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Am I considered a non-traditional student? And question about CSU over UC for undergrad psychology..

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nattweeter

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So, this is the first post I've ever made on SDN. I've come to the site multiple times to research pre-med questions and get answers about how to go to med school, the MCAT, ECs, etc. I'm not quite sure if I would be considered a non-traditional student, but here's why I think I might:
  • Currently at a CC in Southern CA; have been attending the school for 3 consecutive years immediately after graduating high school and will transfer this fall; switched from biochem to psychology b/c I actually love the content and material taught in my psych classes and the amount of interaction with other classmates and professors
  • I've taken 1 year of biology (organisms to ecosystems, got a B; and evolution/ecology/biodiversity, also got a B); 1 year of gen chem, got an A both semesters; am currently taking my 2nd semester of orgo, got a B last semester and will be getting another B this semester; have taken a semester of calculus 1 w/ an A, and a semester of stats w/ an A; have yet to take biochem, anatomy, physiology, or any physics classes (plan on taking these after I transfer)
  • I plan on taking a gap year between graduating from undergrad to focus on research, work, studying for the MCAT, and accruing more clinical hours (and maybe traveling if my time and financial budgets allow... but who knows yet)
  • I've been volunteering in the emergency department of a children's hospital for the last year and have only around 150 hours of service so far (would like to go into peds and then sub-specialize); plan on continuing volunteering there over the summer to accrue more hours (optimistically, I hope to get above 300 hours total); will volunteer at a nearby hospital after transferring
  • I've been working on and off since my sophomore year of high school due to school obligations; my current job is through the school district and involves helping design and give feedback for the school's online portal that more than 45,000 students use, have been at this job since September 2015 and will be here until August 2016 (until I transfer)
  • I've shadowed only 1 GP/doctor (~8 hours), but plan on shadowing her more over the summer and would also like to shadow other doctors throughout the next 2-3 years before I apply to med schools
  • Not as relevant, but my dentist has been trying to get me to go the dental route instead of the med route and has offered to have me shadow him several times, so I'm thinking "why not? Might as well see what a typical day consists of for him...", plan on doing this over the summer if he's available
As of yesterday, I've heard back from all the schools I applied to for transfer: Cal Poly SLO, UCI, UCLA, UC Davis, and UCSB; applied as psychology (Cal Poly, UCI, UC Davis) or pre-psychology (UCSB, UCLA) to all of them and was admitted to all of them w/ a 3.88 cumulative transferable GPA. My GPA will be going down to a ~3.74-3.77(?) due to another B in ochem after this semester, but I'm alright with that. My top school is and has been Cal Poly for the last 2 years due to its location, price, class sizes, class sizes, reputation for being one of the better CSUs, and the curriculum/hands-on opportunities offered with its "learn by doing" mission; they also have a study abroad program for Australia, and I've wanted to go there since I was in 5th grade. When I got my acceptance email I literally squealed in the middle of my ochem lab... needless to say I accepted the offer of admission within the week because I had't heard back from any of the UCs yet and the housing application for transfer students is first-come, first-serve; I wanted to secure housing ASAP and have already paid the $1250 initial payment, but that can be refunded up until a certain date. Everyone close to me (family, best friends, boyfriend, classmates) has known that Cal Poly was my number one choice for the past year or so. But now, I'm getting some contradicting feedback from other friends and family members whom I'm not as close with about going to a CSU over a UC, especially since I want to go the med school route. People are telling me, and I'm also reading on here (SDN) that choosing to go to a CSU over a UC could be more detrimental and might put me at a sizable disadvantage for med school. I'm really conflicted about this feedback, because I know in my heart that Cal Poly is "my" school; but I also know in my heart that becoming a pediatrician (or at the very least, working with kids in a healthcare/medical environment) is what I want to do, and I need to put myself in a position where I have the best opportunity for that to happen. I know that you should go to the school you believe you'll academically and mentally excel at, but also the school that will put you into a good position for your future career, but the fact is I'm going to be a psych major at any of the schools I transfer to. A psych bachelors by itself is somewhat useful and flexible but not very marketable in terms of the job market, if I don't happen to get into med school. I have my contingency plan in place for that already: become a PA. However, I would just like these two questions answered:
  1. Am I considered/will I be considered a non-traditional student if I'm coming from a CC, transferring to a CSU (Cal Poly), getting a BA in Psych, and then taking a gap year before applying to med school?
  2. Is going to a CSU (in particular, Cal Poly) over a UC going to put me at a major disadvantage for getting into med schools in CA, NY, Europe, or Australia? I have the option of going to UCLA, UCI, or UC Davis for undergrad (already declined UCSB's offer because it was my last choice for the UCs)
 

nattweeter

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I've worked with the California university system a lot in my work.

Cal Poly's general reputation equals or exceeds any of the UC's except probably UCB, and their campus is in SLO - arguably one of the best places in the world to live. I do not think most people consider it in the same Chico, East Bay, SJSU, etc. I love - LOVE - finding excuses to go to Cal Poly.

I will assert against Davis. It has a good reputation for academic rigor but also has aggressive grade deflation - some smart people struggle to maintain a 3.0 at Davis. The administration has been in the news a lot recently for harshness/lack of transparency, and they've had issues with student relations since the 1990s. Moreover, the summers are brutal in Sacramento.

UCLA is a great choice, and I can't think of a reason why you'd consider UCI or UCD if admitted to UCLA.

UCB does have a reputation that - ceterus paribus - is on par with any in the world, if you can put up with the hippies. I wouldn't pass on the chance to go there, if you're the open-minded type. Did you apply to UCB?

But I don't think any of this is going to have a major impact on your odds of getting admitted to medical school, which is really going to be decided by your GPA, MCAT, and EC's.
@Miami_Postbac I didn't apply to Berkeley; I had no interest in going to school there. I was considering going to UCI moreso than UCLA because I'd still be able to live at home, and I got in on TAG. And what I'm gathering from your reply is that I should stick with my decision to go to Cal Poly--correct me if I'm wrong. Your reply made it seem like you considered Cal Poly's reputation to be better than UCI, UCSB, UCD, and UCLA...?
 
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futuremdforme

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Cal Poly's general reputation equals or exceeds any of the UC's except probably UCB, and their campus is in SLO - arguably one of the best places in the world to live. I do not think most people consider it in the same Chico, East Bay, SJSU, etc. I love - LOVE - finding excuses to go to Cal Poly.
Maybe in SoCal but nowhere else. Within broader California, I'd say it's kind of "meh" and within the rest of the US, most people haven't heard of it.

If UCLA or UCB is an option, I'd take those for sure. I know you feel sure on medicine, but what if you change your mind? UCLA and UCB will open a LOT more doors than Cal Poly.

I always used to laugh when people would try to impress me with the name of the college they went to when I had never heard of it. It made them seem both really arrogant and a bit ignorant of the world outside California, and as amazing as California is, you need to remember that you will need to look beyond it for med schools, jobs, etc.
 

blue0rchid

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You're not a non-trad student. Non-trad would be someone who didn't really plan for med school in their early years, obtained an undergrad in something, worked in that industry for a while (or do something completely different, like joining the peace corp for years), then realized that medicine is something they wanted to do all along.

I was a non-trad, similar situation as yours. I went to a CC, then transferred to Cal Poly SLO (was also accepted to UCSD, UCI, UCB, and whatnot... can't remember, too long ago) because it had the cheapest tuition and finished undergrad there. Worked for 5+ years, then wanted to do medicine. Took 2 years to do preregs then apply.

Cal Poly is a good school. It's not as well known outside of CA but it doesn't matter if you have good grades, good MCAT score, and good EC. It certainly will not hurt you at all if your grades + MCAT + EC are good. If you have to rely on the name and recognition of your undergrad school, then I would say your grades and scores maybe subpar. It really doesn't matter which school you go to, just make sure you get great grades, participate in EC, shadow, volunteer, etc... and score high on MCAT.
 
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