Find out if med schools accept community college credits.
Not only do community colleges have pre-med, but it is also a smart idea to cover all the initial courses at a community college and then transfer to a four-year bachelor’s program.
College is expensive enough on its own, with the added cost of med school, it can be a very financially demanding career path. Even though medical professionals tend to earn a good salary, most of them are stuck paying off their student debts for years.
According to a 2021 study by Education Data Org, the average med school graduate owes $241,600 in total student loan debt, owing six times as much as the average college graduate.
Since med school is so expensive, it is worth considering either taking pre-med prerequisite courses at community college and then transferring to a four-year university to finish out the degree or getting a pre-med bachelor’s from a community college.
Our pre-med guide below will help you discover all the options you have and assist you with building a plan to save money.
Is it really a smart idea to do pre-med at community college?
In short, yes it is. Years ago students used to hide the credits from community colleges on their transcripts because they thought four-year med school programs and potential employers might look down upon them.
That myth has long since been busted. In fact, most med schools are happy to have applications from students who have had one or two years of community college which they then transfer to a four-year university.
Most med schools will accept and recognize any premedical prerequisites you take at your community college, as long as your credits are transferable to the undergraduate institute you plan on transferring to.
But for this to work, planning ahead is key especially when applying to med schools. You have to go through a process of picking a few universities where you want to transfer after community college and find out which course credits they are willing to transfer.
Pro Tip: Since most people looking at your CV look at the final GPA and not individual subject grades, it is a good idea to complete all your prerequisites at community college. A smarter thing to do is to attempt all the difficult prerequisites at your community college before you transfer. There is less competition and the teachers there give you more one-on-one attention. More on this later.
Prerequisites can vary depending on which med school you plan to apply to.
However, there are certain things that are a general requirement. According to the AAMC, the following are the general prerequisites required to apply to med school:
One year of Biology
One year of English
Two years of Chemistry (through Organic Chemistry)
However, because these do not account for the prerequisites of all med schools, Shemmassian recommends that students take courses that will satisfy the requirements for every med school so that they have the option to apply anywhere.
The following list accounts for all the subjects that will help you do just that:
Biology (Lecture: two semesters or three quarters, Lab: one term)
General Chemistry (Lecture: one semester or two quarters, Lab: one term)
Organic Chemistry: (Lecture: two semesters or two quarters, Lab: one term)
Biochemistry (Lecture: one term, Lab: not required)
Physics (Lecture: two semesters or three quarters, Lab: one term)
Math: Lecture (two semesters or three quarters (must include calculus and statistics))
English (Lecture: two semesters or three quarters (must include writing))
Note: Certain science majors have additional course requirements. For example, Baylor University requires PSY 1305 (Psychological Science) and 4400 (Advanced Statistics I) for their neuroscience degree.
Taking all these classes should adequately prepare you for med school tests like the MCAT and the newer CASPer, as well as application essays. You can use these to make your application to med school stronger. Just remember that maintaining a high GPA is very important in order to get into med school.
Pros and cons of taking pre-med courses in community college
As with anything else, if you’re considering taking pre-med courses at a community college rather than a private institution, there are a few pros and cons that you should be aware of before making a final decision.
Community college is a lot more affordable
According to a recent 2021 study by Community College Review, for public community colleges, the average tuition is approximately $5,014 per year for in-state students and $8,725 for out-of-state students. For private colleges, the average yearly tuition is approximately $15,507 per year.
On the other hand, a study by Education Data Org shows that the average annual tuition at a private university is $35,801, as of 2021. This means that you have the option of doing two years of pre-med at community college and then transferring to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor’s degree, all while saving up thousands of dollars
Community colleges traditionally have an open admission policy which means that they usually always accept a student’s application despite their high school grades.
This gives students a second chance to redeem their grades and get the opportunity to apply to med school.
By choosing to apply to community colleges you can avoid the sometimes stressful and complicated college application process as well.
Some community colleges are now also offering four-year bachelor’s programs
Over the years, over 24 states have passed laws that allow community colleges to offer a four-year bachelor's degree. For example: The City College of New York offers undergraduate degrees in Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Mathematics.
This is great because you don’t have to worry about transferring to a four-year college/university.
Doing a bachelor’s at community college will also be a lot more affordable than at a traditional four-year college/university.
Community colleges typically do not have “pre-med support” (dedicated advisory teams) and lab work is not considered as reputable as that of a four-year college/university. This is why it is recommended to do the prerequisites at community college and save the core of your serious studies for the four-year program.
Some med schools will always give preference to students with a four-year degree from a private school or those students who did a full four-year degree program. But let’s face it, not all of us can afford the tuition from these private colleges/universities or a complete four-year degree.
According to research by UCLA, students from community colleges were 30% less likely to get admitted to some med schools than those students who never attended a community college or only attended a four-year college/university.
Checklist for transferring from a community college
Med school is a very competitive branch of education. It is not just about the tuition being high, the standards for every aspect of med school are very high… after all people’s lives will be placed in your hands once you graduate. If you understand this, you will come to terms with the effort you need to make to stand out and get admission to med school.
You have to be aware of the exact requirements of every college/university in the pool of colleges/universities that you are planning to apply to.
It would be a huge waste of time to do a course at a community college and then find out the college/university you are applying to will not transfer those credits.
The smartest thing to do is make a list of all the transferable credits common to the pool of colleges/universities and work on those.
Basic vs Core Credits
Not only do you have to ensure that the credits you are attempting are transferable, but it would also be smart to do the basic prerequisites at community college and save the core subjects for the four-year program.
While most med schools do not discriminate, some prefer that you complete the important courses at a four-year college/university. The reason for this is because certain med schools believe that four-year institutions are better equipped to handle pre-med courses.
With this strategy, the subjects that really mattered were completed by you at an institution with a more rigorous education plan lending them more value. For example, UC Irvine only accepts upper-division biology taken at an accredited four-year institution.
On the other hand, Yale accepts pre-med community college courses as long as they include labs and are at the same level as what’s offered at a four-year institution.
“Schools view community college work differently, and there isn't really consensus regarding how to evaluate it because it varies so much. If you do the majority of your pre-medical coursework at a four-year school, you will be fine.
That said, some institutions have strong relationships with "feeder" community colleges and won't see that coursework any differently. It all comes down to your resources.
Always do the best you can with what you have and admissions committees will usually give you credit for that.” wrote Sunny Gibson, the director of the office of diversity and community partnership at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, for the AAMC.
Transferring to a four-year college/university can be an exhausting process and can possibly affect your grades. While it can be overwhelming, maintaining a good GPA is very important for med school.
Admissions officers will want to see both a high GPA and evidence that you were able to adjust to upper-level coursework after transferring from community college to your four-year college/university.
A good MCAT score acts as a great equalizer. It shows how prepared you are for med school and no one will question which school awarded your college credits.
Work on making your resume stronger
Build a role within an extracurricular or community organization, research group, or local hospital to add value to your resume. It might be a bit of a challenge if you spend two years in an institution and then move to another, but if you do your homework right, you will still be able to contribute in a meaningful way to these organizations and have something to show for it.
Bonus tips on how to effectively navigate pre-med community college
Medical education and training can directly contribute to the development of stress and anxiety in medical students. According to a study by NCBI, statistics show that depression affects approximately one-third of medical students worldwide.
While studying medicine can be overwhelming, protecting your mental health and well-being is necessary!
Here are a few tips and tricks to help guide you through your pre-med education.
When you are a pre-med freshman at community college, there are many exciting prospects to look forward to. There are so many opportunities for volunteering, shadowing, and lab work. However, it is important to make sure that you figure out how to divide your time effectively and not overburden yourself.
Unless you’re enrolled in a pre-med bachelor’s program at community college, completing your prerequisites and transferring to a four-year college/university can feel like you’re starting from scratch. Getting used to a new environment, finding opportunities, and reapplying for extracurriculars can be an overwhelming process.
According to an article by Prep Scholar, students should generally have 5-10 hours per week for each main extracurricular activity. However, it really depends on how many activities you take part in. Make sure that your academics do not suffer at the expense of extracurriculars!
Learn to study effectively
While completing your pre-med degree, you’ll be taking lots of difficult classes, especially in math and science. You will find yourself studying from multiple resources and that can sometimes be difficult to manage.
This is the perfect time for you to find out what study methods work best for you and allow you to work effectively.
Here are some tips to help you learn actively better:
Create a topic oriented study guide.
Become your own teacher; quiz yourself regularly and read the information out loud.
Create concept maps or diagrams to understand the study material.
Space out your studying instead of cramming!
Click here to find out more about active learning.
Make use of opportunities
Try your best to network with other pre-med students in your area, to be updated on events and opportunities that could benefit you, shadow as much as you are able to, and pick up any other clinical experience you can. Here’s a few ways to find the best networking opportunities around you:
Social Media: Instagram and LinkedIn are particularly great for networking. These fast-growing platforms hold an expansive community of pre-med students and organizations. By being active on these social platforms, you can stay up-to-date on networking events, and interact with other students and professionals in the same field as you.
Networking Events: There are a variety of fairs and conferences organized for pre-med students all year round. These events often entail traveling to a certain place to meet and exploring ideas and opportunities with other pre-med students. There are also many pre-med clubs and organizations available within colleges/universities, this is a great opportunity to find like-minded individuals that share the same interests as you.
Use your community college background: When applying to med school, use your pre-med education at community college to help strengthen your application. Whether you studied at community college to save up for med school or because community college allowed you the flexibility to work alongside your education, use your story to explain how despite the challenges you faced, community college was part of the solution.
Doing your pre-med courses at a community college is a smart option that will save you money. Getting into med school is no small feat, and it sometimes takes students multiple tries to get in. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get accepted the first time around. Instead focus on working towards a good GPA, high MCAT score, and an exemplary set of extracurriculars.
At the end of the day, admission committees want to see that you are dedicated to the medical profession and are trying to be the absolute best medical professional that you can be. So, as long as you keep working hard towards your goal, you will eventually reach it.