Post-bacc Program Prepares Students for Salus, Other Universities as Well
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Post-bacc Program Prepares Students for Salus, Other Universities as Well

Not only do graduates of the Salus University Post-baccalaureate Program get a leg up by being guaranteed an interview in the University program of their choosing, but it also prepares students to pursue their educational path at other universities as well.

Slayton Hargraves headshot

Slayton Hargraves, PBHS ‘21, thought his educational pursuits were going to be delayed when COVID-19 hit in 2020 and interrupted his optometry school applications. He was scheduled to take the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) — a requirement for optometry school students — but it was canceled because of the pandemic, which left him hanging. He applied to five optometry schools, including the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University, and was rejected by all five.

“I thought OK, I’ll have to take a gap year or go get a master’s,” said Hargraves, a native of Eagle River, Alaska, who graduated from the University of Alaska in 2020 with a degree in Natural Sciences.

But Darryl Horn, PhD, FAAO, associate professor at PCO/Salus and director of the Salus post-bacc program, reached out to Hargraves to see if he was interested in trying the program at the University.

“He said, ‘We have this program and it’s kind of new, and you’re a perfect candidate. Do you want to try it?’” said Hargraves. “And it was exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t have to take a gap year and I could have the post-bacc on my resume, which would help bolster my applications.”

And it was a perfect fit for Hargraves. He traveled from Alaska to attend the program in suburban Philadelphia and it ended up being exactly what he needed to pursue being an optometrist.

“The post-bacc program was invaluable. It was more structured like optometry school,” he said. “It taught me what optometry school was going to be like. Optometry school is a lot more than the post-bacc program, but I got an idea of what I needed to do. It helped me get ready mentally and hone my study habits.”

After completing the one-year post-bacc program, Hargraves applied to five optometry schools, including PCO/Salus, and was accepted to all five. He chose to head back to the West Coast and is now a second-year optometry student at Pacific University just outside Portland, Oregon. Although he’s undecided at this point, he said he likely will head back to Alaska after graduation and possibly open his own practice specializing in contact lenses and dry eye.

The post-bacc program in Health Studies — the University also offer a post-bacc in Speech-Language Pathology track as well — is designed for students who have already completed an undergraduate degree or are working toward a secondary degree from an accredited institution. It offers students a chance to take required prerequisite courses, boost their grade point average, strengthen their scientific background and help them become better prepared for admission to a professional, graduate or medical school.

“One important aspect of the post-bacc program is academic success,” said Dr. Horn. “By offering lectures and workshops, we help students develop note taking, studying, and test taking skills and strategies which will prepare them to be successful in graduate school.”

Lauren Diem headshotThat’s exactly what Lauren Diem, PBHS ‘21, experienced in the post-bacc program. Falling short of getting into the Salus Physician Assistant Studies (PA) program after undergraduate school, she decided to enter the Salus post-bacc program rather than take a gap year.

“The program was the perfect way to to bridge the gap between undergrad and graduate school,” said Diem, originally from Coatesville, Pennsylvania, who graduated from Penn State with a degree in Biology. "It wasn’t just academic classes that prepared me for PA school. There was also networking opportunities with professors at Salus, there were mock interviews and professionalism lessons.”

Diem ended up getting accepted into two PA schools after graduating from the post-bacc program and chose to continue her education and training at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Her didactic year is over and she’s now out on rotations, which she said is giving her more confidence in her abilities to be a PA when she graduates.

“I think the most important thing I learned from the post-bacc program as Salus was that I got some really good, professional advice about interviewing and how to present myself in interviews,” she said. “And how to prepare for a graduate program.”

Dr. Horn said that Salus teaches the post-bacc program at the graduate level because when students go out into professional school, they’re going to have graduate classes and be getting a graduate level class load.

“My expectation is that when these students leave here, they’re going to be ahead of the curve when they go to the professions they want to go into,” he said.

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