For Postbaccalaureate Students
A pre-health postbaccalaureate (postbac) student is someone who has already earned an undergraduate degree and would like to return to school to complete prerequisites for admission to a prehealth graduate program (ie: medical school, dental school, pharmacy school or veterinary school). It is more common than you might think to graduate and decide to apply to a health graduate program later. You are not alone!
This web page will provide you with information to help you plan your postbac curriculum.
Motivation for applying to a health graduate program.
It is not unusual for people to decide after they graduate from an undergraduate institution (or even from a master’s or PhD program!) that they want to pursue a health related program. In fact, there can be some advantages to taking this path, as postbac students often have considerable life experience, demonstrated maturity and dedication that graduate programs value in applicants.
However, schools are going to be very interested in your motivation for taking an indirect route to health care. They want to make sure that your decision is based on realistic knowledge of the health field and basically ‘makes sense’. Therefore, you should be thinking now about how you will explain your process to the graduate programs. In addition, it is imperative that you are able to demonstrate your rationale through the activities that you undertake. Therefore, if your stated motivation includes wanting to serve people in a health care setting, you should be seeking out activities that show this is true.
When do you have to retake prerequisites?
If you have taken some of the prerequisite courses as a part of your undergraduate education, it can be difficult to ascertain whether you need to retake them or not. As a general rule, if it has been more than 5 years since you have taken a prerequisite course, you are best served to repeat it. If you did not do well in the prerequisites, you should certainly retake the courses. However, if you graduated recently or if you majored in a science, you generally do not need to repeat all of the classes. You may decide to take some advanced electives in the same field to show that your knowledge is up to date.
You should always check with the schools that you are applying to if you have questions about meeting prerequisites!
How do you take prerequisite courses at UW?
There are two ways to take courses at UW as a postbac student. You can either apply for admission as a postbaccalaureate student, or you can take classes as a nonmatriculated student through the Extension Office.
Postbaccalaureate Admission — If you are interested in applying to the University of Washington to complete your coursework as a postbaccalaureate student, you will apply online through the Admissions Office website. Be certain that you are mindful of the application deadlines, which are posted on their website. If accepted, then you will be able to use resources available to matriculated students, including prehealth advising, the mock interview program, and the writing center. You will also have registration priority for your prerequisite coursework.
Postbaccalaureate admission is very competitive as space is quite limited for postbacs! The Admissions Office will want to see that you have taken some science coursework already to gauge your preparation for the sciences at UW. You should also have course plan that you can share with the Admissions Office so that they determine how long you will need to complete your prerequisites.
Nonmatriculated Enrollment — You also have the option of taking courses as a nonmatriculated student through the Extension Office. Nonmatriculated enrollment is not competitive, and you can take courses from any department on a space available basis. Nonmatriculated students do not have access to all University services, and it can be quite difficult to register for popular science sequences – especially Chemistry, Organic Chemistry and Biology. If you are thinking about applying as a nonmatriculated student, it can be a good idea to contact the departments in which you want to take classes to see how difficult it will be to register.
As postbaccalaureate admission is competitive, and nonmatriculated students sometimes have difficulty registering for classes, you should also look at your other options. Seattle University has a postbac program as does Portland State University. Programs vary widely in regards to length and services available, so it is a good idea to look at several and compare them to see what will best meet your needs.
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If you take your courses at UW, it will typically take you two and a half years to complete the coursework if you are starting from scratch. Students generally apply to the graduate programs after the second year and take the remaining coursework before they begin.
The following is a sample course schedule for postbac students. Note: This schedule only includes the most common science courses required by prehealth graduate programs. You should always research individual programs to be certain you have met all of the prerequisites for admission.
Is it OK to take pre-health requirements at community college?
How do graduate programs feel about prerequisite courses taken at community colleges? The answer isn't black and white. The level of the coursework at community colleges is certainly comparable; you'll cover the same topics in the same depth as you would in the equivalent courses at the UW. However, graduate programs also want to see how you do in science coursework at a 4-year school.
The biochemistry sequence required by many health graduate programs is offered by some community colleges. Check the equivalency guide to see if it is offered at a Washington State community college near you. You should plan to take as many science courses as possible at a four-year school, so that programs can use those grades to further evaluate your performance.
Getting help and finding more information
Visit the other sections of this website to get more information about how to explore health care options, how to prepare for your area of interest and how to apply successfully. There are links to other websites that you will find helpful on the other pages as well.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has searchable information on postbac programs across the nation.
Syracuse University also has a page with helpful information about the variety of postbaccalaureate programs available.
If your undergraduate institution has a prehealth committee, it is worthwhile to contact them about their services. Oftentimes, they will assist alums in the application process.
Advising for postbacs — Unfortunately, due to the volume of current students that we see in our office, we are unable to make appointments with non-UW students. If you are an alumnus of the University of Washington or if you are accepted as a matriculated postbaccalaureate student, then you will be able to work with a prehealth adviser at UW. See our Advising Services page for more information. If your undergraduate institution has a prehealth committee, it is worthwhile to contact them about their services. Oftentimes, they will assist alums in the application process. Non-UW students are welcome to watch the online information sessions on our Information Session page.