Taking Organic at Community College versus Senior College

mtg

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Greetings all,

I have been a lurker on the board for a couple of weeks now. Lots of good stuff here. Thanks for having me and allowing me to post. I am just finishing up my 1st undergraduate (biology major) year at the age of 29, (attending a community college) and working full-time. I've been married 9 years and have a 4 year old daughter.

A while back, I read a topic where the poster had received 2 F's in organic chemistry. Someone advised her to avoid re-taking organic at a community college at all costs.

I was just curious if anyone could offer any insight into that... I've tried to reason it out myself.. admission boards perhaps think that Organic is easier at the community college level, so the student who took it must be a slacker trying to take the easy way out? Or is the course material significantly different in a senior college? Anyone have any opinions or been asked about it in the interview?

This is only an issue for me because the senior college I plan on attending for my BS requires organic as a prerequisite for admission to the degree program, so I almost HAVE to take it at my current school.

I'd appreciate any advice or insights anyone could offer. And thanks again for the opportunity to post here.

Sincerely,
Mike

 

Rhiana

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Mike, I came from community college and took my O chem and most of my basic sciences there while working fulltime. If your going to take these at a CC, it's important that when you transfer you do really well at the university level and on this portion of the MCAT. The problem for the adcom is that they don't know how to evaluate an A at a CC with an A at a UC. if you show them that you can compete at the higher level and do well on this portion of the MCAT then it shows that the O chem at the CC is a credible one
<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Originally posted by mtg:
Greetings all,

I have been a lurker on the board for a couple of weeks now. Lots of good stuff here. Thanks for having me and allowing me to post. I am just finishing up my 1st undergraduate (biology major) year at the age of 29, (attending a community college) and working full-time. I've been married 9 years and have a 4 year old daughter.

A while back, I read a topic where the poster had received 2 F's in organic chemistry. Someone advised her to avoid re-taking organic at a community college at all costs.

I was just curious if anyone could offer any insight into that... I've tried to reason it out myself.. admission boards perhaps think that Organic is easier at the community college level, so the student who took it must be a slacker trying to take the easy way out? Or is the course material significantly different in a senior college? Anyone have any opinions or been asked about it in the interview?

This is only an issue for me because the senior college I plan on attending for my BS requires organic as a prerequisite for admission to the degree program, so I almost HAVE to take it at my current school.

I'd appreciate any advice or insights anyone could offer. And thanks again for the opportunity to post here.

Sincerely,
Mike
</font>
 
S

Stinky T

Try to figure out a way to take O-Chem at the University. If you are a CA resident, you can take classes through the Extension program at UCs. You can also take these courses during the summer.

The problem isn't the content or quality of the CC classes necessarily, it's the competition in the classes that has the AdComs worried.
 

Toran

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CCs just don't look as good as a university. Don't worry, just bite the bullet and take a full fledged Ochem.

Good luck
 

carc2023

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Taking O-chem at a CC is fine so long as you take more advanced chemistry at a university. The problem with CC work is that if you do well in the class you also need to do well on the MCAT to validate your grade. As for the content in theory it is the same.
 
K

kimberlicox

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Originally posted by mtg:
I was just curious if anyone could offer any insight into that... I've tried to reason it out myself.. admission boards perhaps think that Organic is easier at the community college level, so the student who took it must be a slacker trying to take the easy way out? Or is the course material significantly different in a senior college? Anyone have any opinions or been asked about it in the interview?
</font>
Welcome Mike. The conventional wisdom on this topic is that it is best NOT to take any pre-med courses at a junior college. Obviously, every year there are people who do it and are successful in gaining admission (heck, one of my best friends did and was accepted to a California school. Of course, having a 36 on the MCAT didn't hurt her!).

The reason is that Ad Coms do not believe that the competition for grades is as intense as at the 4 year university, therefore a grade given at a JC is seen as somewhat "inflated" if you do well. Admission standards for most JCs are lower than that of most 4 year universities, therefore your classmates in the JC courses will generally not be of the caliber seen in university courses. Thus, it is supposedly easier to get an "A" at a JC than it is at a 4 year university.

Another concern is over the qualifications of JC lecturers. In some states and fields they are not required to have a PhD, whereas most university science professors have one. One might question the teaching standards at JCs based on this observation.

So Mike, if at all possible you should take your pre-med courses at a 4 year university. As another poster suggested, you can often taken those courses through Extension - its usually cheaper if you're just registering for 1 or 2 courses a semester. If however, you find it impossible to take the classes at a 4 year degree granting institution (eg, because they don't offer as many night courses as do JCs, money issues, etc.), taking them at a JC will not "ruin" your chances of admission to a good medical school. You will still have the MCAT as the level playing field.

Best of luck...
 

Peregrin

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My 2?.

Some schools do not accept CC credits as pre-reqs. You need to ask that question to the schools you hope to attend. For instance, there are 3 MD schools in MI, 2 of them do not recognize CC credits as fulfilling pre-reqs. (I was told this specifically by their admissions office when I asked them).

Perhaps this won't be an issue in your part of the world, but ask to be sure.

 

abbeydesert

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I have to disagree with you about the teaching qualifications of CC instructors.
You are quite correct in observing that many -if not most - CC instructors do not hold a Ph.D. However, it's a mistake to equate a Ph.D. with superior teaching credentials. As someone who took all of my pre-reqs at a CC and later transferred to a 4-year school, I can only say that the quality of instruction at my CC was FAR superior to that of the 4-year school (a large state university). My CC offered Honors sections of many of the science classes; these classes had maybe 15-20 students in each. Unlike most university professors, my CC teachers were devoted to TEACHING- not research. None had Ph.D.s, all had open office hours and were glad to spend as much time as necessary with the students.

Meanwhile, my friends at the state university were sitting in huge lectures with 500 people and never even met the professor personally. Their discussion sections and labs were taught by TAs - which can be a hit-or-miss situation, depending on the TA's teaching ability and English language skills.

When I transferred to the 4-year school, I was shocked by the poor teaching quality of many of my professors (all of whom were Ph.Ds) A number of them made it very clear that they HATED teaching undergraduates, since it took away from their precious research time- and it showed in the quality of their teaching. BTW most Ph.D's never receive any formal training in how to teach- small wonder, since they are evaluated primarily on their research and publications, period. And anyway, stiochiometry is still stoichiometry - whether it's taught by a Nobel Laureate or an M.S. from Podunk U.

When I applied to medical school, I only came across one school that specifically stated that pre-reqs taken at CC were unacceptable (Wake Forest- which I wasn't interested in anyway!) I interviewed at a couple of top 25 schools and no one ever asked me about my CC coursework. Of course, I'm sure my MCAT scores helped (35) as well as the advanced science coursework I took at a 4-year school. (And personally, I'm convinced the reason I performed so well was because I learned the material so thoroughly in CC.

There is some truth to the assertion that it's easier to get A's in CC - and Adcoms are surely aware of that. (IMHO that's not entirely due to the lack of student selectivity among CC students...though that's admittedly a factor as well...Small class size and excellent teachers do a lot to help you excel too!) As someone has already observed, you can level that playing field by scoring high on the MCAT and doing well in later classes at a 4-year school.

Originally posted by kimberlicox:
Another concern is over the qualifications of JC lecturers. In some states and fields they are not required to have a PhD, whereas most university science professors have one. One might question the teaching standards at JCs based on this observation.
 
K

kimberlicox

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Originally posted by abbeydesert:
I have to disagree with you about the teaching qualifications of CC instructors.

</font>
Thanks for your well-thought out response. However, I was not posting a statement of MY feelings on the subject (as I have had extremely poor teachers with PhDs and great ones with Master's degrees) but just what I have heard ADCOMs and medical faculty express concern over.

Granted these are AdComs at snooty California schools and probably do not reflect the beliefs of all their colleagues across the US.

The original poster was simply asking why the negative view about pre-reqs taken at a JC. As I have been told, the primary concern is the level of competition with a secondary concern being one of the quality of teaching.

And as you so rightly point out, if you do well on your MCAT and gpa, most schools will not look askance at courses taken at a JC. I think I mentioned earlier a friend who took all of her pre-reqs at a JC and ended up getting into a California school - of course, she had a 36 on the MCAT as well as a 4.0 in her pre-reqs.

Again, not necessarily my views and perhaps not even the views of most AdComs, but just what I have heard and believe to be the reasons behind the negative view *some* med schools have toward JC credits. It IS MY impression that taking courses at the JC level hurts the average or borderline candidate - the candidate whom Ad Coms may be looking for a reason to accept - the candidate with the 36 MCAT and 3.75 gpa has the opposite problem - the Ad Coms are looking for reasons not to accept them (ie, malignant personality, poor motivation, etc.) Thus, the borderline candidate places another red flag on his application when taking courses at a JC - fair or not. The stellar candidate simply does not have this issue considered.

Hope this helps clarify things.


[This message has been edited by kimberlicox (edited April 04, 2001).]
 

mtg

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Thanks everyone for the responses! You guys have shed a lot of light on the subject and I really appreciate it.

If it makes any difference as far as specificity, I am a resident of Texas, and plan to attend a Texas school if at all possible, with UTMB being my first choice because I live in Galveston (among many other reasons).

Has anyone interviewed at UTMB recently (or not so recently)? If so, I'd love to hear your perceptions of their process and what you thought of the school, etc.

As far as my undergraduate degree - I am currently taking prerequisites at a community college to transfer to UTMB's School of Allied Health Science. They offer a bachelor's degree in Clinical Laboratory Science, which has Organic I as one of its prereq's. Does anyone think that sort of a program will be looked upon favorably by admissions committees?

Again, thanks for the help!

Sincerely,
Mike

 

Pathologist

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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica" size="2">Originally posted by abbeydesert:
When I transferred to the 4-year school, I was shocked by the poor teaching quality of many of my professors (all of whom were Ph.Ds) A number of them made it very clear that they HATED teaching undergraduates, since it took away from their precious research time- and it showed in the quality of their teaching. BTW most Ph.D's never receive any formal training in how to teach- small wonder, since they are evaluated primarily on their research and publications, period. And anyway, stiochiometry is still stoichiometry - whether it's taught by a Nobel Laureate or an M.S. from Podunk U.

</font>
I completely agree with you. Last semester, I took Concepts in Biology II and the professor was a terrible teacher. We only got in about half of the subjects we were supposed to. If I had known the credits would be acceptable from a CC, I would have taken it there instead. This isn't to say all Ph.D.'s are like this, because my anatomy prof this semester is excellent. But, many just don't really care about teaching us "unimportant" undergraduates.
 

jewel

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mtg--
Try visiting www.interviewfeedback.com. to get some first-hand information from people who have interviewed at UTMB. When you get to the website, click on "Browse", click on the school of your choice, and enjoy. It was very helpful to me when I was preparing for my interviews. Hope this helps.
 

mtg

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Thanks Jewel! That's a really cool site.

I haven't been to a university yet, but if my current CC instructors are "setting the bar" so to speak, there are going to have to be some really good PhD's to out-do them. My classes are pretty small (30 to 35 students) and we get lots of personal attention. I'm really happy with the quality of instruction I'm getting, particularly in the sciences.

Have a good one,
Mike

 

Rhiana

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I took most of my pre-reqs at a CC and i am soo glad I did. I'm a double major at a UC now and i learned more at my CC than at my UC. I'm studying for the MCAT now and the only part I'm struggling with is the physics section. I don't think its a coincidence that this was my only pre-req I didn't take at CC. It's just binge and purge learning at a UC. Take it all in then spit it all out. Actually, that seems to be the policy that the UC professors have about their students as well.
 

ChrisSwede

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I took all my pre-req and every other possible calss I could at a JC. I transfered to a CSU and finished my biochem degree. I have to say that the education at my JC was great, but so was it at the CSU.

I do (maybe), wish that I'd taken my pre-reqs at the CSU as this might have given me a better choice in what school I'll be going to. Low and behold, I got accepted to Wake Forest U. even though, as "abbeydesert" stated, usually don't accept JC credit. I did had an overall GPA of 3.94 and 31 MCAT, still only got 2 interviews and 15 rejections. My application was sent late which could have affected my chances, but maybe going to a JC did as well. I'm also a foreigner with permanent status.

It's funny how backwards things happens sometimes. All I can say is that I'm glad I'm in.

Good Luck, C.
 
R

RDJ

Mike:

Since you are from Texas I think I can help you out. I noticed that a lot of the responses you received are from students with a California perspective. Texas schools have a little different approach when it comes to CC and non-trad applicants. Nearly half of my college credit was from CC's--including Bio 101 and 102, CHEM II Lab and all my organic. I had reasons though... ..I received interviews at all five of the Texas schools I applied to. Three of them were on the first day of interviews.

Go to this post...I gave a plethora of examples about other students who took the CC route. It is one of my pet subjects.
http://www.studentdoctor.net/bbs/Forum3/HTML/002953.html

Go NON-TRADS!

RDJ

P.S. The Paramedic that I mentioned on the other thread...who took all of his pre-regs at a community college...and does not have a B.S. ...He is going to UTMB starting in the fall.

I wish you the best of luck
 
R

RDJ

Mike:

I am in a rush right now...but check back tomorrow night. I actually enrolled in a few CLS classes at the UTHSC-SA but changed my mind and went back to biology. I am not saying this is a bad route...it just was not the one for me...I will give you details tomorrow.

Dale
 

castaway

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Hey mtg--I am a Tx resident and interviewed at 4 of the Tx schools, including UTMB, which was my 1st choice in the match. I did not get in anywhere, but I am on 3 waitlists, including UTMB's. From talking to advisors at my university, the sense I get is CC courses are not problematic to the TX adcoms. In fact go to UTMB's website and look at some of the Q&A's posted by the student affairs office. I believe there is a question dealing with CC courses there.

UTMB, as you probably know, is an awesome school. I knew that's where I really belonged when I interviewed there. The interviews were the most relaxed, and one of my interviewers even gave me very positive feedback as we talked (I called both up after the match and they happily discussed how they had evaluated me). The thing about UTMB is they look extra carefully at your non-academic credentials. So, be sure to invest adequate time in extracurricular activities, community service, and volunteer work.

I haven't yet taken Orgo II, and am seriously considering taking it at the CC in my district this summer instead of hauling my ass out to the univ I attend 4 days per week. Good luck!!
 
R

RDJ

Mike:

I second what castaway said about being well-rounded. My experience is that many of the Texas schools use your academic data as a qualifier. Let me explain this by telling you the speech we received during interviews at UTHSC-SA. It was the first week of interviews and everyone there was pretty stoked (having an early interview is supposed to be a very good sign). The first thing that we were told was to put any thoughts about your GPA and MCAT to the side. If you are here, they are no longer an issue. He used this as a lead in to explain the admissions process. The UTHSC-SA and a few other of the Texas Schools are famous for having large GPA and MCAT ranges. The reason for this, as explained to me, is that they do indeed look at the totality of the application. First, they want to know if you are academically capable of making it through medical school. They do this by looking at your numbers, as well as your academic load and all outside stressors you had to contend with (e.g. you work forty hours a week while taking 9 -12 hours). Once they decide an applicant is qualified then they set the numbers to the side and look at the rest of your application, i.e. personal statement, background, extracurricular activities, exposure to medicine, letters of recommendation, etc. If they like what they see, then you get an interview. Afterwards, your application is presented to the admissions committee and they rank you for the state match (see the TMDSAS website for an explanation on the match). Again, whether or not you are accepted will depend on the totality of the application; it is a big deal to them. GPA?s and MCAT scores qualify you, the rest gets you accepted or rejected.
In the beginning, concentrate on getting good grades and preparing yourself for the MCAT. Since you are working and are a parent, they will not hold it against you if you do not have a long list of extracurricular activities, community service, and volunteer work. Your being a parent will substitute for some of this. After all, you do not have all the freedom that a young single college student has---although, you do need to get some serious exposure to medicine. You can start by volunteering in one of the clinics in Houston for the underserved. Volunteering at the VA is another option. If you can, I favor the approach of taking an EMT-Basic course (I think it is 5 to 6 credit hours) at Houston Community College. It looks good on an application and will set you up with real-world patient contacts. In addition, you have to do rotations through the hospital to get your certificate and to be eligible to take the state exam. This type of patient contact is excellent. After you become certified, you can volunteer/work part-time in an E.R. or for a Ambulance service. I do not recommend the associate degree in EMS; it would take you way off the premedical track. As far a research experience goes, I personally have never spent a single second in a research lab. It did not seem to hurt me in my application process. I have been told it is more important if you claim that you have an interest in research or academia as a career. With that said, if you want to go to Baylor or Southwest (examples of the big research schools) they place a lot more weight on research experience.
As far as CLS at UTMB goes, I decided against it. The CLS is a good set up if you are looking for a back up career in case you do not get into medical school. However, it is all laboratory, you will never have any contact with patients...except of course when you do blood draws. I do not think it would hurt you, but it would not be that great of a boost. Moreover, as a biology major I was more able to take other courses to give me a head start on medical school. In the CLS program, the courses are very structured and leave little room for electives. After all, it is a career producing program...it exists to make professional medical technologists, which are a very important part of the health care team, but are not very patient oriented. If you want to do it as a back up to not getting into medical school, then go for it. If you are doing it just to give your application a boost, it is way too much effort for the benefit. I would personally, stick to the premedical route and take an EMT course. I would also arrange my electives to ensure to cover all the prerequisites for the various Physician Assistant programs in Texas. It would give you an alternative if down the road you decided that you love medicine, but did not want to spend an additional 7-9 years after college before you have a job with a decent salary. If you go the PA route, it is only three years max, after you finish your B.S. (here is the UTMB applicant link if you haven?t seen it already http://www.sahs.utmb.edu/programs/pas/ My point is, whatever you decide about how to approach it, HAVE BACK UP PLANS. One other thing, make sure you involve your wife in everything (especially if she is not in the medical field); being a premedical student, medical student and resident is a hard road and a complete team effort when you are married, even more so with a child.

Another thing, the schools in Texas that are most receptive to non-traditional students are San Antonio, Galveston, Houston, North Texas (D.O.) and to a lesser extent Texas Tech. They are even more so, if you tell them you want to go into family practice (or another primary care specialty). Like the rest of the U.S., there is a need for FP?s in many underserved Texas locations. I know you want to be a Pediatric Surgeon, but it would not hurt to keep an open mind. Especially when writing your personal statement and during your interview. Besides, pediatric surgery is 4 years of medical school, 4 years of surgical residency and then another two in a fellowship (I think); better you then me.

Well, I hope I have helped. It is a little difficult to get Texas specific advice on this board. With it's own application service, it appears to be its own little republic sometimes. ...It is a long road so I wish you the best of luck. Also, remember that everything I have said above is just my humble opinion based on my personal experiences. Talk to as many people as you can. I recommend going to the source and setting up appointments with admissions counselors at least at UTMB, Houston, and if you can San Antonio (if you are interested, do not forget about Baylor; however, remember they have a separate application). If you have an advisor at your school, ask them how much experience they have advising non-trads. Although it is not all to dissimilar, there are some differences. In addition, try to talk to other successful non-trads like myself and those I described in my other posts. Their perspectives will help you out.

Sincerely,
Dale Jackson, B.S., EMT-P
MSU-COM 2005

P.S. If you need advice about interviews, I can only help you with Houston, San Antonio and North Texas. My Galveston and Tech interviews were scheduled after I had been accepted to Michigan State in October, so I canceled them. Once I had been accepted to a D.O. school closer to my family, I was sure I did not want to go anywhere else.


One other thing, I also suggest that when you do any extra volunteer/community service. Make it a family event and involve your wife. There are tons of events that fall into this category and that you can participate in together.

Cheers



[This message has been edited by RDJ (edited April 12, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by RDJ (edited April 12, 2001).]
 

mtg

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Dale:

Do you know Mike Haas by chance? He's MS1 at UTMB and a friend of mine. He's had nothing but good things to say about UTMB and he even took me on a tour of the place, including the anatomy lab. That was really cool by the way.

By the way, I really appreciate the detailed advice. I am looking at CLS mainly as an alternative career in the event I do not ever get accepted. My A&P professor was one before she started teaching, and she loved it. She has given me lots of good information about it. Sounds like something I'd be happy doing if I don't make the cut.

Thanks again,
Mike


[This message has been edited by mtg (edited April 28, 2001).]
 

Jeff698

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Originally posted by mtg:
Has anyone interviewed at UTMB recently (or not so recently)? If so, I'd love to hear your perceptions of their process and what you thought of the school, etc.

Howdy Mike!

I'll be starting school there in the fall. I had a good interview experience and was very impressed with the school. It was my first pick. The interviews were laid back and seemed to really be interested in seeing if I'd 'fit' well with the faculty and students.

Someone else already said this about most of the Texas schools, but I'd like to reiterate it. Your numbers are what get you in the door. After that, they're ignored for the most part. All of my interviews at Texas schools were 'closed file' and I was told numbers were no longer being considered. Of course, I can only speak about the schools at which I interviewed: UTMB, UTHSC-SA and A&M.

As for your original question, re: CC courses. I have a BS from 1990 and a MS in EMS from 1992. Almost all of my prereqs, however, were taken at a community college. In fact, the only ones that weren't were my ancient biology courses from way back when.

The only place I was ever asked about them was during my A&M interview and even there it seemed the interviewers were almost apologetic about even asking.

I think the context around when/why you take CC courses makes a big difference. I did it 'cause I didn't want to drive for 1 1/2 hours each way to UT and the tuition was free since I teach at the same school. Plus, I took them many years after I'd already graduated. I think this may be seen as different than taking them simultaneously with courses across the street at a 4 year school, the semester after failing the same course at the 4 year. Again, context is important.

The key is to do very well wherever you take the course. My undergrad GPA was terrible (2.38) but my post-bach GPA was a 4.0 and I did OK on my MCAT. I also think the fact that I've been a paramedic for over 13 years helped.

Again, context really is everything.

Good luck with the application/interview process. I think UTMB is a great school and I'm very excited about starting there. I hope to see you there next year.

Take care,
Jeff
 

mtg

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Originally posted by Jeff698:
[QBI'll be starting school there in the fall. I had a good interview experience and was very impressed with the school. It was ...
[/QB]
Hey Jeff,

Thanks. Did you get a chance to see the anatomy lab at UTMB? I was lucky enough to be given a tour of it right after the MS1's were done with the course and it had not yet been "cleaned up." I thought I would have a hard time with it and not like it much. But you know what? It really had a motivational effect on me, and I even actually managed to keep my lunch down. The formalin is really a potent smell that you don't forget!

Well.. I'm beginning to stray off-topic so I'll shut up now. :)

Thanks for the advice. I appreciate it. I hope to be at UTMB in 2005!
-Mike