Which post-bacc would you choose?

  • SFSU

    Votes: 6 50.0%
  • UPenn

    Votes: 6 50.0%

  • Total voters
    12
Aug 2, 2016
5
0
Status
Pre-Medical
Hi everyone,

First, I'll apologize because this is a long one. Second, I've posted this on the Penn post-bac thread and the SFSU thread, but haven't heard anything back. I'm curious how the non-trads would weigh in on this because I'm having a tough time deciding, myself (and I feel the older we are the more weight these decisions may carry).

So, I'm in a bit of a pickle. I was accepted at both SFSU and UPenn's PB programs. I'm currently a CA resident, but grew up in NEPA and still have family in the state. I'm a non traditional student (29yo) and recent graduate of UCLA (psych). My overall GPA is 3.64, definitely a career changer (only completed intro bio and intro chem courses to transfer from CC to UC), I've got volunteer experience in hospital with UCLA Health, research experience at UCLA (psych), and volunteering experience in a few other non-medical-related positions. Haven't taken the MCAT or GRE.

Here's what I've found/my thoughts on each program so far:

Penn - Pros
Ivy League prestige (but some adcomms say this is irrelevant)
Linkages to great medical schools and name recognition
Night classes
Cheaper to live in Philly, but more expensive to attend Penn
Night classes, so opportunities to volunteer/intern during the day
Discounts on MCAT prep (Kaplan, Princeton)
Tutoring available
Personalized advising (anyone confirm how "individualized" this is?)
Application assistance, mock interviews, workshops/seminars, committee letter
Plenty of research and volunteer opportunities in Philadelphia
Family relatively nearby (read: support system)
Public transit available (no experience with it, myself)
East coast attitudes/values (as opposed to SoCal)
I keep seeing different numbers, but a 60%+ acceptance to medschool

Penn - Cons
Competitive atmosphere
Competitive curving (both of these are cons-ish, depending on how well you do in classes, I assume, but I've read that they curve on a C+...)
Moves me from California, reducing the already slim chances of getting into a California medschool (I'd love to go to Geffen, but their acceptance is like 3%? Lol)

SFSU - Pros
Community/cooperative atmosphere
Well-known post bac in California
Highly selective with applicants (or so I've been told)
Day classes
Tutoring available
MCAT prep
Personalized advising (though I've heard his can be difficult to obtain, beyond he first appointment)
Application assistance, mock interviews, professional colloquium, committee letter packet
I would remain a California resident
Great public transit
Volunteer opportunities nearby, research I'm not so sure
Family still in LA, so not too far and have a friend who also got into the program
Cheaper than Penn
"Overall success rate of 80%" (assuming that means getting into medschools)

SFSU - Cons
Doesn't have the prestige of Penn, but is still a respected program
No linkages (though I've read that they're either impossible to get or not really important anyway?)
Day classes, so less opportunity to volunteer/intern during the day
One person (only one I've seen) described the program as "hand-holding"
Affordable housing is near impossible to find
San Francisco has a reputation for prevention/snobbishness that may or may not be different than LA

At this point, it seems like the cost of attending Penn is counterbalanced by the cost of livin in San Francisco, so cost may no longer be a distinguishing factor between the two programs.

Both programs seem to have good reputations (ex: SFSU for selectivity and UPenn for being an Ivy).

Any thoughts or insight would be appreciated!
 
Jan 7, 2016
37
45
Status
Medical Student
My perspective as a non-trad med student who has taken classes everywhere from community colleges to small liberal arts colleges to large universities to two Ivy League schools (one of which was my undergrad):

GPA is king in this game. Stay away from Penn if you don't have a strong record of acing science classes. A post-bacc is not the time to see if you can cut it in a super competitive Ivy League atmosphere. I did some tutoring for the Columbia post-baccs and it was heartbreaking to see the number of bright people with strong undergrad GPAs end up in nursing and PA school because of the damage Columbia did to their GPA. They would have rocked courses at a different school and been med students now had they chosen a different school for their post-bacc.

I know nothing about SFSU and close to nothing about Penn's post-bacc, so take this advice for whatever it's worth. If Penn separates the post-baccs and you're not competing with the regular undergrads, it's a different story entirely and a more viable option.

Edit to add:

I keep seeing different numbers, but a 60%+ acceptance to medschool
Post-baccs mess with their numbers so much.

In addition, is a 60% chance of acceptance on your pro list or your con list? Med school acceptance isn't rocket science: get a good GPA, rack up some ECs and LORs, and don't bomb the MCAT. The fact that 40% of the people Penn admits to their program are incapable of this would be highly concerning to me, rather than going into the pro column.
 
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Go for more linkages. Especially look for linkages that waive the MCAT. Wish I had done the same in selecting my program. Read the fine print and make sure you qualify for the linkages. Some have specific GPA cutoffs and other requirements. Good luck.
 
OP
R
Aug 2, 2016
5
0
Status
Pre-Medical
My perspective as a non-trad med student who has taken classes everywhere from community colleges to small liberal arts colleges to large universities to two Ivy League schools (one of which was my undergrad):

GPA is king in this game. Stay away from Penn if you don't have a strong record of acing science classes. A post-bacc is not the time to see if you can cut it in a super competitive Ivy League atmosphere. I did some tutoring for the Columbia post-baccs and it was heartbreaking to see the number of bright people with strong undergrad GPAs end up in nursing and PA school because of the damage Columbia did to their GPA. They would have rocked courses at a different school and been med students now had they chosen a different school for their post-bacc.

I know nothing about SFSU and close to nothing about Penn's post-bacc, so take this advice for whatever it's worth. If Penn separates the post-baccs and you're not competing with the regular undergrads, it's a different story entirely and a more viable option.

Edit to add:

Post-baccs mess with their numbers so much.

In addition, is a 60% chance of acceptance on your pro list or your con list? Med school acceptance isn't rocket science: get a good GPA, rack up some ECs and LORs, and don't bomb the MCAT. The fact that 40% of the people Penn admits to their program are incapable of this would be highly concerning to me, rather than going into the pro column.
Thanks for the reply, Kera. I don't have a strong record of acing science classes but only because I haven't taken many. I'm strictly career changer, not enhancer, although I got A's in the sciences I did take (granted, at CC). SFSU doesn't appear to curve their grading like UPenn does, which is another reason it's appealing, but could potentially be a bad thing. That said, my goal is to learn the material for the MCAT and do well not just get a high sGPA. The classes at SFSU are solely for the post-baccs, and I'm under the impression we get a lot more interaction with the professors (leading to a more personal committee letter in the end).

Penn does separate their post-bacs from the undergrads, to a point. Priority to the night classes is given to the post-bacs, then to other students. The classes are also larger/more impersonal (which sciences can be anyway, but...). What I've heard about the advising, however, is that it's seriously lacking. So, how much can I really rely on those LORs/that committee letter? I've heard that LORs can make or break an application, or that they are often what sets similar students apart.

I forget were I got that 60% from, but the more reading I do, the less accurate it appears (i.e., is probably much higher). Of course, these numbers are also often based on the students who make it through the program, as opposed to including those lost to attrition (50% at UPenn, I've read?). The same just as likely goes for SFSU.
 
OP
R
Aug 2, 2016
5
0
Status
Pre-Medical
Go for more linkages. Especially look for linkages that waive the MCAT. Wish I had done the same in selecting my program. Read the fine print and make sure you qualify for the linkages. Some have specific GPA cutoffs and other requirements. Good luck.
SFSU has no linkages, though they claim to work closely with the schools in San Francisco, whereas UPenn has many. Not to mention that UPenn is surrounded by med schools (including its own). All that said, I've read that linkages are notoriously difficult to obtain, and that they shouldn't be weighted as heavily as one might think. I'm not sure, either way.
 
Jan 7, 2016
37
45
Status
Medical Student
Thanks for the reply, Kera. I don't have a strong record of acing science classes but only because I haven't taken many. I'm strictly career changer, not enhancer, although I got A's in the sciences I did take (granted, at CC).
Science classes are a completely different beast than non-sciences, which is why they separate the sGPA and cGPA and anticipate the sGPA to be lower. And CC classes are, on the whole, a lot easier than 4-year college courses (SDN don't flame me on this; exceptions exist everywhere but that general rule is accurate). In fact, places like Penn generally don't even accept CC courses as transfer credit because of this. So while it's great that you did well with your non-science major and got As in your CC courses, I don't think you have any information about how you would fare in science courses at Penn.

The fact that Penn separates the post-baccs from the regular undergrads will make it easier, which is good.

That said, my goal is to learn the material for the MCAT and do well not just get a high sGPA.
It's great that you have this mindset. That said, based on my experience at Columbia, my post-bacc students who were getting solid Bs and B-minuses had excellent preparation for the MCAT but were never going to make it to med school with the resulting 3.0 sGPA or less. You need both. While some A-minuses and Bs are fine, I tutored some fantastic students getting lower than that.

Of course, these numbers are also often based on the students who make it through the program, as opposed to including those lost to attrition (50% at UPenn, I've read?). The same just as likely goes for SFSU.
Yes, I think you're totally on the right track that attrition rate is key.

I'm absolutely not saying this to discourage you or to question your credentials. You clearly rock! I'm biased and jaded by my experience at Columbia, and it would absolutely break my heart to see that happen to you. Just remember that *everyone* who enters these post-baccs enters thinking they will work as hard as they can and get the 4.0. Everyone.

Ultimately, you can be successful from either of those places, and in all likelihood where you go won't matter nearly as much as what you do when you get there. Good luck!
 

middchild6

2+ Year Member
May 19, 2015
10
10
I can only speak to the Penn Post Bacc Program - See my Response to your list in italics

Penn - Pros
Ivy League prestige (but some adcomms say this is irrelevant) - Not really sure this is true...
Linkages to great medical schools and name recognition - If you are in the Core Program, you have a chance to do a linkage. It is far more difficult than it looks. Very few students make it. If you are in the Specialized Studies Program you can link to RWJ or PCOM; I have not heard of anyone doing this. I specifically asked about the RWJ Linkage and it hasn't been done in over 5 years.
Night classes - True, I work full time so this is helpful. Classes begin around 4/430
Cheaper to live in Philly, but more expensive to attend Penn - If you get a job at Penn you can get your tuition reimbursed. If you work at CHOP, you have to work for 12 months to get a $5000 reimbursement for courses. Other than that pay out of pocket or private/federal loans.
Night classes, so opportunities to volunteer/intern during the day. -True
Discounts on MCAT prep (Kaplan, Princeton) - Discounts for Kaplan Live Online. The course is $1400 vs the usual $2200. But if you need to improve your MCAT Score it would be worth it to forgoe the post bacc and just study for the MCAT. You'll save money and time.
Tutoring available - Yes, 1-2 hours a week.
Personalized advising (anyone confirm how "individualized" this is?) - You can schedule one on one appointments. Danielle has open office hours on Wednesdays.
Application assistance, mock interviews, workshops/seminars, committee letter - In the Winter/Spring there are many announcements that go out regarding application help. The Committee Letter has a specific set of requirements: You must have a 3.0 min GPA and have taken 6 classes to qualify. You must also submit 3 individual letters and write essays and interview for the committee letter.
Plenty of research and volunteer opportunities in Philadelphia - Yes
Family relatively nearby (read: support system) - Very important
Public transit available (no experience with it, myself) - Yes, SEPTA is OK. You can also live closer to campus while paying a bit more $$. Ride a bike, etc.
East coast attitudes/values (as opposed to SoCal) - I'm from the West Coast. People here have an edge to them. It takes getting used to. I've been in Philadelphia for a year and a half and I still get shocked by the brashness sometimes.
I keep seeing different numbers, but a 60%+ acceptance to medschool - I don't recall them releasing these numbers. I have no idea.

Penn - Cons
Competitive atmosphere - Yes
Competitive curving (both of these are cons-ish, depending on how well you do in classes, I assume, but I've read that they curve on a C+...) - Yes
Moves me from California, reducing the already slim chances of getting into a California medschool (I'd love to go to Geffen, but their acceptance is like 3%? Lol) - You can come to Philadelphia for the Post Bacc and keep your California Residency. There are plenty of CA Students here. When you interview you may have some current students who can talk to you about this.


My advice as a current Penn Post Bacc Student would be to consider staying close to home. I joined the program thinking I would want to get the committee letter because I want to go to a top school and I needed to take some upper division classes. Now I know that I will not get the committee letter because I won't have taken 6 courses by next spring so I will apply using individual letter writers. I am taking a couple classes max a semester and paying for it out of pocket. I live and work here so it's not a big deal but the program itself is probably not worth it for you if you can get into SFSU. You can do all the things you can do at Penn at SFSU. I really doubt that the name of the school will trump a GPA/MCAT Score.
 

n3xa

"the anchor"
10+ Year Member
Jul 16, 2009
2,081
217
37
Status
Resident [Any Field]
Thanks for the reply, Kera. I don't have a strong record of acing science classes but only because I haven't taken many. I'm strictly career changer, not enhancer, although I got A's in the sciences I did take (granted, at CC). SFSU doesn't appear to curve their grading like UPenn does, which is another reason it's appealing, but could potentially be a bad thing. That said, my goal is to learn the material for the MCAT and do well not just get a high sGPA. The classes at SFSU are solely for the post-baccs, and I'm under the impression we get a lot more interaction with the professors (leading to a more personal committee letter in the end).
When I was an undergrad at SFSU and taking a ton of lower division science courses with the post-bacc pre-meds, I found a majority of the faculty in the chemistry/biochemistry, biology, and math department to be super approachable. Having a separate section of classes solely for the post-baccs must be new. I couldn't imagine how that would work out from a logistics standpoint.
 

WGSgrad

2+ Year Member
Nov 25, 2015
273
184
Status
Pre-Medical
East coast attitudes/values (as opposed to SoCal) - I'm from the West Coast. People here have an edge to them. It takes getting used to. I've been in Philadelphia for a year and a half and I still get shocked by the brashness sometimes.

I miss this. I'm from the North East and spent the past year and half in the Midwest in a small city (i.e. not Chicago) and miss the intensity of the East Coast. I am returning to Philadelphia in May to complete my post-back work. I'm in a similar situation in that I want to complete my prerequisites ASAP (full time) and I'm returning to Philadelphia to do it.

It seems like you got some decent advice in this thread...I would just echo the other poster and vote for protecting the GPA. I don't think the prestige of Penn (especially since they segregate their continuing ed. liberal arts students out from the general student body) is worth the money or the potential GPA cost at this point. But should you decide it is, I wish you the best, perhaps we shall pass on the streets of Philly.



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