Post-bac Programs for Premedical, Predental and Preveterinary Students

What do you do if your decision to become a physician, dentist or veterinarian was made after you completed college? How do you obtain the science courses necessary to apply? Or, perhaps you made the decision early on, but your grades in college are not competitive for admissions into med or dental school.

Then what?

One option is to attend a post-baccalaureate program. Post-bac programs focus on applicants to medical, dental or vet school who either need to take the science prerequisites or who need to improve their academic standing prior to applying. Programs are typically one to two years in duration and may lead to a certificate or a master’s degree. The application period for many schools opens in January and lasts through spring, although you should apply early as admissions may be rolling.

Prior to applying to a post-bac program, you need to determine which type will best suit your needs. Post-bacs can be divided into several types:

  • Programs for applicants who have not yet taken the prerequisite coursework for medical, dental or vet school. Students in these programs may include those coming straight from college as well as those who pursued another career for years or even decades.
  • Programs designed to enhance the academic records of applicants who have already completed premedical/predental coursework. These programs are comprised of upper division or graduate level work. They may lead to a master’s degree in a field such as physiology, biomedical sciences or nutrition.  Post-bac programs leading to a master’s degree are known as “Special Master’s Programs” or “SMPs.”
  • Programs for applicants who are disadvantaged or from a group underrepresented in the health professions. These programs can fall into either of the categories above, but are focused on students from underrepresented groups or who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.

Post-bac programs vary widely in the level of support they offer their students. Some are highly structured, offering services such as MCAT or DAT preparation, advising and guest speakers, while others are focused solely on providing the coursework needed to obtain a degree or certificate.

An alternative to a post-bac program is to take classes independently through a college or university. This option is often less expensive than a post-bac program, but if you go this route, make sure you seek advice on which courses will be most beneficial to you. Also, committees look at the course load an applicant took, since, for example, a 3.7 with a full load of science courses means more than a 3.9 earned by taking one class at a time. For this reason, if you take classes on your own, put together a rigorous course load in order to show the committee that you can handle the academic demands of medical, dental or vet school.

The AAMC post-bac page at provides a searchable database of programs for premedical students. Some of these programs accept predental and preveterinary students as well. The right post-bac program can provide a much needed bridge for some applicants who aspire to become a physician, dentist or veterinarian.

54 thoughts on “Post-bac Programs for Premedical, Predental and Preveterinary Students”

  1. Hello Dr. Eaton,

    I will be graduating from a 4 year university this may and then I will be starting to study for the DAT. I plan on taking the DAT at the end of the summer, essentially taking a year off before dental school, getting my masters or doing a post-bacc.

    Through out undergrad, I took some science courses including General Chemistry (and labs), Physics 1 & 2 (and labs), Organic Chem 1 & 2 (and lab), Calc 1 and physiology – my GPA for these course is a 3.0. I did very well in some of these courses but in others I did not. So far, my overall GPA is at a 3.1.

    What would be your suggestion on what I do next? I personally do not think I will be able to get into a dental school yet. Do you think I should do a post-bacc program, take some more science courses at a university back home, get my masters, etc? Any input would be appreciated. Thank you!

  2. Hello Dr. eaton,
    I’ve been hearing from many pre-dental students that I should look into a master program in the science field. My problem is that i do not have the money for a masters program here in the the U.S. especially that I am not a resident since I’m from Guam. I’m currently in Oregon (moved 5 months ago) and i want to take some classes but if I take classes here I also need to pay back my merit scholarship back at Guam at a monthly basis (a certain percent of my whole tuition; roughly $600-700). If i go back to Guam, i could get into a masters program by extending my merit scholarship and put a pause to my dept since I’m in a program. However, if i go back to Guam they have a limited amount of grad programs such as business, public admin, environmental science, teaching, and art. That being said environmental science is the only masters that will land on the science field which many other predent students would take. Except predent students in the U.S. could explore better options like public health, oral biology, or biochemistry. Also I know other predent students that are considering getting a second BA like in accounting or business as a fall back plan while taking more science classes in between to boost their sGPA.

    So to solve one of my many problems, I need to go back to Guam. I was looking into the masters in environmental studies but it was not interesting to me. I wish Guam had a public health, oral bio, or nutrition program since i am very much interested in those fields but they do not. So i was thinking about doing a masters in public administration while taking more science classes. Ive searched online and i do plan to take some science classes as well like at UC Berkeley extension and at UF. Just like others having a back up plan (accounting, business, etc.), this could be mine. A BA in Biology and a masters in PA could mesh together and help me get into the medical/dental field for future employment. However, will it be frowned upon if i choose this path when i apply to dental schools for the future cycles? i know many students do not do post-bac or masters program and just take more sciences classes and hope to get in the next cycle and many do…

    So what do you think? any advice would be greatly appreciated.. I’m so sorry for bombarding you with my situation. I am just so desperate and in need of some help.

    I hope you have a great day and once again thank you so much.

  3. Hello Dr. Eaton,
    I am 27 years old. I have been in school for the past 7 years taking and retaking classes. My major is Microbiology and minor History of Medicine. I spent 4 years in community college learning English and then taking general education classes, including pre-health. I did poorly in some of them so I had to retake them and I transferred to 4 year University with 3.1 GPA. However, my first 1,5 years at the University were very challenging for me due to some life circumstances. I know it’s not an excuse, but my GPA dropped all the way to 2.3. I am so lost, I took one semester off to deal with my personal issues and put my mind and priorities together. I am back in school now and things going really well, I am very motivated and stick to my goals. I have 1,5 year left at the University and right now I am taking high science division courses and retaking a few classes where I got Fs and Ds. I plan to take DAT during the summer; I have some volunteering experience and extracurricular activities. I know, even if I do well on DAT and retake classes my undergrad GPA will not be enough to get into Dental School or Master’s Programs. Do you have any advice for me? Thank you, I appreciate your help.

  4. Dear Dr. Eaton,

    I am a senior who will be graduating this semester. I started off college well in terms of academics, but every year my grades have been dropping. As of right now, my overall GPA is 3.35 and science and math GPA is little below 3.2. I’m planning to take the MCAT this coming May. I know that I have to do well on MCAT to compensate for my low GPA. I’ve been looking for post pac programs that could help to enhance my academic credentials, but I also realized that those programs are very expensive. Another option that I thought of was to stay in school for another year and take upper level biology classes and hopefully increase both my overall and science GPA. Which option do you think is better? Should I apply to post bac programs or should I stay another year in school to take science classes? Thank you in advance.

  5. Hello!

    Looking for a little advice and anything will help. I came out of undergrad with a 3.3 bio major and a 3.0 science GPA from undergrad at my state school. Last semester fall 2012 I was enrolled in a post-bac program that was very rigorous and I ended up doing very poorly 3 C’s and 1 B due to time restraints (ex. dad was deployed overseas and I was helping taking care of my mom and grandmother, working, and trying to do research.) I realized that I stretched myself too far. This semester I have none of those time restraints and understand that I must get all As. I am also going to take the DAT at the end of the summer. I am just wondering how much this will hurt me and my admissions chanced to a dental school. I have a solid resume from undergrad with volunteering, leadership, school involvement, and shadowing. Just kind of in a life panic and thinking I may have ruined chances for a professional school. Any comments and advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  6. Hello!

    I would love to get your advice on my particular situation. I recently graduated with a 3.5 major in Asian Studies, but I have recently realized that my passion is for medicine. I know there are two options I could take, post bacc or taking classes independently in a four year university. I honestly, would prefer to go into a post-bacc program because it would be more structured and geared towards applying for physician assistant grad school. However, I live in nyc and the only options would be for NYU or Columbia which are really REALLY expensive, and I am worried about how I would be able to pay for it. I have the option of applying to a university for a “second degree” to get my pre-requirements, but it would then lack the whole advising and linkage programs. I hate the whole idea of money holding me back from applying to great programs but is it smarter if I went the cheaper route? I am so confused. Please help!

    1. Hi Shari,

      Although formal post-bac programs have benefits such as linkages, a specific curriculum, and advising, many career changers take classes independently and are successful in gaining admission to medical school. One issue that students face with “do-it-yourself” post-bacs is access to classes because the needed courses may not be offered at the right time or are full. I cannot give you specific advice about your situation as I am not working with you and don’t know your full background and situation, but if you go the DIY route, I recommend taking classes at a four-year school rather than a community college.

  7. Dr. Eaton,

    I will be graduating this May with a BS in Biology, however my GPA isn’t up to par or where I would like it to be. Also I haven’t took the MCAT because I’m somewhat afraid my scores won’t be high either. I took a Kaplan course last spring which did help but I still haven’t took the test. What do you say to a person who changed majors and had to do what normal people does in 4 or 5 years to a person who’s basically had to do it in 3? I’m now looking into post bacc programs to enhance my GPA but I’ve noticed in my research that a lot of programs require you to have MCAT scores which I do not have. Also I haven’t really done any research, summer programs, or any shadowing. Is it possible that a post bacc program will help me get the GPA to get accepted to med school and as for the MCAT what is a good score to aim for?

  8. Hi Dr. Eaton,
    I am considering doing a post-bac or taking classes during my gap year, in addition to finding some sort of clinical job. Currently, I am senior biopsychology major at UCSB with a 3.9 GPA, and am taking the MCAT in January. The reason I would take additional courses, is that I passed out of Physics 1 (out of 3) and Calc A and B (out of A-C) through AP tests. Since I wasn’t certain about pursuing a medical career until this year, I did not retake those courses at my university, and now, I can not because I’ve taken more advanced courses. Additionally, being specifically interested in California schools, I know Spanish is highly recommended, which I have not studied. Assuming my MCAT score will be competitive, do you think taking additional classes during the gap year will significantly help me? (I plan to submit my app in June after graduation, so I would be taking courses after I submit my application)
    I would gladly take the courses if I had a post-bac program nearby, but unfortunately there are no programs near my residence. So, I must decide whether or not it’s worth it for me to pay rent in another city just to take a few extra courses that may or may not even improve my chances.
    Thanks in advance!

  9. Hi Dr. Eaton,

    I’m currently a junior Neuroscience major with a biology minor. I’ve finished all of my pre-reqs for Dental school and two upper level biology classes. I did not do well in my first two years of college and my Overall GPA is around a 2.8. I really want to go to dental school and have decided to take a gap year post graduation to strengthen my undergraduate gpa. I’m doing well in my upper level bio classes and neuroscience classes and I think I can graduate with a 3.1. Assuming I do well on my DAT do you think it’d be better for me to do a formal post-bac, SMP, Masters program, or just take undergraduate courses while I build more shadowing hours during my gap year? I don’t want to spend 40k on a post-bac with a possibility of nothing to show for it. Also I received a C- in Calc I, should I retake it? Thanks.

  10. Stanley D. Butler

    Dr. Eaton
    here is a very special case I have a undergrad degree that i started in 1993.
    degree wasnt conferred until 2004 GPA 2.3 Major Biology Minor Chemistry.
    All Pre-med course work satisfactory or C at least. Is there a way for me to do a Post Bac Program anywhere that will take me so i can prove myself with the help of MCAT Reviews such as Princeton to get good MCAT scores in the process WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR ME.

  11. Dr. Eaton: My name is Lauren. I have been a hygienist for 7 years and I am currently working towards my bachelor’s degree at Temple University. I plan on applying to dental school in June for 2014. I am a B student, but because I failed a math course (calculus II) it has made my GPA drop significantly. 3.0 is my science GPA as of now. I have one year to take my 6 remaining science classes, and I’m hoping to raise it as much as I can. I am also enrolled in the EFDA course to take over the summer so I am prepared as much as possible for dental school. I just feel discouraged, but I will never give up! I appreciate any advice you have. Thank you!

  12. Dr. Eaton,

    So I was wondering if dental schools look at your overall or cumulative gpa ? I transferred from another 4 year college to a University, so majority of my classes were at the 4 year college? Also, does ecology count in the science gpa department or just bcp?? Thanks for your help.


  13. Hi Dr. Eaton,

    Thank you so much for answering all the questions in this thread – they’ve been very helpful! I have a similar question as others I’ve seen but am wondering if you could still offer some advice.

    I graduated from undergrad (NYU) this May with a 3.5 overall GPA, and science GPA of ~3.1. I’m planning to apply to dental school summer 2012 and am currently studying for the DAT and working part time. The 3 classes that really brought my science GPA down were Bio I (C+), Bio II (C) and Orgo II (C). All my other sciences I would average to B+.

    I am having a hard time deciding whether doing a post-bacc program would be that much more advantageous for me as opposed to just taking those 3 courses at another school in New York, like Fordham University (I wouldn’t want to retake them at NYU due to cost). At the least, I want to take Bio I and Orgo II in the spring so that I can incorporate those grades with my application in the summer. But do you think given the low grades of those 3 classes, my priority should be retaking them, or studying more for the DAT? or should I try to do both by taking just Bio I and Orgo II at a university (meaning not do a post-bacc program).

    Any advice you have would be endlessly helpful and I would be extremely grateful. Thank you so much for your time.


  14. I am a busines major at Hofstra University. I am graduating this Dec ’12 and am planning on going on to dental school or even podiatric school. (My gpa in business overall is over a 3.1)
    Quick Question: Thank you so much by the way
    1. I am planning on taking my pre-reqs and other classes like genetics and a&p at a Community College. Is this ok? I know dental schools like classes taken at a 4 year..
    Will I be competitive?
    I go to third world countries to help out with my church, my father is a dentsit (I help out at the office), I work at a dental society, I volunteer at a hospital/ shadow doctors…
    I feel I have a better chance in getting A’s in community college than at a 4 year institution. Wouldn’t that be more important than taking at a 4 year and getting a lower gpa? (which I know I will for I have tried bio and chem at Hofstra)
    email me:

    1. Hi John,

      Taking prereqs at a four year school is preferable to taking them at a cc. A few dental schools do not accept prerequisite coursework done at a cc, so check with the schools you are interested in before making the decision to attend a cc. Although there are applicants who are successful at being admitted to dental school after attending a cc, I generally recommend attending a four-year school in order to make one’s application as competitive as possible. I cannot comment specifically on which route you should take since I do not know how difficult it would be for you to get good grades at a four-year school versus a cc or what the difference in grades would be.

  15. Hello,

    I’m a 21 year old community college student looking to transfer into an engineering program at a state college (Electrical, chemical, mechanical) whichever one accepts me. My situation is this: I have a cumulative CC & UC gpa of 3.37, and am currently enrolled in organic chemistry at my city college. I have applied and am waiting for a response from various state universities that offer engineering programs. Now, if I’ve attended a university for one year, took a leave of absence and finished my engineering pre-reqs at a community college, and graduate with an engineering degree with roughly perhaps 3.2GPA overall, work for a few years, and take biology classes at a Community College and do well on the DAT, will I eventually make it to dental school? Please, any response or insight will help. I realized that i only have one life to live, and want to make a mark by improving the appearance of peoples’ lives, rather than work for an engineering company, and never using my motor functionalities as a human being to improve peoples’ appearances and their self-esteems. I’m also currently enrolled in organic chemistry and feel that it’s much easier than any engineering class I’ve taken, which means I’d be a good candidate for someone going into dentistry, which requires good chemistry background as opposed to a mathematical background.

    – JJ

  16. Hi,

    I am currently an RN and have a pretty strong GPA. I have a few of the pre-reqs but not all. I have an interview at Bryn Mawr, but the cost of a post-bac is disheartening. However, I don’t want to spend time and money taking classes at a community college if a post-bac will give me structure, support, and MCAT prep. There is something to be said, however, for the familiarity of my current living situation (I would have to move from Michigan to PA). Do med schools favor post-bacs more than CC? Have there been situations in wihich a post-bac has actually hurt an applicant’s chances?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Kelly,

      One of the major advantages that the more selective formal post-bacs offer over the do-it-yourself option is linkages. In addition, there is the structure, advising, etc. offered by these programs as well. However, as you said, these programs can be very expensive. The DIY option is one that many successful applicants have pursued; however, I do not recommend taking the courses at a community college because schools sometimes view those classes as being as less rigorous than those offered at a four-year school. Instead, if you decide to take courses on your own, take them at a four-year school. A state college or university will be more expensive than a community college, but less expensive than a formal post-bac in general. Whether or not a formal post-bac is favored by med schools depends on the particular program. The only way I can think of a post-bac hurting an applicant’s chances is if the person did poorly in it and for whatever reason would have gotten better grades taking courses on their own.

  17. Hi dr Eaton
    I am currently a junior now with a 3.29/ 3.3 gpa. I am planning on applying to medical school but that would be a year after graduating college. I planned on taking a year off to work at a hospital. Looking at my current gpa,am scared of might not be able to increase to at least 3.5 with the remaining 3 semesters I have left of college. I was wondering if I take extension classes would I still be able to graduate in 2014.will the classes count towards my undergraduate gpa even though I would have graduated by then. Would you advice me to pursue postbacc degree instead.i dnt know if that will allow me to work considering the course loads and i do not know what my options are really. I am completing my premed requirements now and I do not know if going into a postbacc program,I would have to retake the classes,including the ones that I got an A on.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Mina,

      Undergraduate level classes taken after graduation count as part of the overall undergraduate GPA. I cannot advise you on you specifically about whether a formal post-bac program or taking classes independently is better for your situation as I am not working with you individually, and there are many factors to be considered including classes already taken, overall, and science GPA, and cost. However, I do not generally advise retaking classes that an applicant has received at least a “C” in.

  18. Greeting Dr. Eaton,
    I’m graduating next May with a B.A. in Psychology. Currently I have a 3.8 GPA and for several reasons such as getting inspired by my own two doctors which I have a great bond with; my own landlord for 22 years (which is also a MD and I refer to him as my uncle), telling me that I would have been a great doctor because of my personality and dedication meanwhile he knows I’m graduating very soon in Psych; and for the most important reason being the caretaker of my grandmother along with my mother, and helping her with her diabetes and high blood pressure, I feel a need, a desire, and a motivation to become a MD, perhaps internal medicine like my two wonderful doctors. I know going for a Post-bac program for Premedical will be the route for this accomplishment, but that would put me back 16 months if I were to finish it on time, and then what would be my next step? I have already taken 1 1/2 away from my academics, because I had my son and now I’m 24, and I guess to put it straightforward I don’t want to waste more time. I feel as if I want to help people in so many ways that being a psychologist wasn’t all I could do. And I want to take my experience in undergrad and apply in becoming an MD. I only took Anatomy and Physiology I and absolutely loved it. And the math courses that I’ve taken are statistics courses (obviously for Psych). Therefore, I know that I will have to take General Biology I&II with their Labs, Genetics, Biological Chemistry, General Chemistry I &II, Organic Chemistry, General Physics, etc. In other words a lot is waiting for me, but how do I know the right choice? I know only I can answer that but if there’s any guidance whatsoever then I would greatly appreciate it!



  19. Hello,

    I am currently in a post-bacc program at Stony Brook University. I find myself struggling to do in the Pre-Med courses. I suppose I am used to the smaller liberal arts feeling of a university.

    What do medical schools expect from post-bacc students? I have a 3.83 undergrad and am I member of the golden-key society.

    I would be very grateful for any advice.



  20. Hi Dr. Eaton,

    I attended engineering school and had a rocky undergrad career due to complicated situations and deployments in my military career (I am a reservist in the US Coast Guard). At the end i finished my undergrad with a 2.5 GPA in construction management but I became interested with the medical field during my military time and also when I visited my friends in dental school and saw what they did and a bit of shadowing of one of my parents friends who is a dentist. I enjoyed it so much that i decided to do career-change and do post-bacc program to complete my pre-req classes with the goal of applying to dental school in 2014 after i take my DAT in 2013. At this point my overall-gpa looks terribly mostly due to all the engineering and math related classes that i have taken but my science gpa is 3.6 at the moment. I continue to shadow a dentist and plan to shadow a oral surgeon in the coming months. I was wondering if i could get some of your input on my chances of being accepted into a dental program such as NYU, Boston, of the NY State dental schools.
    Will my uGPA hurt my chances significantly or will school look at my post-bacc and sci gpa and give me a chance?
    Also I am just taking the bare min pre-reqs such as Bio, Chem, Orgo, Physics, do you suggest i take additional course work if I am trying to apply to schools in one year?

  21. Hi Dr. Eaton,

    I have a BA in psychology and a master’s in social work, but am considering going back to school to be a veterinarian. I recently found out about post bac programs and am wondering if there is a list of the top-ranked schools? I know that vet schools are incredibly difficult to get into and want to make sure that I attend a post-bac program which will give me an edge.

    Thank you!

  22. Sandeep Randhawa

    Hi Dr. Eaton,

    My name is Sandeep Randhawa. I had applied for dental school for Sept 2012, however I was rejected from all the schools I applied to. My GPA is 3.14 and my DAT scores, the average was 18. As a back up I decided to apply to some 1-year lecture based Master’s programs, as well. So, in regards to that, I was hoping you could answer some of my questions…. I would really appreciate it !

    1) I was planning on taking the DAT again, but I’m scared if I do worse, will dental schools look at those marks or will I be able to just go with my old scores?

    2) The master of Science in oral biology at NYU – Is this a good program to invest all that tuition money into? I know it doesn’t guarantee a position at a dental school, but how competitive does it make a student? Do you know if this is a good program, because I have accepted the offer, but people around me are telling me that I shouldn’t do it, if its not a guaranteed thing.

    Thank you for taking out time to read this e-mail.

  23. Hi Dr. Eaton,

    I recently stumbled upon your blog and I want to thank you for all the help you’re sharing with us. I recently graduated with a low 2.6 GPA and want to enhance my academic resume through a post-bac program or independently taking courses. However, some post-bac programs require 3.0 GPA or higher so I’m leaning towards independently taking courses. You’ve mentioned several times to repeat courses and I was just wondering how I should go about doing this? Should I go to a different university or the same university I graduated from? Will a community college suffice? My ultimate goal is dental school and I’m motivated enough to stick to my passion and push through. Thank you for your time!

  24. I am currently getting a second masters in biotechnology and I am more confused then ever. Originally in undergrad I had plans of applying to medical school. I then decided that I should attempt to get into a pharmacy program and attempt to get a residency in a hospital so that I could still have some sort of a clinical experience. When that did not work out I started thinking about going into a nurse practioner program. As you can see I am very confused as to what career path I want to take in the medical field. I am 27 years old and I feel like I have wasted alot of time confused and not knowing which way to go. I love helping people and I am usually the first person my friends and family call when they need medical advice because I am very knowledgable. I do not know if its fear of failure holding me back. Can you please help me figure out what it is that I want to do so that I can take back control of my life.

    Thank you.

  25. Hi Dr. Eaton,

    I’m currently a second semester junior at a 4 year university. I did terribly my first few years of undergraduate study and currently my cumulative GPA is a 2.30. I gave up on the chance of going to med school, but I’ve realized I really want to become a doctor. I graduate spring 2013 and my study habits are better. I’ll also be researching in a lab this summer and fall. However, I have no one to guide me on how I should achieve my goal of med school. I was thinking of taking a year off after graduation to strengthen my application and gain work experience in the health field, as well as study for the MCAT, but I don’t know how to go about all this. Please help me and thanks for your time.

    1. To make your application for medical school competitive, you need to raise your GPA. Start by repeating any prerequisites for medical school that you received a C- or lower grade in. AMCAS will consider both grades for a repeated class when calculating your GPA. AACOMAS (D.O.) schools will only count the new grade, so it will be easier for you to raise your GPA for that application if you are applying to D.O. schools. This will also give you a more solid foundation for when it comes time to take the MCAT, since poor performance in your science classes indicates you may not have mastered the material well enough to do well on that test. After that, go on to take upper division science courses. With a 2.3, it will likely take more than a year to raise your GPA to even a 3.0. Typically a 3.5 and up is competitive for med school, but schools do look at factors such as improvement and disadvantages such as if a student did poorly due to having to support themselves through school. Depending on your situation, you may even need to go on to do a formal post-bac program or special master’s degree as well. This is some basic advice to get you started as the purpose of this board is not individual advising. To give comprehensive advice, I need to be working with an applicant and review all of the pertinent background information.

  26. Hi Dr. Eaton,

    I just came across your website and I saw the great advice you were offering and were wondering if you could offer a little to me. I will be graduating in the spring as a psychology major and I do have some courses under my belt such as principles of bio 1 & 2 and principles of chem 1 & 2 and micro bio and I did take orgo 1 but I did not do well in the course so I will need to retake it. Right now I’m a little puzzled as to what my next move should be. I would like to pursue a career in dentistry and as of right now my GPA is roughly a 3.3. I ideally would like to apply in June/July of 2013 for Fall admission of 2014. I know that I need to retake orgo 1 and then take orgo 2 and still need to take physics 1 and 2. I have taken Calculus 1. I have participated in research in college. I also have been shadowing an orthodontist for the past five months so I have some volunteer experience. What I am unsure about pursuing is whether to do a Master’s program or whether to just take my required courses at a university affiliated with a dental school (ie. UAB or Ole’ Miss – as southern schools are less expensive for enrollment). I do still need to take my DAT but was planning to take it probably in the Spring of next year after taking the required organic chemistry classes. I also plan to take Biochem to increase the number of science courses I have taken and because some schools require it. I do want to retake my first Bio class as well because I did not do well when I first took it even though I did well in the second part. So I was just hoping you could offer me some tips on what direction I should pursue. One of the biggest draw backs I see about pursing a Master’s degree or even doing a formal post bac program is that it takes a minimum of fifteen to 24 months in which I will have to postpone applying to dental school for another year which I don’t really want to do. I really would just like to take what I need-do great in the courses and then apply as soon as possible. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

    1. Hi Ali,

      A disadvantage to taking classes outside of a formal program is being able to get the courses you need when you need them. Check into the universities you mentioned to see how difficult it is to get the classes you will need. The benefit to taking the classes as an independent student at a university is that the cost is usually much less than with a special master’s program, and, as you said, you won’t be tied into a certain length of program. There are SMP programs that are designed to be completed within a year so that applicants with only a single gap year between college and dental school can take them. Some have both one- and two- year options. You mention your overall GPA of 3.3, but the science and BCP (biology chemistry physics) GPAs are important as well, and the additional sciences classes will help to raise those as well. Another factor to consider is that undergraduate level coursework will raise your undergraduate GPA while a master’s program will not, although it will generate a graduate GPA that will show the dental schools your ability to succeed at that level.

  27. Hi. Dr. Eaton,
    My path through college has been a difficult one. Coming from a financially struggling family, I’ve often had to hold more than one job while attending school full time. I transferred to my current university after obtaining an associates degree from my local community college. Due to poor academic performance, I even had to take a semester part-time online in order to raise my gpa in order to be readmitted to the university. My current GPA is a 2.2 (awful, I know, but I am retaking several courses in which I did not do so well previously), and I have not yet taken the DAT. I am DAI certified, though I have not yet been able to find employment as a dental assistant. I’m hoping to gain admission to a post-bac program in order to raise my GPA, and to find employment or even volunteer opportunities as a DA so I can log some dental hours. I’ve looked into several programs, and am wondering which programs do you think are the best for someone who is trying to raise GPA? I read a lot of great reviews for the Harvard Extension Program, and am relieved to see that financial aid is available for that program…what are your thoughts on Harvard Extension School’s program? I’m eager to start making positive steps towards gaining admission into dental school, and would love your advice.



    1. Hi Ankita,

      Retaking courses that you did not do well in as an undergraduate is a good first step in improving your academic record. I don’t comment on specific programs on my blog as this is intended as a forum for general information. However, if you would like to discuss your specific situation with me, you can e-mail or call me to set up a 20-minute phone consultation (there is no charge for this). In addition to getting your GPA up, a strong DAT score will be important for your application. As for dental experience, you could try volunteering in a dental office or clinic at first and that could lead to a paid position or at least get you in contact with people in the dental field who may be aware of job openings for DAs.

  28. Hi Dr. Eaton,
    I just graduated this past august with an undergraduate degree in Biology(B.A). This is my second year applying to dental school with no success as of yet. My gpa is 3.0 and Dat score is a 20. I was looking into possibly applying to a Post Bac. Program for biomedical sciences; for example: Boston University, or SFSU. They have post bacc programs that they say are available for students who are pursuing a medical or dental career. My question is however, there are 2 ways to apply; as a non-degree applicant or you have to pick one that you will attempt. Which one would i choose because depending on how long i will b there what if i apply after my first year after doing well and get in but cant finish the degree at the school. Also do i pick to apply for a masters or PHD? And also do you suggest any alternative to post bac programs if there are any?

    1. Hi Samuel,

      Some post-bac programs offer upper division undergraduate science courses. They may or may not lead to a certificate of some kind; either way, the classes still count towards the undergraduate GPA for dental school. One subset of post-bac programs are special masters programs (SMPs). These lead to a degree in biomedical sciences, health sciences or a similar area. Sometimes, programs are designed so that one year leads to a certificate, and a second year to a master’s. SMPs are different than a typical master’s in biology, for example, as the latter is usually research focused, whereas SMPs are focused on coursework. A PhD program in the sciences is also going to be research focused and take 4 or 5 years, and is not what you need if your goal is to raise your GPA for dental school. There are benefits and drawbacks to both the post-bacs with undergraduate-level coursework and SMPs Some people want a master’s in hand at the end of the additional schooling, and others prefer a post-bac with undergraduate courses so that they can raise the undergraduate GPA to a certain level. If you would like to discuss your situation in detail or would like me to recommend programs, please contact me via e-mail or phone (on website) to arrange a free 20-minute consult.

  29. Hello Dr. Eaton,
    I’m currently in my last semester of college. The journey has been a long one. I had to repeat a course I failed during my freshman year, which made me realize that I had to improve on my time management and studying methods. I’ve worked hard over the past 3 years to prepare to apply to medical school. When I look at my GPA of 3.096, I feel self-conscious about my academic performance because I’m afraid that the admissions board of the medical schools I apply to will see me as not being ‘medical school material’. I’m taking 3 advanced science courses during this semester and I’m currently studying for the exams that are a month from now. I understand that a 3.5 is considered competitive for medical schools and my goal right now is to ace my classes so my undergraduate GPA is at least a 3.2. I’m also studying for the MCAT, which I plan to take during the summer and working on the components of my application (recommendations, scheduling committee letter interview, essays, personal statements). Looking back on my journey, I realize that I need to take things one step at a time and not do everything at once. When I started college, I envisioned myself graduating and going straight to medical school and the rest would be history. Now, I’m looking back on all the experiences that I’ve faced in my life to find myself and figure out why I want to be a doctor. So I’ve decided to take a gap year (2014 matriculation) to find myself and do the things that I’ve always wanted to do in order to find my strengths and weaknesses, what it takes to become a health professional, and learn how to be a strong applicant. Does this sound reasonable?

    1. Hi Liz,

      You have taken some good steps towards improving your situation after a bumpy start. A very strong MCAT score can help to overcome a low GPA. In addition, consider taking additional courses during your gap year. You don’t necessarily have to do this as part of a formal post-bac program; you could try to find a local university that offers extention or open university classes. That would help you to push your undergraduate GPA closer to 3.5. Even though the classes are ones that you will take after you graduate, if they are undergraduate level, they will be included as part of the cumulative undergraduate GPA. The gap year will also give you time to focus on the MCAT, which is especially important for an applicant with a lower GPA.

      Good luck on your path to med school.

  30. Hello,

    I am a pre-dental student and I am graduating in 2013. I want to be more competitive but I messed up this year due to family emergency (father passed away). My grades dropped to C+ in my bio classes but I’ve been retaking some of then and got B-s and B. I cumulative GPA is 3.02 and I have no clue what my science GPA. I currently work for a dentist as an hygienist and I am x-ray certified. I want to get into NYU or Boston but I also want to apply for some post bac, if I don’t get in. I really need your advice.

    Thank You

    1. Hi Serinah,

      Start by calculating your science GPA so that you know where you stand with that, as the science GPA is an important component of the application process. That will allow you to better evaluate how competitive your application is. I agree that a post-bac program may be a good step since it will allow you to strengthen your academic record. In addition, prepare thoroughly for the DAT since a strong DAT score can compensate (to a point) for a low GPA, although if the GPA is below a school’s minimum threshold, then your application may not be considered at the school. The cutoff differs from school to school, and some schools do not have a strict cutoff, so I recommend you research the schools you are interested in to find out what their requirements are. Your clinical experiences will be an asset to your application, but that typically comes into play once an applicant has passed through a numbers screen.

      If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail, you are welcome to contact me to schedule a free 20-minute consultation by phone.

  31. Hello Dr. Eaton,

    I am currently an undergraduate senior who is majoring in psychology and minoring in biology. Up until recently, my wish was to get into a clinical psychology program (with a focus on children), however now I am considering the idea of applying to medical school for pediatric psychiatry. However, my current GPA is only a 3.0 predominantly because, although I have made all As in my major courses, I have only made Cs in all of my biology minor courses. I am considering a post-bac premed program but was hoping you might give me a bit of direction or advise about possible program options such as the benefit of a masters versus a post-bac. Also, I will admit, that although I am considering medical school, my passion focuses more on psychology and, as you can see from my biology grades, I am not the best biology student. Do you believe that medical school may be too rigorous for those who are not passionate about medicine/biology? Any advice is appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Hi Brittany,

      The science requirements for medical school are very rigorous, so before committing to a full post-bac program you could try taking a couple of science classes at a local college to get a better idea about how you will do in those classes. Also, while there is overlap in the scope of practice between psychologists and psychiatrists, there are major differences as well, since medication management is a critical part of a psychiatrist’s job. Therefore, you should also think about how important that aspect of the job is for you. Since you are asking questions that are specific to your situation, I can better answer those privately. If you are interested in doing a phone consultation, please contact me. I offer a free initial 20-minute consultation.

  32. Hello, I’m currently an alumnus from UCLA undergraduate with a Biology degree in 2007 with a 2.91 GPA. While attending undergraduate I had difficulties involving family matters and hence could not focus my time and effort in studying. It was only recent that I realized my passion for veterninary medicine and I’m willing to go through anything that I can to be admitted to a veterinary professional school. I plan to become a wildlife veterinary professional working in conjunction with environmental protection agencies. Do you have any suggestions for me? Thanks

    1. Hi Jiwon,
      To improve your GPA and make your application more competitive, you can take classes as post-bac student. You can do this on your own or as part of a structured post-bac program. I discuss those programs in this post
      In addition, gain as much veterinary experience as possible. Paid work, volunteer work and job-shadowing a veterinarian are all valuable. While you can focus your experiences on wildlife animals since that is your interest, seek at least a few experiences in other areas in order to demonstrate that you have an understanding of the range of work veterinarians perform.

  33. I applied to the University of Pennsylvania Post-Bac Pre-Health Program and recently got an e-mail from the school inviting me for a formal interview. What is the interview like? What questions are asked? What questions should I ask? Thanks

    1. Hi Evelyn,

      Congratulations on your upcoming interview. While this board is intended for general discussion, rather than advising for specific situations, I can tell you that for post-bac programs an applicant should be prepared to discuss the reasons for applying to the program, motivation for becoming a physician, qualities that he or she will bring to the program and to medicine and activities, grades and other items listed on the application. Ask questions about facets of the program that are important to you but that are not discussed on the school’s site or for which you want more information about.

  34. Hello,
    I am currently in my last year at a 4 year university. I had just transferred here las year. I went to a community college my first 2 years and finished all my prereq for dental school. However, my gpa isnt great. I wanted to get a post Bac degree to make up for it what should i do i will still apply to dental school in june…what should i do?

    1. Hi Marlen,
      If you wait until after you complete the post-bac (or after the first year if it is a multi-year program) before applying, then the schools will see your post-bac GPA, which will give you the most benefit from the post-bac. However, if you do want to apply this June, you can update the schools with your fall 2013 post-bac grades during the academic update period on AADSAS. Also, a high DAT score can help to compensate for a lower GPA, so prepare thoroughly for the test. Without knowing your exact GPA, it is hard for me to advise you about how important the post-bac is or your chances of admission prior to doing a post-bac. However, I can say that GPA, particularly the science or BCP GPA are very important factors in dental school admissions.

  35. Im currently in a 4 year college and im going into my third year of college. I want to pursue the dentistry field, but feel that my GPA is not where it should be, right now i have a 3.09. I looked into Post-Bacc, but there are a limited amount of schools that offer post-bacc with dentistry. Do you have any suggestions on what i should do?

    1. Hi Jessica,

      You do not necessarily have to do a formal post-bac program. You can achieve your goal of raising your GPA by taking classes that are not part of a program. Although formal programs do offer some advantages, taking classes through a university on your own such as via their extension program, works well for many students. In that case,though you should research the course offerings at the school you will be taking classes at and make sure that they have the science classes, such as upper division biology classes, that you may need. With a formal program, the curriculum is set and there is often also guidance with the application process. Finally, some post-bac programs are geared towards both pre-meds and pre-dental students although it may not be immediately obvious that they are for pre-dental as well as pre-med. You can always contact a program that appears to be pre-med focused and ask if they also cater to pre-dental students.

  36. Im currently in a community college, as a liberal arts math and science major. My grades are not perfect, that said i have not had a failing grade either, though i know i should do better. Numerically speaking i have a 3.2 Gpa. Before entering college , I was not aware of the difficulties that would arise from trying to maintain a normal life and academic work. I do work and go to school full time (school). Now since im a freshman almost a sophmore, I know i have to pick my gpa average more. I seem to have a difficult time trying to talk to an advisor in this school. Seeing as it is a community college i cant expect more, I dont know exactly how or what courses do i need to take , if my intentions are to pursue a career in the veterinary field ( not exactly sure if it would be immuniology, toxiology small animal or etc). Should i only take sciences, i love writting, and this is were i get my highest grades.Also what test is it I will have to take in order to apply to any of the vet colleges, Mcat or Gre.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Dora,

      As a starting point, go to the website for the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). There, you will find excellent information about the requirements to apply to veterinary school that will guide you in your course selection. If you like writing, then you should certainly take writing classes as communication skills are important for veterinarians, and vet schools look for well rounded applicants. However, you will need a strong foundation in the sciences and excellent grades, especially in your science courses, to be admitted for vet school. Most vet schools require the GRE.

      Also very important is obtaining experience with animals. Aim to gain experience in at least three areas of vet medicine, and do not limit yourself to a typical city or suburban small animal practice only. Although that will give you some good experience, you should also diversify into working in other settings such as a wildlife refuge, with a large animal vet or in a specialty practice.

  37. Hi Mulan,

    A 3.5 is generally considered competitive for med school. A strong MCAT score can compensate for a lower GPA, but only to a degree. Although volunteer and research experiences are important, given the intense academic load of med school, a solid GPA is very important in admissions in order to assure the schools that the prospective med student is ready to tackle the demands of the curriculum. Your best chance of admission if your undergraduate grades are weak is to attend a post-bac program. It sounds like you are already applying for master’s programs. Just make sure that you choose a rigorous program that will give you a chance to prove yourself academically. E-mail at info@prehealth if you would like to talk in more detail about your situation.

    Carleen Eaton MD

  38. I’m struggling to get A’s in my courses. I’m always getting C’s and B’s. Its frustrating to not do so well and discouraging, but I really want to be a emergency medical physician. I don’t want to apply to No NAME medical schools either, but I have done a lot of volunteering and research. I am well experienced in the research field. I have not taken the MCAT yet because I am afraid of what I will get (low scores would make me less competitive even more).

    I’m currently taking a few more classes and applying towards a masters degree.

    Honestly speaking, what if this person has done a lot of volunteering and research and had done so well on the MCAT? What are the chances of a premed applicant of getting into medical school with a NOT-SO-COMPETITIVE grades but a well shown experienced background and a good MCAT score?

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