Formal Post Bacc vs. DIY: which is cheaper?

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2+ Year Member
Aug 11, 2017
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I welcome some healthy nonjudgmental discussion on this topic.

One of the big choices that a lot of people face going into a career change in medicine is whether or not to do a formal post-bacc. Do you pay 35,000 dollars to go to a big name post bacc if you can, 20,000 to go to a lesser known one, or do you knock out all of the pre reqs at a state school or community college? I chose the first because I just wanted to get it all done with as fast as possible. A common critique I have heard leveled at big name post baccs is “anyone in those programs would have gotten into medical school without them anyways.” Having been through that, I’m not so sure. I don’t think I would have done as well in a less structured program, and I don’t know if I would have made the connections I needed to get into medical school. Interestingly, I ended up doing my post bacc with a former economist who made a compelling argument that I still remember.

Let’s say we have two people: Sally and Lucy. Both of them decide to change careers and go into medicine at the same time. Both of them have good stats, interesting life experiences, and a good amount of volunteer experience to round out an application- but might not be the absolute best of the brightest. Sally decides to go to a big name post bacc and pay 35,000 dollars. Lucy decides that she wants to save money and does a DIY post bacc- we’ll say she spends around 8,000 on tuition over two years. One year later, Sally has linked to a US MD school, her entire application process including AMCAS, one secondary, and a plane ticket cost her 500. Lucy is still trudging through her DIY post bacc. 2 years in Sally is through her first year of medical school and Lucy is starting to apply to medical school. She has to apply to 20 medical schools like a normal applicant would- AMCAS fee, multiple secondaries, multiple plane tickets. On average my friends spent 5,000 while applying to medical school, so we’ll use that number for Lucy.

Let’s say that Lucy slipped up on O chem one semester- she didn’t have an advisor or tutoring services to help her through it. She also didn’t have an advisor who was pushing for her in the application cycle, reaching out to dean’s of admission, and telling her where she needed to apply or what she needed to write about in her personal statement. She had no committee letter, which she didn’t know she needed, and most of the school’s she applied to didn’t look at her application because she took community college classes, which she didn’t know was a red flag. She has to go into a second application cycle and spends another 5,000 dollars. This time she manages to get in somewhere, but Sally is now moving into her final year of medical school and Lucy is just starting.

Let’s assume they are trying to retire at the same age (not an outrageous assumption), and that they go into the same specialty. Dr. Sally managed to shave off 3 extra years of running through the premed/application circuit, and subsequently transformed those 3 years into 3 years of a doctor’s salary. If we use Medscape’s average PCP salary from this year for both of them, that’s a difference 243 k per year for three years (729,000 dollars). Now let’s add all of that up.

Sally: (-35k) + (-.05k) + (729k)= +693,500 dollars

Lucy: (-8k) + (-10k) = -18,000 dollars

A difference of 708.5 k…..

So, by trying to save money with a DIY post bacc Lucy has cost herself 708,500 dollars when compared to Sally, who shelled out the money upfront for a formal post bacc.

I’m not saying this is the only way to go about doing a post bacc, but this is definitely a compelling argument for a formal post bacc. I’d love to hear some RESPECTFUL counterpoints from DIY post bacc advocates. The better the discussion, the more info those that are making this decision right now will have at their disposal.


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Jun 9, 2020
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I, too, think this is a very compelling argument for a formal post bacc. I'd love to hear some contrarian voices.