University of Rochester School of Medicine '14
“I loved the small, interactive classes at Bennington. I learned well in that setting, and it’s especially nice because everyone was starting off at the same level (having taken very few science classes prior to starting the post-bacc) so you all rely on each other for integrating the information and working on understanding concepts. It’s true—this is not really the way typical medical school lectures work. At the University of Rochester, and many other medical schools, there are small group learning experiences (usually called problem based learning or PBL), that are very much like the actual classes at Bennington and I feel like I was particularly well-prepared to learn well in these settings that required close collaboration between students. Transitioning to lecture-style classes wasn’t that difficult—there’s lots of interaction still in our lectures and lots of lab-style learning as well as the PBLs, which I think is typical of many medical schools now.
“I could not have been more happy with my choice, both while I was at Bennington or now that I am in medical school. When I was applying, it meant a lot to me that Bennington has one of the oldest post-bacc pre-med programs—it means that they spotted the need for a program like this, allowing people who hadn’t been single-mindedly pursuing medicine since infancy to get into the profession. And it also means that they know what they’re doing, it has a proven track record of getting students into their chosen medical schools. Bennington is a great education and a wonderful introduction to scientific inquiry, and I feel that it prepared me well to study and to think about scientific and medical questions.
“I think Bennington is outstanding, because the Bennington grading system often gives schools insight into special projects or course work that they otherwise wouldn’t be aware of. The grading system at Bennington is a standard 4.0 system, but your transcript also includes narrative descriptions of your performance in each class. I think, especially for medical school applications, when the amount of information you are allowed to provide schools about yourself is so limited, that this is an unbeatable grading system. If you perform well, you get not only a great grade, but adjectives and verbs that describe exactly what you did well. If you didn’t do quite as well, you get a description of strengths and weaknesses that can be independently evaluated. Besides just how these look on your transcript, the narrative evaluations give you an honest assessment of your work as the program proceeds—you know what you need to work on for next time, and what you’re doing well, so your performance can improve more than it would with a simple letter grade.
“When you take the MCAT, a lot of information is fresh for you that wouldn’t be for a student who took physics as a college freshman. You are able to continue incorporating all the ideas you’ve learned throughout the year at Bennington, because they are all new and exciting, unlike someone who took cell biology and genetics three years apart. If you work to make the connections between the subjects (which is something that is very much focused on at Bennington), it reinforces all the concepts. I remember reading on the Bennington post-bacc website when I was applying that Bennington taught you how to think about science. I thought that that was kind of BS at the time, because I thought science was all facts, but it turned out to be a great way to think about your learning process.
“I took a Kaplan MCAT class that started a week after the program ended, and took my test about a week and a half after the Kaplan class ended. Kaplan worked great for me, gives you a ton of online materials (especially previous MCATs) that are really helpful, and I ended up feeling really prepared for the test.
“For the glide year I moved back to New York City, where I had been living before Bennington and returned to a job I’d had before as the Volunteer Coordinator for an Upper East Side senior center. I coordinated volunteers in preparing meals both to be served at the center and as Meals-on-Heels, organizing activities and events, etc. I also volunteered at a lab at the VA Center in the Bronx that was researching surgical therapies for Parkinson’s disease. There is help available at the school in figuring out what to do. I think the glide year is pretty individual, especially for non-traditional students who have a wide spectrum of levels of experience. Some people feel they need to fill a gap in their application and thus have a specific thing in mind, and others want to spend the year in a certain place and figure out what they can do to further their application while they are there.
“I think I could not have had a better preparation for medical school, and I feel I was better prepared to think about science than many of my classmates were who spent four years learning the same material. The way that you are encouraged to think and problem-solve is crucial in learning quickly and in learning in a way that you retain. I could not have asked for a better educational experience, and it has allowed me to continue at a medical school that fits my goals for medicine as closely as possible.”