Not everyone follows a direct path to becoming a doctor, a veterinarian, or a dentist. Some realize they want go into a health profession well after they’ve completed college. Nevertheless, those new to the game can still become strong candidates by completing the required coursework, staying determined, and filing a strong application for graduate school of their choice, said Laura Bigaouette, Ed.D., director of Fordham Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Med/Pre-Health Program at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies.
Bigaouette has been helping students meet requirements for medical school, veterinary school, and other graduate schools in the health professions by preparing them to score higher on the MCATs and helping them enrich their transcripts. And she does it all on their schedule.
“This is a career changer program and we offer classes at night so students can keep their day job,” said Bigaouette.
The program, now being conducted virtually, provides a fifth year of undergraduate coursework that may be missing from their undergraduate transcripts, such as advanced courses in biology, chemistry, neuroscience, physics, and mathematics.
With help from staff, students research what their chosen schools are looking for in a candidate, they familiarize themselves with the committee letter process, and, lastly, they prepare their applications. The process, which can take about two years to complete for someone working a full-time job, said Bigaouette.
In addition to administrative and academic support from PCS, students also get support from fellow students, which isn’t always the norm in the highly competitive field of health care.
“The students are extremely supportive of each other; it’s not cutthroat. They tell me that even on Zoom they look out for each other and they meet individually online,” said Bigaouette. “Every single person who comes into this is different, except that they all share a passion for going into health care. We have a very diverse group of about 250 students from different ages, gender, ethnicity, and interests, so we’re focused on highly individualized advising.”
John Bolger graduated from college in 2015 with a solid transcript, but he said he wasn’t 100% sure that he wanted to be a doctor—even though it was something he dreamed about as a child. He said his GPA “wasn’t great,” but it was good enough for him to pursue neuroscience research, which he’s done professionally for the past several years. When he began to re-approach his childhood dream, he said he was attracted to Fordham for its reputation (his grandfather went to college at Rose Hill) and because it allowed him to continue working full time. He finished coursework for the program in 2018 and began the application process. This fall, he earned acceptance into two graduate programs and is in the process of deciding which to attend.
“This time around I just found that I was a lot more excited; the material was a lot more interesting,” he said. “All the professors knew what our goals were and what we wanted to achieve so they were very supportive. We all helped each other. I never got that ‘I-gotta-do-better-than-you attitude.”
He added that considering that he finished his courses two years ago, he wasn’t expecting nearly the level of support throughout the application process afterward.
“Dr. Bigaouette has been extremely helpful. I mean, technically I finished in 2018, but since then she’s been there every step of the way,” he said with a laugh.
Samantha Forbes is in the midst of the application process and had a similar experience.
“Dr. Bigaouette gives us the confidence and every time there’s been a shift in my personal statement, she gave me feedback; she looked at secondary essays,” she said, adding that Fordham’s Career Services staff has also provided a helping hand.
“They helped me with a lot of mock interviews, so even when you’re done with the courses, there’s a lot of support with access to campus resources. I also used the Writing Center well after I left the program,” she said. “At Fordham, they really pushed us to not only perform but to understand what we were doing.”
Registration for the spring semester ends on Feb. 1. For more information, contact Laura Bigaouette at [email protected].