There are many benefits associated with attending community college versus going to a traditional college or university. For one thing, tuition tends to be much more affordable at a community college and there is often greater flexibility in terms of taking classes online, at night, or in different locations. When it comes to certain career paths like medicine, however, having a degree or college credits from a community college can sometimes be a problem. Keep reading to learn more about getting into medical school with a community college degree.
What are the Prerequisites for Medical School?
Many students who know that they plan to pursue a career in medicine choose a pre-med degree or concentration with their undergraduate schooling. You can certainly get into med school with other degrees, but you do need to have certain prerequisites if you want your application to be considered. Each school may be slightly different but the general prerequisite requirements and recommendations for medical school are as follows:
- One year each of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics
- Related lab work for each of the courses listed above
- Knowledge of healthcare issues and volunteering and awareness of healthcare activities
- Well-rounded experience with electives and extracurricular activities
In addition to these requirements and recommendations, you should think about what kind of degree you will pursue in undergrad if you don’t go pre-med. Science majors are the most common in medical school but many medical schools express an interest in well-rounded students by taking applicants from other degrees such as music, humanities, literature, and art. You also need to have some quality letters of recommendation, a good GPA, and good MCAT scores.
In this video, Dr. Andre Pinesett, a Stanford Medical School graduate, answers a user submitted question regarding how to make the most of community college as a pre-med.
How do Medical Schools View Community College Degrees?
The field of medicine is difficult to break into and you need to have a solid educational background, good grades, and high test scores if you want to get into a good school. But do medical schools view applicants that have community college degrees differently from students that graduate from a traditional college or university? According to an article published by U.S. News, admissions committees are focused on determining whether an applicant is emotionally and academically prepared to handle a rigorous preclinical curriculum and whether they have the skills and maturity to become an effective and empathic physician. Many of these things cannot be judged or measured by test scores and GPA – this is why your performance in med school interviews is so crucial.
In terms of the actual degree you carry, there are some med school application committees that look unfavorably upon students who fulfill their premedical requirements at a community college but transfer to a four-year school for graduation. Conversely, if you complete most of your prerequisites at a four-year college but take a few summer courses at a community college, it probably won’t hurt your application. What admissions committees are really looking for is the quality of and your performance in the most important and difficult premed sources for biology, chemistry and organic chemistry. In many cases, it depends on your reasoning for taking the classes at a community college – if it is because you think the classes will be easier at a community college, the committee might view you as being less competitive or less prepared than other applicants.
Tips for Beefing Up Your Application
If you must take some or even all of your premedical courses at a community college there are certain things you should do in order to make sure that your med school application is as strong as possible. First, you need to select a quality program. While your local community college might offer a general biology course, an application committee will be more impressed if you choose to take the course from a more established and higher-ranked school. Many community colleges offer online courses that can be taken over the summer or during the regular school year so you do not have to live in the city where your school is located. You can even pick and choose where you take your courses depending on what is available and which schools have the highest ranking. You just want to make sure that the course and school you choose (as well as your performance in the course) reflects positively on you.
No matter where you choose to take your premedical requirements, you need to prove to the application committee that you are dedicated to your education and that you perform highly. Get the highest grades you can and make sure your transcript is evident of your academic skill and performance. If you have excellent grades in the classes you take at a community college but they start to slip after transferring to a university, it will not bode well for you when you reach the application phase. You also need to make sure that your grades remain high throughout the duration of your degree – some schools require that you send updated transcripts each semester following your application. You should also make sure that your grades are high in all courses, not just your prerequisites.
In this video, Daniel Copeland, Medical Student, University of California, San Francisco - School of Medicine offers tips about courses you need to take.
Aside from your transcript, your MCAT scores are one of the most important things that medical school application committees look at. The MCAT is a standardized test that measures your knowledge about math, physics, biology, chemistry, and verbal reasoning. Similar to the SAT, you can take the MCAT multiple times if you do not perform well the first time but keep in mind that med school admissions committees prefer applicants who perform well when taking the test only once. Some schools average multiple scores together while others do not, but all of them will see all of your scores so you need to decide whether it is worth taking the test multiple times if the committee will see every score. Your best bet is to study hard and to wait to take the test until you are fully prepared.
The final component of your med school application involves letters of recommendation and the interview itself. When choosing who you want to write your letters of recommendation, try to choose people who know you from different areas of your life. For example, don’t just choose every biology professor you have had – choose a professor from one of your toughest classes in which you performed well and maybe your supervisor from your volunteer activity or hospital shadowing. Admissions committees want to get a sense of your character as well as your academic prowess so you need a recommendation from someone who knows you fairly well, not just someone who can tell the committee that you got good grades – they can see that from your transcript.
Getting into medical school is never easy and it takes many students multiple tries to be accepted. Do not be discouraged if you don’t get in the first time around – keep taking classes to beef up your application and send the schools of your choice updates to your application when you’ve completed a class or participating in a volunteer activity. Admissions committees want to see that you are dedicated to the medical profession and to making yourself the strongest physician you can be. In the end, your grades and test scores plus your performance in the interview can cancel out any points you may potentially lose from completing your prerequisite courses at a community college.
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