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Alternative Pathways to the Health Professions

Fortunately, there are many timelines and pathways towards the health professions. For those who did not complete the pre-health requirements before graduating from college, or for folks who did, but need to strengthen their academic record, there are post-baccalaureate programs. For those who have completed their coursework but want to take a break between medical school, there are an abundant amount of opportunities to grow as a person either through full/part-time jobs, volunteer opportunities locally or abroad, or travel opportunities.

Taking a Gap Year(s)

Eighty percent of Dartmouth applicants take at least one or more additional years after graduation before matriculating to medical school or other graduate programs in the health professions. The majority of these students apply as they graduate, at the end of senior year or a future year. This gives applicants more time to amass sufficient life experience; complete and demonstrate success in Dartmouth coursework, engage with diverse kinds of scholarship, have more flexible MCAT timeline, have more robust extracurricular experiences, and generally more chances to grow personally prior to applying. This has become a national trend. The average age of students entering medical school is currently 24-25.

Things to Do During your Gap Year(s)

 Post-Baccalaureate Programs

There are a multitude of pre-health post-baccalaureate ("post-bac"), opportunities that can prepare college graduates for medical school.

While most Dartmouth Medical School applicants take all their pre-requisite courses at Dartmouth, there are other pathways that are possible, depending on a student's academic priorities, or trajectory. There are three main post-bac pathways available:

Career Changer programs: These programs are designed for students who decide to pursue a career in a health profession, but still need to satisfy the academic requirements for entry into a designated health profession school. More information is found below. Many students in this case, seek programs that are highly structured. Others complete their courses through less formal programs, ie: at state schools. You can discuss this with HPP.

Academic Enhancer Programs: These programs are designed for students that have completed their pre-requisite course work, but now need to "enhance" their academic record before applying to a health professional school. Many of these programs lead to a master's degree while others are certificate programs. Other programs may include MCAT preparation courses, and some are specifically dedicated to the success of students who are underrepresented based on race, ethnicity, and/or socioeconomic status. More information found below. Note: Some require an MCAT to apply. HPP is here to discuss this with you.

Completing Coursework: Some students have taken some, or most of their coursework at Dartmouth but still need to complete some of their pre-health coursework. This might occur through an extension program or state school. Please discuss with HPP.

Helpful sources of information about Post-Baccalaureate options

Find a Job, Volunteer, or Travel

Many students believe that they must do something related to the health professions if they decide to take a gap year(s). While an experience in the clinical field is highly valued, medical and health professions schools are also looking at students who can bring life experience to the incoming student class--be that they found a job in finance, volunteered with the Peace Corps, or backpacked through southeast Asia.

These years give students the opportunity to take advantage of experiences they otherwise would not have if they go straight through to medical or a health professions school. After 18+ years of schooling, an alternative to learning can occur outside the world of academia and be very beneficial for your personal development.

The Nathan Smith Society has compiled a database of gap year experiences that Dartmouth post-graduates have listed for future graduating seniors to consider.

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Last Updated: 3/27/17