5 Tips for Premed Students Attending Community College

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5 Tips for Premed Students Attending Community College
College is expensive enough without the added cost of medical school on top of it. If you're on a pre-med track, consider taking some of your prerequisites at community college. Keep reading to learn more.

The base salary for a physician is around $190,000 with some specialties earning well over $500,000 per year. As much as doctors get paid, however, they accrue a lot of debt over the course of their education. The average yearly cost of medical school is over $200,000 and most doctors graduate with over $400,000 in student loans.

According to a 2010 study, roughly 40% of American undergraduate students attend community college but only 5% of students who enrolled in medical school in 2012 had attended community college. Because medical school is so expensive, it is worth it to consider taking premed classes at community college and then transferring to a four-year university to finish out the degree.

Keep reading to learn more about how medical schools view community college credits and to receive tips for premed students attending community college.

How Do Med Schools View Community College Credits?

Getting into medical school is no easy task. Not only do you have to complete a rigorous undergraduate degree, but you also have to find a way to stand out among thousands of applicants. Though it is important to position yourself well to stand out in the crowd, your primary concern as a premedical student should be to learn and understand the content of your premed classes. Taking some of these classes at community college can save you money so you’re able to focus on what really matters instead of worrying about how you’re going to pay your tuition.

Many people assume that colleges favor degrees from four-year universities over community college. While they may have been somewhat true years ago, it is no longer the case. What an admissions committee really wants to see is a strong academic resumé. The committee wants to know that you are academically and emotionally prepared to succeed as a medical student and later as a physician.

With the emphasis being on academic success, it shouldn’t matter where you obtain your degree. If you start your premed undergraduate degree at community college and excel enough academically to transfer to a four-year university, it makes you look good. What makes you look even better is continuing to excel at that four-year university and scoring well on the MCAT.

In the end, it matters more that you take your education seriously than where you obtained that education. If you take premed classes at community college under the assumption that it will be easier than taking them at a four-year school, it won’t be viewed favorably by admissions committees. Each situation is unique, and it is really up to you to decide which course is best for you.

Tips for Premed Transfer Students in Community College

The process of getting into medical school doesn’t start when you fill out your first application – it begins back in high school when you start thinking about going to medical school. While you don’t necessarily need to obtain an undergraduate degree in pre-med, you do need to fulfill certain prerequisites and you need to show med school admissions committees that you can keep up with the classwork and that you’ll make a good physician.

Because it matters more than you complete your pre-med courses with a high GPA than where you obtain your degree, taking some of your prerequisites at community college could be a good idea. If you’re considering this option, take the following tips into account to boost your chances for success in transferring to a four-year institution and then getting into med school:

1. Make and Stick to a Plan

By the time you finish your undergraduate degree and start applying to medical schools, you’ll need to have certain prerequisites under your belt. If you’re not in a dedicated pre-med program, you might need to tinker with your class schedule to make sure you get in all your prerequisites while also completing the necessary courses to finish your degree. The earlier you start planning, the better off you’ll be.

Each school has its own premed requirements, but there are certain things you’ll be required or encouraged to take. Here is a quick list:

  • Biology (with a lab)
  • General chemistry (with a lab)
  • Organic chemistry (with a lab)
  • Physics (with a lab)
  • English
  • Biochemistry
  • Calculus
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • Genetics
  • Behavior sciences
  • Social sciences
  • Humanities

Taking these classes should prepare you for the MCAT and for med school. Keep in mind that you want to not only complete these classes, but you need to get good grades. That means you’ll need to plan ahead so you don’t overload yourself to the point that you are struggling to keep up.

2. Choose Your School Wisely

Taking premed classes at community college is a great idea, but you do need to be careful about choosing the right school. Before you enroll, make sure that your credits are going to transfer and take the time to see how many other students followed a path similar to yours. If there is a precedent for students from that school getting into med school, all the better.

In addition to making sure your credits will transfer, choose a school that is accredited and has a good reputation. Community colleges are often much smaller than four-year universities and they largely draw from the local population – they aren’t as recognizable as big-name universities. This is why it is important to do some research on the school to make sure they are accredited and that obtaining your education from that school will help rather than hurt you.

3. Pace Yourself

When you first enter community college, it can be overwhelming. Not only are you dealing with a higher level of classwork, but you also have extracurricular activities to enjoy. If you’re on a pre-med track, you may also be thinking about opportunities for volunteering, shadowing, and lab work. With so many opportunities out there, you need to learn how to divide your time without exhausting yourself.

When you complete your prerequisites and transfer to a four-year university, you’ll almost be starting over. While you might be a Junior or Senior academically, you’re still a Freshman in that you’re new to the school. Four-year universities can be very different from community college so you’ll need to pace yourself again, so you stay on track academically while also taking advantage of extracurricular opportunities that may be available.

4. Learn How to Study Effectively

While completing your undergraduate degree, you’ll be taking a lot of difficult classes in math and science. You’ll be reading from dozens of textbooks, completing complex lab assignments, and doing extra studying on your own to keep up. Now is the time when you should really focus on developing strong studying skills, so you’ll be better off for taking the MCAT and for med school.

Everyone is unique in the way they learn, but there are some scientifically proven study methods you should try for yourself – here they are:

  • Take detailed notes in class to ensure that you take in all of the information you’re hearing – try to put things in your own words rather than simply copying slides.
  • Set a goal for your study sessions – take a look at your assignments and their due dates then make a plan for when to work on each assignment.
  • Review your class notes in the evening and add to them – this is the best way to move material from your short-term memory into your long-term memory.
  • Take plenty of breaks while studying – even if you have no choice but to study for long hours, try to take a 10-minute break every 30 minutes or so to refresh your mind and keep you focused.
  • Use mnemonic devices to help you remember important information – one way is to create a sentence where the first letter of each word stands for something you’re trying to remember.

In addition to following these tips, you should switch things up from time to time. If you typically study by yourself, try joining a study group once a week. The best way to figure out which study methods work well for you is to try them all!

5. Use Your Background to Your Advantage

During your med school interviews, admissions committees will want to know more about you than you simply want to help people – they want to know what makes you unique and why you think you’ll make a good doctor. Rather than hiding your community college past, use it as a tool to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Talk about the unique opportunities you had in community college to shape the course of your own education and any other relevant experiences.

Being a doctor is largely about solving problems. When talking about your community college experience, take the chance to highlight your problem-solving skills. Maybe you chose to attend community college to be able to afford med school or maybe you had to work during school and community college gave you the flexibility you needed. Whatever challenges you faced, community college was part of the solution and you should be proud of it.

The road to becoming a licensed physician is a long one and there are many paths you can take to get there. For some people, community college is one of those paths and there is nothing wrong with that. If you’re thinking about taking some pre-med classes at community college before transferring to a four-year school, keep the tips above in mind. Good luck!


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