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Not taking pre-reqs at community college -- timeline?

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by Argonaut8, Jun 14, 2008.

  1. Argonaut8


    Jan 27, 2008
    I know there are numerous threads on the topic of taking the hard sciences at a CC vs. waiting until you transfer, but I did a search and wasn't able to find one that addressed this question specifically.

    I'm still acquainting myself with this whole process, so please feel free to correct me if I have any of the following wrong. My understanding is this:

    - It's generally best if you can wait to take your pre-reqs at a university.
    - They are in a somewhat sequential order (i.e. gen chem before orgo, math before physics, etc)
    - It takes at least ~2 years to complete them.
    - You typically take the MCAT in the spring of your junior year and apply during the summer/fall of senior year.
    - You should have all your pre-reqs done before you take the MCAT.

    If all of these things are true, then it seems like you'd have to either take about a year's worth of pre-reqs at the community college and the other year's worth at the university to be prepared in time for the MCAT, or the other option would be to apply after graduating and take the following year off. Do I have all that right? If that's the case, which is the better option?

    For me, community college is my only option--long story shortish, my mom pulled me out of sixth grade in favor of "unschooling" and that was the end of my formal education until I started studying for the GED this year (at the age of 21), which I took and did well enough that the college is giving me a full academic scholarship (starting this fall). I spoke to my advisor at the school and she said she typically advises pre-meds to get as many pre-reqs out of the way there so they can relax once they get to university and was truly shocked when I told her I'd heard that was a bad idea. My community college actually offers A.A. degrees in "Pre-Medicine" and "Honors Pre-Medicine" strangely enough (although there is no pre-med advisor), but it seems like that is also a bad idea. Right?

    Oh wise and all-knowing SDNers, if you have any advice or light to shed, it would be much appreciated!
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  3. 2008orbust

    2008orbust OLDER THAN YOU! 7+ Year Member

    Jun 15, 2007
    People have made it into medical school after attending a CC. BUT, a high GPA from a university carries MUCH more weight than a high GPA from a CC. Switch over as soon as you can so that as many as the pre-reqs as possible are from the university. Also, the university is most likey to better prepare you for the MCAT.

    SOunds like you will be able to write a very interesting PS!

    Good luck!
  4. viostorm

    viostorm Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    A GPA is a GPA. To my understanding AMCAS does not differentiate between CC and University. And this whole "University preparing you better" probably more depends on you then the place you are. University professors are usually balancing research with large class sizes. CC classes are small and the teachers are only there to teach.
  5. DrMidlife

    DrMidlife has an opinion 10+ Year Member

    Oct 30, 2006
    Lots of factors to consider.

    1. Is CC work, at your particular CC, going to prepare you for the rigors of upper div science at a 4yr university, for the MCAT, and for med school? Find a grad of your program who is in med school and ask him/her. The premed advisor may not keep up with folks after they leave the CC, so his/her assurances don't hold water. If your CC does NOT offer sufficiently rigorous science prep, then that's an argument to wait on prereqs until you get to a 4yr.

    2. What do you want to get your bachelors in? You probably don't know yet, and that's fine. If you eventually want to do bio or chem or any hard science, then you absolutely need to finish some or all of the prereqs at your CC, or you won't finish in 4 years (which isn't a disaster at all). For a science degree, the med school prereqs are also the prereqs for most of your major coursework during your junior/senior years. A science degree is arguably more convenient than non-science, in preparation for med school.
    - But no matter what a premed advisor, your uncle, or a 60 year old MD says, it DOES NOT MATTER what you major in for medical school. You can major in anything you want. If you want a psych degree, or a music degree, then you can do the prereqs on your own schedule, such as during your junior/senior years.

    3. How many years do premed graduates of your CC typically need after they transfer to a 4yr? It might be MUCH more typical that they need a 5th year. Somebody working on a business or anthropology degree can easily finish an AA and then get a BA in another 2 years. Traditionally "difficult" majors are much more difficult to finish in 4 years, even when all 4 years are at a university.
    - Also, how many premed grads of your CC go straight into med school the fall after they finish their undergrad degree in 4 years, with solid extra curriculars and letters? Probably a very, very small number. Taking advantage of your scholarship could mean you need a 5th year when you get to university.

    4. Is it absolutely critical that you finish your undergrad education in 4 years and immediately begin medical school? Why? If you need a gap year between finishing undergrad and starting med school, is that the end of the world? My real point here is that there's a whole lifetime between now and med school, and being all twitterpated about whether you have everything correctly scheduled so that there's no "lost time" isn't really helping you focus and succeed. Get straight A's at your CC, and then you can start thinking about your med school app.

    Best of luck to you, and keep us posted.
  6. njbmd

    njbmd Guest Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

    May 30, 2001
    Gone Walkabout!
    If the community college is your ONLY option, then you take your science pre-reqs at the community college. The reasons for recommending that you wait are primarily:
    • Classes that follow in sequence above the intro-level are generally geared toward the intro-level course at the university.
    • If your community college course is not of sufficient depth and breadth for the MCAT, you have a major problem to solve before you take the MCAT.

    How are you going to know if your CC courses are of sufficient depth and breadth? Download the topic list from the MCAT website, compare this with your course syllabus and take additional coursework if needed.

    Do realize that if your CC intro-course is not a good intro for your future university-level courses, you may need to take additional coursework in addition to the into-level courses in order to do well in your upper division courses.

    The most important criterion for whether or not you will be successful in your question to enter medical school is your performance in your classes. Where ever you take your courses, you need to do well. If attending a university puts a severe hardship on you financially, and from a practical standpoint, then you need to do your best to solve these problems before you start your upper division work.

    People are accepted into medical school with community college coursework and after completing pre-med pre-reqs at a community college. You just have to be very vigilant in making sure that your coursework is of very high quality and that you do very well.
  7. Argonaut8


    Jan 27, 2008
    Eek! Gigantic post ahead!

    Thanks! I know it's wayyyyyy early to be thinking about my PS, but so far I imagine the "unschooling" thing might be an interesting angle to work on my PS--how it's prepared me to be a lifelong learner and rely on my natural curiosity to spur me to pursue things that interest me. Or something. :laugh:

    This is a good point. My best friend dropped out of high school, then went to a CC for two years and then transferred to UCLA and said the CC was better because of the smaller class sizes and more intimate setting (she also went to a great CC as far as CCs go). I'm not sure of her CC GPA, but she graduated from UCLA with a 3.85 and kicked so much butt on the LSAT that Harvard law school wrote her a letter asking her to apply. She said that because of the huge lecture halls and such, she hadn't gotten to know any of her professors well enough to be able to get any spectacular LORs and is unhappy about it. I hear stories like that, and it makes me pretty hesitant to transfer to a large state school.

    This is a good question. Finding a grad who went on to med school is a fabulous idea. I'll ask my advisor. She said she's had a lot of pre-meds.

    I'm sure it's not the world's best CC, but I don't think it's the world's worst either. It's fairly large--there are 5 campuses spread across 4 counties. The campus closest to me is shared with a state university's satellite campus. They recently began offering a few bachelor's degrees and are actually having to change their name from "_____ Community College" to "_____ College" as of next year because of it. Another state university (whose main campus is on the other side of the state) has a regional campus of their med school (for third and fourth year only) shared with the main campus of my CC. All that stuff makes me think they're probably at least fairly legit. I've also heard (on SDN) that my state has "articulation agreements" preventing state medical schools from discriminating against other publicly funded higher ed institutions like CCs (although I'm sure they do anyway). The only problem with that is that I'm hoping to go to a med school in another part of the country (and in fact, I hope to transfer to a university in that part of the country first).

    You're right, I don't know yet. I'm imagining it'll be in something like philosophy or anthropology, but I'm keeping a very open mind because of my educational background (or lack thereof). I don't have enough experience with enough subjects to know what I really love the most. I remember reading on one med school's website (at least I think that's where I read it) that 49% of bio majors who applied were accepted, but 51% of humanities majors who applied were accepted. So I'm definitely not hung up on the idea that I have to get a science degree, and will pursue whatever catches my fancy most (I actually lean toward a non-science degree for the appearance of greater well-roundedness). And afterall, these four years will be my last chance for a very long time to take those sort of electives.

    More good questions that I'll definitely ask my advisor. Do you know of any other resource I might look into for finding these sort of stats? My scholarship requires me to complete an A.A. at their school (which requires 60 credits and should take about 2 years; I believe a bachelor's would require about another 60 credits, depending on major).

    As far as ECs: I am planning to apply to volunteer at the best hospital in the area (although that isn't saying much) starting this fall (about a year after delivering my son there!), and as far as I know they do need volunteers. There is a major biomedical research facility being built about 5 minutes from my house that is scheduled to open its doors in Jan '09, and I'm not sure how, but I plan to get myself in there in some capacity.

    One thing I haven't quite gotten around to figuring out yet is shadowing. The only doctors I know around here are my own OB/GYN and hemotologist, and my children's ped (and our mohel, who is also an OB/GYN). I'm not sure if it would be entirely inappropriate to ask if I could shadow them? (I've really done almost zero research on shadowing, so forgive me if that's a silly question.) I got into a long conversation with our ped about DO vs. MD (he's a DO), and mentioned my plans and he was very encouraging.

    No, I'd say it's not critical. I'm just eager(/impatient), and I cringe at the idea of another year's income lost down the line, but that's most certainly not a dealbreaker if it means doing it right. I know I'm getting a little ahead of myself--my husband tells me so all the time! Do you think it would be worth it to take that gap year, in order to do the bulk of my pre-reqs at a university rather than doing about half of them there? I guess that partly depends on the quality of my CC. I'm not so much worried about lost time as I'm worried about not making any missteps. I certainly intend to enjoy the journey, but it's hard to just worry about what I'm doing right now when I know it has so much effect on my ultimate goal.

    Community college is my only option to start with, since I'm starting completely from scratch with no prior college experience (and no SATs or anything like that). It's not necessarily my only option for taking the pre-reqs, if I wait until I transfer to a university to take them.

    This is excellent advice! Thank you!

    I am fairly certain I will be able to do well. From a financial standpoint, the next two years of tuition and books at CC are paid for and they promised me a generous transfer scholarship if I do well. The conditions on my scholarship are that I have to go full-time, maintain a 3.0, and complete an A.A. from their school. I've been a stay-at-home-mom to my two young children for the last 4+ years, so my husband is able to carry the financial burden of maintaining the household. I'm not afraid to take out loans to help with the cost of childcare or university tuition if I don't get another full scholarship (drop in a bucket compared to the loans I'll have to take for med school, as they say).

    As far as my ability to get A's in my classes, I'm not super worried. I'm an intelligent person. When I was a child, I was in the gifted program. My brothers both did a couple years at a fairly good community college in California and maintiend ~3.87 GPAs, and they're not smarter than me. I have Yale alums on both sides of my family. I barely studied for the GED, and I really hadn't done ANY schooling since I left public school a few months into sixth grade. I'm confident I won't have a problem understanding concepts or remembering facts. If anything will trip me up, it will be maintaining my focus/motivation, and staying diligent about my schoolwork while also trying to take care of my children/husband/house/pets, not to mention myself. I expect there will also be an adjustment as I figure out what my best learning style and studying style are.

    Thank you all so much for your thoughtful replies!
  8. viostorm

    viostorm Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    Just be prepared to be humbled. It is amazingly annoying getting your ass kicked on tests by 19 year old sorority girls who drink themselves into coma nightly and deepest conversation revolves around the shade of pink they want to paint their fingernails.

    Every non-trad has to go through the humiliation.

    a young brain is an amazing brain.
  9. Argonaut8


    Jan 27, 2008
    Yeah, that sounds depressing. I'm definitely prepared to not be the smartest person in the room as I reach higher levels, and particularly once I reach med school. I probably sounded overly confident in the part you quoted, but what I was trying to say is just that I think I have enough natural potential, so I'll just have to be sure I also put in the effort to put it to use. And I'm sure it will require a LOT of effort to get A's sometimes, no matter how smart I am. My brother once told me that sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the smart people at the hard-workers.

    I think your point about what their deepest conversation is about is a good one--when the shade of your nails is all you have to worry about, I think you have a lot easier time making room in your brain for your schoolwork. We non-trads often have other jobs, kids, pets, bills, houses to maintain, etc, and all of that takes a lot of mental energy. I've still got a pretty young brain (I'm 21), but it's really full of that stuff. Plus, it seems like pregnancy kills brain cells, and I did my share of partying before I settled down, too. I'm actually kind of excited about finding out just how smart I am and where my ceiling is, because up until now I've always been told I'm smart, but that's just speculation and I don't have a lot of scores and concrete things to go on.
  10. Nasem

    Nasem 2+ Year Member

    Aug 30, 2006
    Lansing, MI
    I totally disagree with this statment, not every non-trad goes through this... I was 26 years old sitting my Organic or general chemistry classes and the smallest class size was about 400 student (and I can swear to you, I think I was the oldest dude), and I was (not trying to brag) laying the smack down on every exam / quiz / whatever they throw on me. Matter of fact, I scored a perfect 500 out of 500 in orgo 2 (100% on every exam, made the deals list, they even offered me an "honors" option for doing so well)..... most students in the class knew me, and I used to always set up studying sessions and many students used to always join in (up to 6 to 8 at times).... you kinda become the "older" member of the group who kinda directs everything...

    It was a great time, I made a tone of new friends, ... if your a non-trad, you have the advantage of actually being more experienced in life which (in my case) helps you learn things much faster.... I work as a software engineer (my main job is algorithm designs), and I can swear to you, I feel much smarter today than I did when I was 19 or 20, maybe its the job style, or maybe its the fact your more mature, but something just clicks when you hit the right age

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