Is it even possible to prepare everything in 1-2 years? (premed postbacc)

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Nov 29, 2022
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I've noticed that most postbacc programs are 1-2 years long. I am genuinely curious if it is even possible to prepare everything (prereqs, mcat, volunteer work, clinical experience, research, etc.) within 1-2 years? Like most traditional students spend 4 years in undergrad or even more than that to build up their stats.

I was able to contact a few nontraditional students, and they all already had some sort of health-related experience (e.g. a health-related career like a nurse, personal trainer, healthcare/public health analyst, previous psych major with undergrad clinical research experiences, etc.) prior to starting postbacc programs.

For those who are COMPLETE career-changers (e.g. coming from an engineering background), is it still possible or feasible within 2 years, starting from 0?

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Complete career changer here, started my journey last Summer. As of 1 year, I've just completed all my pre-reqs and have a couple hundred hours each for volunteering/clinical/shadowing. The next steps are taking the MCAT, accumulating more hours + research, and maybe adding in a few upper division science courses over the next 9 months until I apply for the '24-'25 cycle.

2 years is more than enough time to get everything done. However, what enabled me to do this was resigning from my 9-5, which allowed me to take courses at an almost full-time capacity at my State university via a DIY post-bacc. I simply wouldn't be able to take all classes + labs which only ran during the daytime while juggling an office 9-5 in my industry. Other people in different industries have made it happen due to flexibility (pre-arranged with their employers, remote work, or night classes), so it all depends on your situation.

Pre-requisites generally follow a sequence, but completing them in 1 year can be done. Summer classes are a great way to achieve this. For example- Summer: general chemistry, Fall: bio 1, physics 1, ochem 1, Spring: bio 2, physics 2, ochem 2, Summer: biochemistry.
Hi! Thank you so much for your reply. I would love to ask you a few more questions if you don't mind:

1. How was it taking 3 classes (with labs) every semester? Was it tough or manageable?

2. Is the reason you chose that specific state uni purely based on proximity to your house (and the cost of course)? Have you ever considered doing a formal postbacc at schools with linkages, and if you go back in time, would you still choose to go to your current state school for postbacc?

3. For clinical hours, how have you been accumulating them (scribing/medical assistant/etc.)? And how hard was it to get a research opportunity? I recall that when I was in undergrad, premed students were having trouble getting into labs and getting research opportunities because they were so competitive to get into, even as full-time students pursuing a Bachelor's degree at that school.

4. How are you managing your finances and health insurance? Are you just using your savings and Medicare?

Thank you again and I wish you the best in your nontrad premed journey!!
I started from complete scratch with an EMT class in November '21. Since then I have done all my prereqs with the exception of my 2nd bio lab. I also took the MCAT and racked up 1000 clinical hours and a couple hundred in volunteering and research. I can also answer the above questions.

1) Manageable. I treated school like a job.
2) I did DIY because of cost. Formal postbacs aren't worth the $40k imo. The extra money just goes into mentoring, linkages, and a guaranteed track of classes. Is that worth paying triple? You decide.
3) Nurse assistant at a hospital. Research wasn't hard to find, I just asked a professor. But I was already the top student in his class. You increase your chances by studying hard and speaking up.
4) Yes and yes. I got lucky with extremely cheap rent.

Don't sweat the details. Just get started. My only regret was not starting sooner. Another semester would've given me more time and leeway for the MCAT and science electives.
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Complete changer here too. Hadn’t taken a science class since sophomore year….of high school. 10 years as a professional musician prior to switching.

From start to med school acceptance was just under 9 months.

So it can definitely be done fast. Be careful to do it right though. Keys for me:

1) Took MCAT prior to pre-reqs. Risky but worked because I'm stupidly good at tests.
2) DIY post-bacc, had to take things way out of order and get exemptions to do so in order to make it fit in such a compressed frame, but 4.0 on everything.
3) Volunteered at local hopsital in the PACU and even got invovled on some QI projects while there
4) Shadowed a bit locally
5) Not a scrap of research

Truth is the original plan was to reapply after the post bacc. I had been told that my state school gave extra points to reapplicants so I figured I'd maximize my chances second cycle and go for it. Never thought I'd actually get in first time around!

For clinical hours, I just went down in person and knocked on doors and talked to people. Eventually found the right people, told my story and they helped me out. I sent emails and left messages too but none were ever returned. Nothing like good old fashioned face to face interaction, and I figured that knocking on doors and talking to strangers was exactly the job I wanted eventually, so just went for it.

Finances were savings, private PPO plan paid out of pocket, and loans (registered as second degree seeking so I was eligible for federal aid).

I never bothered with the research side. That was never going to be a strong part of my story, and there's no way I'd be able to get anything meaningful published with no experience and little time prior to AMCAS opening. Seemed like low yield use of time for my particular case. I could articulate an interest in research but clearly having another full career was why I hadn't done any yet. Much harder for an UG student to claim they're interested in research but have done none of it while purusing a science major for 4 years. Ended up doing a LOT of research in med school - even got asked to join the editorial board for an ENT scientific journal! Then did just enough in residency to enjoy our general travel budget allowance, and now in practice don't really do it at all anymore.

Now an ENT attending in my 3rd year out from fellowship and living the dream!
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