Post-Bacc Programs Provide Pathways to New Careers
The surge in the number of adults looking to change professions and the increased competition for graduate school has led to a development of a number of post-baccalaureate programs. These “in-between” programs give hopeful students a chance to prepare for an advanced degree program or to acquire knowledge required to pursue an entirely new career.
Revisiting the Classics
For those students who discovered their love for the classics late in their undergraduate studies—or later in life—the University of Pennsylvania offers a unique post-baccalaureate program in Classical Studies. The course of study centers on language and is designed for students who already have the B.A. and some background in Latin and Greek, but are looking for more in-depth instruction. Many students in the program are fresh out of college, but a growing number are individuals who have established careers in another field and desire to return to classical study.
“One of our incoming students was a computer programmer and now that his children are grown, he’s ready to follow his muse and hopes to enroll in graduate school in classics after a year of post-bacc experience,” explains Julie Nishimura-Jensen Director of Post-Baccalaureate Program in Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Currently, the percentage of students enrolled in the Classical Studies post-bacc who have been out of college for more than four years is around 5 to 10 percent.
The number of applications for the program has climbed in the last few years. Still, admission is limited to 30-35 students per year to avoid overcrowding in the language classes. The program requires full-time study in residence for two semesters.
Post-bacc programs tend to be rigorous and can be pricey: the total cost per semester for two course units of study for the Classical Studies program is approximately $3,700 per semester. Tuition and fees for four courses is about $8,300 per semester. However, many look beyond the price tag.
“A year devoted to the concentrated, supervised study of both languages cannot but improve a student’s credentials for further work,” says Nishimura-Jensen. “Such a year, free from the distractions and obligations of ordinary work towards a degree, can be an unusually fruitful educational experience in itself.”
Building a Portfolio
In studio art, enrolling in a post-bacc program is a popular step toward applying to an MFA program. At Brandeis University, the Post-Baccalaureate Program in Studio Art gives students the opportunity to develop quality, well-rounded portfolios, giving them a competitive edge.
“Good graduate programs sometimes have 200-300 people vying for 10 spots,” says Susan Lichtman, Studio Art Director at Brandeis University. “Students are willing to spend the tuition money to get placed in a really good program. They want to improve the chance that they might gain entry into the gallery world or teaching,” she explains.
The one- (or two-) year program is structured to emphasize independent work, with critical interaction with faculty and visiting artists. Each student has his or her own studio to perfect painting or sculpture skills. In the past seven years, enrollments have been between 15 and 23 students.
“Students need a fully developed program of work that reflects a strong vision,” continues Lichtman. Many students enter the program immediately after completing their undergraduate work, yet the age and experience of the students vary, she says. “Every year we have a few students who enroll after they’ve been out of school 10 or 20 years. Maybe they went to art school and stopped doing art when they had a family and came back to it now that the kids are older,” she explains.
Another interesting development, Lichtman notes, is that more students who have established careers in the sciences are choosing to enroll in the Studio Art program. “Some want to fulfill a dream to focus on their own creative work. So they come to us.”
The program began about 10 years ago with 4 students. Originally Brandeis developed the program to help their own students who had completed their bachelor’s but wanted extra help before they applied to MFA programs. Now students from all over the country enroll. Those who complete the program receive a certificate.
According to Lichtman, nearly 90 percent of the students in their intense post-bacc program develop portfolios that are strong enough to gain admission into graduate school. “These students are spending all day in their studio doing work, combined with group critiques at night. In the real world you rarely get that kind of time,” she says. “It really works.”
The Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program at the Johns Hopkins University prepares recent college graduates and “career-changers” for admission to medical school. Full-time study is required for at least one academic year; most students finish the program in 9 to 13 months.
“The program tests the student’s dedication and ability to handle demands that they will have in medical school,” says David Trabilsy, Director of the Hopkins program. The program, which was launched eight years ago by Trabilsy, a former admissions dean at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, gives each annual class of about 27 students the science grounding they need to hit the ground running in medical school. It is not intended for students who have applied to med school in the past.
“The students bring a wide range of experiences and talents to the program,” says Trabilsy. “It attracts a lot of people in their 20s, 30s—and even 40s—who have established careers outside of medicine. Also, a growing number of students are coming to us right after college to complete courses they never took as undergrads,” he says.
Students begin in the summer, continue through an academic year, then complete the program at the end of the second summer. During the “glide” year that follows, when they are applying to medical schools, most students complete a one-year fellowship or work in a lab. To date, those who have completed the program have been accepted to medical school.
“This program has worked very well for us. Our attrition rate is about 5 percent, and those departures from the program were not due to academic reasons,” says Trabilsy. “Otherwise the acceptance rate into medical school has been 100 percent.” He continues: “It’s a small, highly selective program, so the students we bring in have a very strong potential for success.
From the May/June 2008 Issue of InFocus (PDF)