Harvard University

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Postbac Premed Program at Harvard Extension

Jan 29, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:low price, great teachers

Cons:teaching assistants who run sections aren't always well-trained

Harvard Extension school is the night-school portion of the Division of Continuing Education at Harvard University. One of the many programs they offer is the Health Careers Program, which prepares students for entrance into health professions schools such as dentistry, medicine, and physician assistant programs. The program has two main selling points: the faculty, which are mostly drawn from Harvard, though some come from other area universities, and the cost -- on average only $500 per semester course. Science courses with labs, such as biology, physics, organic chemistry, and general chemistry run a little higher -- about $650 per semester. Compared to other evening courses in the area, these prices are very reasonable. The quality of instruction on the whole is very good. (Introductory Physics in particular, taught by Wolfgang Rueckner, is a fabulous class. Dr. Rueckner is the head of the physics department's demonstration services, so his lectures are rich with demos and real-life examples. He also truly seems to care about teaching well.)

Although the courses offered are open to anyone, the majority of students in the four standard pre-medical science courses (bio, physics, chem, and organic chem) are pre-med or pre-vet students. Admissions are not selective, so anyone who has satisfied the pre-requisites can take the classes. Consequently, there is a broad range of ability in the classes, though on the whole students are very motivated and serious about doing well. In the premed classes I would guess the mean age of students is somewhere near 24 or 25, though many students are younger, and some considerably older.

Classes are usually held one night a week for three hours, with additional lab time and sections for review. The only academic drawback is that often teaching fellows who run the sections don't have sufficient experience in the subject they teach -- some of them just took the class the previous year. If you can, shop around and find a teaching fellow who is a graduate student in the subject of study.

The Health Careers Program offers qualifying students the opportunity to be "sponsored" -- that is, they provide a composite letter of recommendation for you when you apply to medical or veterinary schools. This is a valuable service -- and they do charge a $500 fee for it. Although many students can go through their undergraduate institutions for sponsorship for free, if the student's grades were less than stellar or the student has no lasting connections there (profs have moved away, etc.), it can be an advantage to be sponsored by Harvard Extension instead. (See their website for more info: http://www.dce.harvard.edu/extension/1999-00/programs/health/default.html)

Although students are generally approachable and many people make friends in these classes, the majority of students have come to class after a full day's work, which means there's not much time left for hanging out. The numerical rankings below do not all apply because this is an evening program -- so extracurriculars and campus social scene are irrelevant.

In conclusion, the postbaccalaureate program in pre-medical studies at Harvard Extension is exceptional. It offers the quality of instruction one might find at a full-time program such as Bryn Mawr's or Columbia's, but at a fraction of the price. The lower price, I believe, is reflected in administrative rather than instructional aspects: there is probably less student support, fewer organized activities, and less structure overall. But the dedicated and self-motivated student can do very well at Harvard Extension, without having to take out more loans!


Recommend this product? Yes


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