10+ Year Member
Dec 1, 2008

I've found numerous references to the "hotly debated" subject of attending a formal post bacc program vs. doing it yourself at a state school, but haven't actually found the debate(though I did read the helpful bit in the FAQ thread, thanks). Can anyone direct me there, with a link perhaps from this thread to that hot debate? I'd guess I'm not the only one it would help.

As a side note from a layman and a newbie, I think one advantage of the DIY approach is that, for those of us (blushy/chagrined face here) who haven't worked/volunteered in a health care setting, we can combine this with our period of study (work load notwithstanding) rather than spend months volunteering before applying to programs(the downside to this being the possibility that the work actually turns you off to your course of study).



has an opinion
10+ Year Member
Oct 30, 2006
Resident [Any Field]
I've never seen any specific thread, nor would I call it a hot debate.

There are more than a hundred structured postbac programs, so I'm very skeptical that you have to load your plate with ECs to get into a decent one. Linkage has its pros and cons, btw.

IMHO, if you have the opportunity to do a structured program, and it's preferable to going unstructured, for whatever reason(s), then great, do the structured program.

In my case, when I was figuring out what to do for postbac, I lived about a mile from the 2nd most heavily NIH-funded research medical school in the country (the "top left" med school). I started as a nonmatric there and eventually got myself admitted, but never adjusted to being part of a massive herd. It didn't even occur to me to look into structured programs until it was too late. I definitely regret this. I personally would have done MUCH better in a structured program - maybe Bennington, maybe Portland State, anything at a smaller school with accessible faculty and some sense of community. Which would have meant moving out of state and/or cross-country - in retrospect this would have been fine, but at the time it didn't occur to me. I couldn't give a rat's fanny about school prestige, as long as it's a "real" school with tenured faculty (vs. the schools that lose their accreditation just as you order your transcripts).

For somebody who lives in NYC or Boston or Chicago or the SF Bay Area, there are plenty of programs (structured and not) to choose from. For folks who are in less plentiful areas, the choice is much less simple. Regardless, this is not a black/white issue.


10+ Year Member
Dec 21, 2007
Attending Physician
Doing it yourself can be cheaper and is often a good option if you would like to maintain in-state residency for consideration later at an excellent state medical school. For instance, if you have Michigan residency, taking classes on your own at U of Michigan (excellent undergrad school) might be a wise choice, as you could then apply in-state to Michigan Medicine (excellent medical school).

A great many so-called "formal" programs are really just money pits that treat you like garbage. To be honest, only a dozen or so programs probably deserve to be called truly "formal/structured" programs. Doing it yourself would also be preferable to wasting your money on one of these.

For all others situations and circumstances, I would recommend a formal program, if possible, and echo DrMidlife's feelings. Don't underestimate the toll a one-year postbac program can take. It requires some combination of intelligence and hard work (the proportions are different for different people), and it can seem like a black hole from which you'll never escape. Being in a structured, supportive environment can make a world of difference. Having an administration dedicated to your success may not seem like it matters, but when you're in the thick of things, it can really be a lifesaver.
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10+ Year Member
Jul 19, 2008
Also, some (not sure how many) formal postbac programs will give you a committee letter of recommendation if you complete the program with a high enough GPA. Hard to imagine what relevant things they could possibly say about you from just looking at your GPA, but it could help nonetheless.

Overall I've got the impression that it's slightly better to be in a formal program, though there are downsides for sure. I wound up doing it myself and have actually paid more than the postbacc program fee at the university I'm going to now. However, doing this allowed me to take classes at a different school & not have to break up with my gf when we briefly moved to a different state (she got into school there, but then got into a better school in our home state a few months later).

Tough decision either way, take a close look at your individual circumstances & what you plan to be doing over the next few years.


New Member
10+ Year Member
Jun 21, 2006
Another thing to consider is some formal post-bac programs are financial aid eligible, but it depends on the school. For me, although a non-formal program would work best for my work schedule, I really need the financial aid so I'm choosing a formal post-bac. If that's a deal breaker, like it is for me at this point, check with your local school's financial aid office. Good luck!


10+ Year Member
Dec 20, 2007
Medical Student
Formal post baccs can give you preferential class scheduling over the DIY crowd at the same school, and this is a critical thing...I did a formal and would do it again (although maybe at a different school, but that's another story)...
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