katiemaude

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Hi, I am new to these boards and I'm trying to make a decision about whether to continue my post bacc education at a community college or to finish my pre-reqs at a 4-year university or structured program. I live in SE Pennsylvania if anyone has suggestions for me. As I write this, it is April and I have not applied to any post baccs or master's programs.

Some basic info: I am single, 32. I was laid off last spring and decided it was time to fulfill my real dream of becoming a doctor. My undergraduate degree is in journalism from a top-10 university (I'm going by those US News rankings just to clarify without getting too specific) and I had a 3.3 GPA mostly because the emphasis was not on grades but practical experiences. My science GPA was non-existent except for one semester of gen chem in which I earned a B in a class of 500 undergrads.

Over the past decade of a pretty successful but spiritually unfulfilling writing career, I never felt I had the time to take the basic science courses -- mostly because my schedule was erratic, randomly changing from day to night shifts, and I frequently worked 70+ hour weeks. The layoffs were a blessing. Over the past two semesters, including this one, I have earned or expect to earn a 4.0 in all of my classes at a community college. I am learning so much, it's challenging and I LOVE IT! My transcripts now include two semesters of bio and gen chem, as well as a biotechnology class (similar to biochem), statistics and psychology. The latter three classes were part of an all-expenses paid program that also paid for my gen chem and bio classes. Yes, I needed every dollar because the $4,000 tuition would have crippled me financially. The benefits to going this route are that my professors know me very well and like me. I have two definites for recommendations. They both have PhDs - one in chemistry from UofChicago and the other in chemistry and biology from Texas.

I volunteer 2x/8hrs week in the emergency department at a hospital. I work directly with a patient care representative who is also an RN. I often stay later to talk to the MDs about what I observed in the trauma unit that day (which I do when I'm not actively busy with my volunteer job).

My next task is to line up a couple of job shadows with physicians in family practice and orthopedic medicine.

I am planning to take o-chem, physics and calculus over the summer & fall 2010 and spring 2011 semesters.

Back to my question: Do I continue taking them at my community college? Should I try to take them at a local private or public university ala carte at a cost of $1,000-2,500 per class ($6,000-$15,000)? I would have to find some way to borrow the money that would allow me not to make payments while in school - and I don't qualify for subsidized Staffords. My parents are retired and can't help.

I would take the MCATs in April 2011 and retake them in July 2011 if necessary. I will probably apply to medical school that summer.

I think I could use some experience in a research setting too, which is another dilemma.

Suggestions? :)
 

DrMidlife

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Hi, I am new to these boards and I'm trying to make a decision about whether to continue my post bacc education at a community college or to finish my pre-reqs at a 4-year university or structured program. I live in SE Pennsylvania if anyone has suggestions for me. As I write this, it is April and I have not applied to any post baccs or master's programs.
Hi. I can't think of a masters program that's appropriate to your situation, since you haven't completed the prereqs.
Some basic info: I am single, 32. I was laid off last spring and decided it was time to fulfill my real dream of becoming a doctor. My undergraduate degree is in journalism from a top-10 university (I'm going by those US News rankings just to clarify without getting too specific) and I had a 3.3 GPA mostly because the emphasis was not on grades but practical experiences.
With med school admissions, it's best to assume that you won't get the chance to explain your 3.3 until you've already been rejected for it. Your app will be in a pile of about 5000 apps at the average med school. A 3.3 in biochemistry or biomedical engineering might get sympathy; a 3.3 in journalism likely won't.
My science GPA was non-existent except for one semester of gen chem in which I earned a B in a class of 500 undergrads.
Your competition gets A's in those classes. But the good news is that if you get A's in the prereqs, then you can have a crazy high science GPA in addition to raising your cumulative overall GPA.
Back to my question: Do I continue taking them at my community college? Should I try to take them at a local private or public university ala carte at a cost of $1,000-2,500 per class ($6,000-$15,000)? I would have to find some way to borrow the money that would allow me not to make payments while in school - and I don't qualify for subsidized Staffords. My parents are retired and can't help.
Here's how your app could come across: "Hmm, great undergrad school, but only a 3.3 in journalism, that doesn't establish the academic rigor I'd want to see, going into a 24 unit all-science load during M1 and M2. Prereqs at a community college, great grades, hmm, I'm worried that these were easy A's compared to prereqs at a university."

The way you can pile credibility on top of that impression would be to do two things:
1. kill the MCAT, well above average, which is 32 for MD schools.
2. take some upper div science at a 4yr school and get A's.

I would take the MCATs in April 2011 and retake them in July 2011 if necessary.
Retakes are incredibly inefficient. Do aggressive prep, take the test once, and get your best possible score the first time. Most retakes don't result in better scores; many retakes get lower scores.
I will probably apply to medical school that summer.
Applying early and broadly is the best strategy with a sub-competitive overall GPA. Early means June, and that means your MCAT score is in hand in June. Which means you need to take the test in April.

Make sure you don't shoot yourself in the foot by being in too much of a hurry.
I think I could use some experience in a research setting too, which is another dilemma.
You don't have time for this if you want to apply next year - you can still do research, but you wouldn't have it as an app asset by summer 2011.

Best of luck to you.
 

TreeOfSouls

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I agree with the above! While community college courses can often be BETTER than classes at major universities due to the smaller class size, individual lab work, and possibly the professor leading the actual lab... there is a possible perception that community college classes are easier or that the grades are inflated. The best way to compromise may be 1) taking the bulk of science pre-reqs at the community college and then taking the upper level or highest level that you're going to take at a major university and then 2) doing very well on the MCAT. Those can establish that your grades were likely reflective of your learning since you succeeded in upper level courses and then did well on the MCAT. If you aren't able to do those two things, you may be at a disadvantage. That will depend quite a bit on where you apply. If your state's public university has a medical school, you may be able to benefit from the in-state admissions advantage while explaining your lower GPA in your application essays- if you have positive achievements to mention (like "this is what I was doing instead of getting a high science GPA... and it's a high achieving thing"), then you might not have too much of a hard time! It really depends on the picture/story you are able to present. But, you certainly will need to continue excelling from this point forward and plan to take at least one or two of your highest level science classes at a major university.

With that said, my state's medical school AND Mayo Medical both have stated that they don't care if the science pre-reqs are taken at community college, particularly for non-trads... so, do they hold true to that in their admisssions policy? I can't say b/c I haven't applied, yet! But, they both made very clear statements that community college credit was acceptable. So, it may be worth directly contacting the schools where you plan to apply and briefly asking them about it.
 

7starmantis

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I agree with whats been said aside from the community college aspects. I dont think your going to run into an issue with having taken your pre-reqs, or even upper level sciences at a CC. Nearly all mine were from CC and I never heard one thing about it (and I had what people on SDN would consider a piss poor MCAT as well). Its about your application and you certainly can show good reasons for taking courses at the CC. If you have the ability, taking some upper level at a 4-year would be fine and couldn't hurt, but I dont think the CC alone will hurt you.
 
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7starmantis, if you dont mind my asking....What school did u get into? and How many did you apply to? and Did you get in on your first attempt. I'm pretty much in the same boat. I won't be applying for another 2 years though.
 

turkeybean

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I've been taking pretty much all of my pre-reqs at a CC. I've not heard that CC credits are being discriminated against. While there may be quality gaps among some CC's and 4-yr colleges, I've been pretty happy with the standard of teaching at my CC. I think a disciplined and conscientious student can certainly prepare herself just fine with CC prereqs. And just like a previous poster said, you can substantiate your abilities with a good score on the MCAT.
 

katiemaude

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I've been very happy with the overall quality of my education at the CC. I had Gen Chem as a freshman 15 years ago and I actually find my current class to be more in depth and challenging in some ways. The reason my grade was better the second time around? I am not adjusting to living 1,000 miles from my parents this time, and my class does not have 300+ people in it and a lab section taught by a grad student. I have had the same professor for 2 semesters and my classes have never had more than 25 people in them. He is also our lab instructor.

Thanks for all the advice already given. I plan on continuing my education at the CC where possible because cost is a major issue for me.

Another round of questions:

My school doesn't offer Gen Physics I in the fall. I could take it over the summer, before I've had a refresher course in calculus, and take the second semester of physics in the fall. (I took the first semester of calculus in university, which allows me to enroll in physics - however, I remember next to nothing.) ... Does that seem insane? Should I take physics somewhere else in the fall *after* I've taken my fresher calc course this summer?

I will be taking organic chem next year but will not have finished the second semester (nor will I have finished physics for that matter, if I take it at another school) in time for the April MCAT. Is this going to be a huge mistake?
 
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The good news is that there is no calculus on the MCAT so you could take the non calculus based physics which may give you some more class options at your CC.

IMO, taking the MCAT without finishing Physics II would be difficult. There usually are problems from the second class on the exam. Orgo II may not be as critical to finish prior to the exam, but you never know what they will put on there. I found the orgo problems to be easier compared to physics because they kept the problems at a higher level and all were covered in Orgo I. But you never know.

During my interviews no one ever asked me about taking classes at a CC. They were most concerned about why I wanted to go into medicine after having a different career.

Good luck!
 
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My school doesn't offer Gen Physics I in the fall. I could take it over the summer, before I've had a refresher course in calculus, and take the second semester of physics in the fall. (I took the first semester of calculus in university, which allows me to enroll in physics - however, I remember next to nothing.) ... Does that seem insane? Should I take physics somewhere else in the fall *after* I've taken my fresher calc course this summer?
I am taking Physics I at a community college this semester. The last time I took a math course was Pre-calculus at a university in the summer of 2005 (and I didn't do well...) Physics is much more algebra-based than calculus-based, in my experience, unless you take an Engineering Physics I class, which requires calculus. Is there a class description that states the recommended/ required courses in order to register for that Physics course?

By the way, I went to a very large university with class sizes of 300+. Now I'm finishing the rest of my pre-reqs at a community college. I LOVE the small classes, affordable tuition, flexible class schedule, AND my professor knows who I am. I feel pretty confident about the quality of education I am receiving. I'm actually understanding the material, rather than just working out the problems.
 
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dancingdoctor13

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Hi
I am so glad to read that it is ok to take a lot of pre-med courses at the community college, because I did before I transferred and got my BS, where I did take a couple more upper division requirements. Do you know where in the application we should explain why I took courses at the CC instead of a four year? I don't want to use the space in my personal statement to do that, or do I have to? What state schools don't mind that you took these courses at a CC as long as you did well? (just general states)
 
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Hi
I am so glad to read that it is ok to take a lot of pre-med courses at the community college, because I did before I transferred and got my BS, where I did take a couple more upper division requirements. Do you know where in the application we should explain why I took courses at the CC instead of a four year? I don't want to use the space in my personal statement to do that, or do I have to? What state schools don't mind that you took these courses at a CC as long as you did well? (just general states)
I think it depends. I have a BS from a 4 year college and went back to school at a CC for most of my pre-reqs so I don't think it was an issue since I already had lots of science classes from my 4 year college. I cannot comment on state allopathic schools. I mainly applied to DO schools because I thought they were a better fit for me as a career changing, non-trad applicant, and the CC classes did not seem to pose any problems getting interviews at DO schools.

Your PS should demonstrate why you want to by a physician, your motivations, plans, etc. I would not discuss CC classes in a PS unless there is some compelling reason to do so. If necessary, you can always address it in the secondary application.
 
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My understanding is that if your able to get A's in all of your prerequisite regardless if you took them at 4 year college or community college than your consider competitive. A at community college versus A at four year state college still demonstrates superior ability to comprehend material than your competition.

I'm taking few prerequisite for pharmacy school at cc and I can rest assure you that its no walk in the park. Perhaps, your competition is also considering applying to medical school. My point is course taken at CC or four year college, an A is A.

Besides, A's demonstrate that your bright and intelligent. Now, I'm not to sure how B's is looked at by the Adcom especially B's from community college.
 

postbacca

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My understanding is that if your able to get A's in all of your prerequisite regardless if you took them at 4 year college or community college than your consider competitive. A at community college versus A at four year state college still demonstrates superior ability to comprehend material than your competition.

I'm taking few prerequisite for pharmacy school at cc and I can rest assure you that its no walk in the park. Perhaps, your competition is also considering applying to medical school. My point is course taken at CC or four year college, an A is A.

Besides, A's demonstrate that your bright and intelligent. Now, I'm not to sure how B's is looked at by the Adcom especially B's from community college.
I tend to agree. I can't imagine adcoms holding it against an applicant that has taken their prereqs at a CC due to schedule/financial constraints and received straight A's when compared to an applicant from a four-year college that received straight A's.

That said, I also think that if nothing is holding you back from attending a competitive four-year school, you should take your prereqs there because it shows you can take the heat.
 

FrkyBgStok

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I tend to agree. I can't imagine adcoms holding it against an applicant that has taken their prereqs at a CC due to schedule/financial constraints and received straight A's when compared to an applicant from a four-year college that received straight A's.

That said, I also think that if nothing is holding you back from attending a competitive four-year school, you should take your prereqs there because it shows you can take the heat.
That's a nice thought, but you would be wrong. Look at my previous posts I have been a strong supporter of CC classes as it was much easier and cheaper for me. I went to visit my dream school this week to ask how I can be more competitive as I really wanted to go there, and after explaining my situation (father of 3 working full time, yada yada) they basically told me that I really need to move away from CC classes to be competitive as they automatically portray an easier path whether you want them to or not. And as many people have told me, schools start off by looking for reasons to throw apps out. Every school is different, some may not care, but I know that I don't want to take that chance. My situation is a little different though. I plan on applying to this one school as it is in my area and I need to stay here.
 

GatorPhD

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That's a nice thought, but you would be wrong. Look at my previous posts I have been a strong supporter of CC classes as it was much easier and cheaper for me. I went to visit my dream school this week to ask how I can be more competitive as I really wanted to go there, and after explaining my situation (father of 3 working full time, yada yada) they basically told me that I really need to move away from CC classes to be competitive as they automatically portray an easier path whether you want them to or not. And as many people have told me, schools start off by looking for reasons to throw apps out. Every school is different, some may not care, but I know that I don't want to take that chance. My situation is a little different though. I plan on applying to this one school as it is in my area and I need to stay here.
FrkyBgStok is right. I'm an advocate for folks going to CCs, and have posted on the CC debate before. I went to a CC out of high school and the to UF. When I was gearing up for my post-bac program, I called the UF admissions office and asked if my physics from 8 years ago taken at the CC would be ok and they told me, not no, but Hell no. Mind you, I have a BS, MS, and PHD in math from UF. They didn't care. They said if any of the 8 pre-reqs were taken at a CC, my application would not be considered. I ended up re-taking freshman physics at a 4yr school. Like Frky implied, I guess its an easy filter for getting rid of some applications.

My advice is to call schools that you think you will apply to and ask them. Each is different and you may be surprised by what you learn.

Good luck,
Gator
 

eablackwell

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I had a bit of a different experience with UF and CC credits, although it's what... "Florida State College at Jacksonville" now...not a CC anymore.

But at any rate, I spoke to someone who has been on the med admissions board for over 10 years and they told me that it is highly dependent on WHY you took them at a community college. I'm a full time chem teacher at a medical prep school and the 4-year schools near me do not offer evening classes. I had no choice.

Granted, I'm not applying until June, but I felt really good after talking to the UF med school.
 

GatorPhD

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That's interesting. Right, mine is now something like "Northwest Florida State College". You're correct, our situations are a little different. I went to the CC out of high-school b/c I was dual-enrolled there during 12th grade and went ahead and finished the AA before the transfer. It's a lot easier to tranx to schools in the state university system with an AA (or at least it was 10 years ago).

I'm glad to hear UF doesn't snub everybody, only their alumni!!! :rolleyes:

Good luck,
Gator
 

eablackwell

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I graduated summa cum laude from UF with a BA in German 2 years ago ;) I started at Duke for undergrad but had serious health issues that led to withdrawal.
 

GatorPhD

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I graduated summa cum laude from UF with a BA in German 2 years ago ;) I started at Duke for undergrad but had serious health issues that led to withdrawal.
Wow, then I'm even more mind-boggled. I also graduated summa cum laude, but I didn't go Duke either! I'm just a simple-minded redneck all the way. Also, I graduated in 2003, 2005, and 2007, respectively. Maybe they thought I went stupid after all those years and wanted me to re-take physics...who knows? Maybe I spoke with the wrong person on the phone when I called. Either way, I'm glad it worked out for you.

Anyhow, it's cool when you're simultaneously a student and tutor for the same class!

My very best,
Gator
 
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I went to community college for 2 years before completing my degree at a university for 4 years. Problem with community college was that i didn't take a bunch of classes that were required for my degree program.... at 28, i'll be a bit older than my classmates in med school. BUT I feel like schools are really open to nontrads.

shadowing, doing research, and getting your core classes out of the way sounds like a good plan.