Choosing Between an SMP and Postbac Program

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Choosing Between an SMP and Postbac Program

Session 22

Today on OldPreMeds Podcast, I tackle the topic of taking a postbac versus a Special Master’s Program (SMP) for a 32-year old science major with a lot of credits and a poor GPA.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

OldPreMeds Question of the Week:

As usual on the OldPreMeds Podcast, our question is taken from the Nontrad Premed Forum:

Today’s poster is a 32-year old nontraditional premed student. They graduated in 2007 with a chemistry/computer science double major. Science GPA is 3.05; cumulative GPA is 3.13 over many credits. Should they retake their basic prerequisite science classes from many years ago, considering the not-so-stellar grades?

This poster thinks a formal postbac program would be great, but they aren’t sure because many postbacs specify that the applicant cannot have too many of their science courses completed.

There are two types of postbac programs:

First, recognize that there are two main types of postbac programs that serve different needs.

  1. Career-Changer Postbac Programs

Career-changer postbac programs are intended for applicants who haven’t taken a lot of science courses. You have a bachelor’s completed in something else, but you didn’t take the medical school prereqs yet.

  1. Record-Enhancer Postbac Programs

Record-enhancer postbac programs are meant for students who went through school as a science major and knew they wanted to be premed but struggled. If you already took the sciences but you need to enhance your GPA, this is the kind of postbac program for you.

They have specific postbac programs for students like this poster. Out of 223 postbac programs, there are 152 record-enhancing programs. See the AAMC’s full list of postbac programs here.

Out of 223 postbac programs, there are 152 record-enhancing programs. Click To Tweet

Special Master’s Programs

SMPs are great because they’re usually tied to a medical school and you’re taking classes with medical students. SMPs allow you to demonstrate to the school that you can do just as well as their medical students. You also get to build relationships at that medical school.

For this student, really there are multiple options. An SMP could be a great choice. A record-enhancing postbac program would also work. Even an informal postbac, just adding more credits as a non-matriculated student, can work.

[Related episode: When You Should Consider a Special Master’s Program.]

When You Have a Lot of Credits, an SMP May Help More Than a Postbac

The one factor here that makes me lean toward an SMP is the fact that this student already has 161 science credits. When you already have a ton of undergraduate science credits, your GPA is not going to move very much from there. Even if you get straight A’s going forward, it would take years of extra science classes to significantly improve your undergraduate GPA. In this case, you might consider a Special Master’s Program because it will appear as a separate grade in your application.

When you already have 161 undergraduate science credits, your GPA is not going to move very much from there.Click To Tweet

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