Considering a Post-Bacc Program?

As a non-traditional dental student, my path to a career in dentistry was unique (read more about my journey on the About page). Once I decided to pursue a career change, I enrolled in a post-baccalaureate program, where I completed the prerequisites for dental school alongside a cohort of 60 fellow career-changers. Here are the top 5 questions I receive about post-baccalaureate programs!

1. What is a post-bacc?

A post-baccalaureate program (or post-bacc for short) is a pre-health program for students who have already earned their bachelor’s degree. These students are seeking admission to a health professional school, such as medical or dental school.

2. What are the two types of post-bacc programs?

  • Career-Changer: The first type of post-bacc is for students who need to take the pre-health prerequisite courses for the first time. For example, career changers whose undergraduate studies did not include science courses. This is the type of program that I completed.
  • Academic Enhancer: The second type of post-bacc is for students who are looking to enhance their GPA in order to make themselves more competitive for the health professional school admissions. 

3. What courses do I take?

Career changers will take the pre-requisite courses for entry into a health professional school. These may include: biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics, calculus, statistics, and anatomy. Be sure to check each professional school’s website for specific requirements! Prerequisite courses such as biochemistry, calculus, statistics, and anatomy can vary from school to school.

Academic enhancers will take advanced science courses. These may include: cell biology, pathophysiology, genetics, immunology, physiology, pharmacology, and biophysics.

Dr. Amaro & Classmates,
SFSU Post-Bacc OCHEM Lab

4. How will a post-bacc help me get into dental school?

Performing well in a post-bacc program will demonstrate your capability to be academically successful. No single course in dental school is extremely difficult. Rather, the most challenging aspect of dental school is the volume of courses! During my first year of dental school, I completed a whooping 49 credits! Doing well in a post-bacc program will indicate to admissions that you can be successful with a heavy course load.

5. How can I highlight my post-bacc experience in a dental school interview?

Highlighting a post-bacc program during your interview can set you apart from other candidates! Many post-bacc programs are structured into cohorts. In other words, you complete each course with the same group of students. Likewise, each incoming dental class is basically a large cohort of students. For this reason, admissions officers are seeking students who will contribute to the cohesiveness of the incoming D1 class and thrive in a collaborative learning environment.

During your interview, you can expect a question on teamwork. Be sure to emphasize that completing a post-bacc enhanced your teamwork skills. Then, establish your veracity by providing a meaningful example of HOW your post-bacc experience enhanced your teamwork skills. This will help solidify to the admissions committee that you are a team player and that you will get along with your dental school classmates.

During my interview, I highlighted a research project that I presented with a partner in my general biology course. Our topic was prophylactic antibiotic treatment. Since my post-bacc program was designed for entry into all professional health schools, my partner happened to be a pre-physical therapy student. I deliberately highlighted this example because: (1) It demonstrates teamwork/collaboration, (2) I was lacking formal research experience, (3) There was a public speaking component, which accentuates my communication skills, (4) The topic is directly applicable to dentistry, and (5) The topic demonstrates an understanding of how oral health can affect systemic health. See my post Ace your Dental School Interview for more interview tips!

Did you complete a post-bacc program? How did it help prepare you for dental school? Comment below!


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