January for entrance into the fall semester of the same year. In the case for students currently in college applying to medical school who have not yet received an acceptance/interview by January of their senior year, SMPs offer a "fallback" net to catch students who may be unsuccesful this time around into getting into medical school, but may fare a better chance after completing the SMP in the next application cycle. Applications are usually due sometime in the spring. As with anything, apply early because admissions are often rolling. Some SMP programs offer application to enter in the spring, you will have to plan accordingly and tailor your timing to each. What's required to enter? Usually, most SMPs will require everything that a standard medical school application will require (AMCAS or AACOMAS)- MCAT scores, letters of recommendations, grades, sometimes a personal statement (or equivalent essay), a resume or list of extracurriculars, etc. Sometimes students can submit an AMCAS or AACOMAS application directly if one is available. Thus, it will serve to your best interest to have all these ready in hand by the time you apply- you should plan to have letters or a committee interview letter completed, MCAT, as well as all other requirements done no later then the deadline, usually a few months after the application cycle has opened in January. What about the numbers? (GPA, MCAT, etc...) Minimum numbers or recommended numbers vary from program to program, from school to school. The most competitive SMPs (and thus, usually, the most well known or successful program) usually have students with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and MCAT of 27. The actual averages may differ from the recommended numbers. Other competitive SMPs have lower recommended/required GPAs falling anywhere from the range of 2.4 and above (Just an experienced guess) and MCAT minimum of mid-twenties (although for obvious reasons, you may want to reconsider taking the MCAT again anyways). In terms of class sizes and acceptance rates, you will find that the more competitive programs (like Georgetown, University of Cincinnati, etc..) will have acceptance numbers that can be comparable to medical school itself. Larger programs have SMP class sizes of over 150 with nearly 1000 applicants, while others have more intimate programs that accept only 15-20 students with over 150-200 applicants. With each year, application numbers usually go up, while class numbers usually stay the same. In terms of how many students ACTUALLY get accepted to medical school during or after the program, the more competitive programs usually see around at least half their students get into medical school (mostly into their own medical school) during the program, and boasting figures of up to and around 80-90% of their students a year or two after completing the program, eventually accepted into medical school (DO and MD). These numbers vary from school to school. What is the cost? The cost, again, varies. The most expensive SMP programs in the country run upwards into the mid $30,000 range, while others may run as cheap as the low $20,000's, or even less. GradPlus loans, as well as Stafford Loans, as well as other graduate loans, and FastWeb.com scholarships are excellent ways to fund your education if the entire cost cannot be paid in full up front. One must also include in their assessment of cost, the location of the program, and the cost of living there (apartment rental in the city vs. suburbs, transportation to and from, food, leisure, books). Many students also (re)apply to medical schools by the time the program starts (if so, usually students will start applying in the summer and hopefully get most applications done before the academic year starts), and thus the cost of application, interviewing, travel must also be taken into consideration. I tend to find that students in an SMP, and understandably so, apply to more schools than the average student (I applied to 20 myself), so the cost can invariably go way up. My advice is: use the summer before entering an SMP to find a job and pay off those bills for medical school applications and budget yourself some money to spend during the year- you will most likely not be working a job- the time required to study will be much more than what most SMP students (or any college student for that matter) will have encountered before. Simply said, time and money is a scarce resource because SMPs is characterized as studying for finals all the time. Learn to budget everything. How about residency? Some programs are located in states in which residency can be offered to students after living one year in that state. This qualifies them to become a state resident after completing one year of the program, which opens up a marked advantage for students to qualify for a decreased cost of education should he or she continue to study there. In addition, and perhaps one of the more attractive qualities of this, is that in-state medical schools will open up their doors to you now as an in-state resident. One particular state that comes to mind is Ohio (with its seven medical schools, 6 of which are public schools) and New York (I think?). International students will have to inquire about their candidacy into a program or benefits, but will most likely require a pending American citizenship before even qualifying for any in-state amenities. When should I apply to medical school? Personally, I think the best time to apply to medical school if you intend to attend an SMP, is to apply the summer right before it starts and get EVERYTHING done as early as possible, preferably before the programs start. As anyone will tell you, you barely have enough time for yourself when classes start, imagine having to do secondaries alongside. Indicate on the AMCAS or AACOMAS all the classes you are going to take, and list it as "blank School of Medicine Special Masters Program". You'll get it verified and will catch the eyes of admissions committees. Wordsmithing can go a long way. Most likely, unless your GPA and MCAT can carry you far, you'll most likely be asked to submit grades (along with recommendations from your program). Submit them as soon as possible, and as often as possible. Many submit after their first exam, which also includes a handful of small groups quiz grades. I submitted after my second exam (both medical physio and medical biochem). That way, you keep adcoms up to date, and give them an idea of the trends you are on. Funny how doing well on one medical school exam can determine if you get an interview or not. Give me an example of how the timeline with SMPs & med school should be like I'll give you my example of what my timeline has been like. This should vary from student to student, but the logistics should be similar. Fall Semester of my Senior year: Enrolled in MCAT Prep course, began to get preliminary recommendation writers. I've asked in advanced at least a year ago for most my recommendation writers, so it was just a matter of reminding them. Start notifying my pre-med committee that I am interested in being interviewed for my committee letter. Began my personal statement. Winter Break of my Senior year: Had a strong idea of who was going to write my recommendations, MCAT studying, perused through SDN to look for ideas post-graduation- still figuring out where to go, what to do, etc. Continued on my personal statement. 1st Half of Spring Semester of my Senior year: Found out all about SMPs, began to apply, and notified SMP adcoms that I intended on taking the MCAT in April. Continued on personal statement. MCAT studying. Full dedication to final courses (I wanted to end the school year with great grades) 2nd Half of Spring Semester of my Senior year: Took the MCATs, finalized SMP applications and submitted, finished personal statement, began to look into medical schools, had committee interview (which requires you finish many different things including personal statement, list of extracurriculars, etc. etc.) Summer after graduation: Made my decisions on where I will attend. Submitted AMCAS with information about where I expect to attend, classes I intended to take there, etc. etc. Received and Finished most secondaries before program start in August. Looked for places to live, roommates, cost of living, if I needed a car... etc. SMP- First half of the year: Wait to hear back from schools about decision, interviews, etc... Keep up with work and update schools with official grades and department recommendations SMP- beyond: Havn't gotten here yet, but since I've been accepted by medical school, keep up with work and submit my final deposit to medical school before May. For those who havn't been accepted yet, if your program is one year, get ready to reapply with the full force of your grades in June again. Figure out what to do in that following year (continuing education seems to be the best way to further enhance your application). If your program is two years, continue on with your second year and keep sending in grades. Which SMPs are out there? http://services.aamc.org/postbac On the right hand side, under the field "Degree Type" you can choose Special Masters. Traditional masters also lists some of the two year programs mentioned earlier. Off the top of my head these come to mind: University of Cincinnati Special Masters Program (M.S. Physiology) Georgetown SMP (M.S. Physiology) Boston University (M.A. Medical Sciences)- or BUMAMS Drexel University Interdepartmental Medical Sciences (IMS) - Masters in Medical Sciences (M.M.S.) Eastern Virginia Medical School (M.S. Biomedical Sciences) Rosalind Franklin University (M.S. in Biomedical Sciences) Indiana University (M.S. Health Sciences) Loyola University (M.A. Medical Sciences) Tulane University (ACP Program (Pharmacology) Virginia Commonwealth University Barry University University of Pennsylvania Special Sciences Program UMDNJ Dartmouth University C.E.C.S. Center for Evaluative Clinical Sciences (I Believe MPH?) There are many others, but those come to mind. Most of the "heavy hitters" are listed here. An outdated link of some of them are listed here http://www.fiu.edu/~preprofc/GAP_YEAR_PROGRAMS.htm However, going to google and querying "gap year programs", "special masters programs", "glide year programs", along with "medical school" will yield many results. ------------------------ More to come... EDIT: (adding more) How about adding my SMP classes to my AMCAS/AACOMAS? You should now be applying/start applying to applying to SMPs (It is January of 2007 now- start of the new year is usually when applications open up). By May, you should know where you may be. By the time that AMCAS/AACOMAS opens up in early June/late May, you should have hopefully made some preliminary decision about where you will attend. That said, acquire a list of the courses you will be taking for the entire SMP year (if you can get them- Im sure the course director can provide you with this), and add it on AMCAS as classes you will be taking in your planned SMP. If possible, since not ALL schools know about what SMPs are- under the school name in which you list your graduate classes- list your school as XXX School of Medicine (if indeed your classes take place there in the official SMPs). Not only will this catch adcoms eyes, but it should give a heads up to those unfamiliar with what an SMP is. This is what I did with my AMCAS- I listed my entire course list under University of Cincinnati School of Medicine as graduate work. Do SMP grades count as graduate work on the AMCAS or undergraduate? Graduate. Take note that you may hear from others that many medical schools consider graduate grades less important than undergraduate on the tenet that some classes (particularly research ones) are easy grades. SMP grades are indeed graduate grades, but take comfort in that SMP grades usually don't get second-guessed on the tenet that your classes are those taken in medical school. If I had to make an educated guess, Id say that SMP grades, if not equal to the importance of an undergrad grade, is at the very least of a comparable weight/importance. There are other postbacs out there that allow its students to take advanced level courses in their undergraduate school. These grades can be added onto the undergraduate GPA. Ok, Im taking the April MCAT and its approaching the deadline, what should I do? April is starting to approach the deadlines for SMP so I understand your concern. I suggest submitting your application as early as possible, and include a printed note (if it isn't included in the application already) that you are taking the April MCAT and will have scores forwarded to them as soon as they are made available. That way, your application won't be automatically be dismissed. What about osteopathy? SMPs generally will be helpful for application into both allopathic and osteopathic schools, given that the courseload is pretty much the same the first year between both schools. There are osteopathic programs (some are listed above, I will add more later on), but SMPs work for both types of medical schools. How about programs for dental school/predents? This is repost off of other helpful posts about dental students and postbacs. As I am no expert on dental postbacs, it may be helpful to research through these forums and online to find more information about each of these in the respective dental fields. Boston University - BUMAMS (BU MA in Medical Sciences) - Research based, however you can opt for the library thesis track and the program can take twelve months. Two concentration of interest to predental students within the masters program: oral biology and oral health. You can take classes alongside dental students here. Barry University - MS in Biomedical Sciences - 1 year or 2 year track. didactic courses. Pretty straight forward, and they have impressive numbers on their website as far as successful d-school applicants go. I'm still skeptical about this program... it's probably not legitimate skepticism. classes taken alongside health professional students. UMDNJ - MS in Biomedical Sciences - 1 year. didactic courses. A lot like Barry, but you can take classes with dental students like at boston. This is also the least expensive program i found. Rosalind Franklin School of Medicine and Science - MS in Biomedical Sciences - 1 year. didactic courses taken alongside medical students. Again, pretty straightforward. UPenn - No degree granted - This program accepts any standardize test score, and was overall the least attractive in my opinion. It's catered to med students, no degree, and really expensive. You take science courses alongside graduate science students and there's the name recognition. UConn- There's one pre-dent in the post-bac program right now, and you can do upper level coursework if you have all the prereqs filled.