4-year vs. Community College dilemma

I’m new to the forum and I am trying to decide where to take my pre-med courses. A physician friend has suggested that med schools don’t look upon pre-med courses taken at the community college level favorably. Is this true?

I have a BS in Health Science and none of the pre-med courses are incorporated into the program, so I will be starting from scratch. The real issues for me are cost and scheduling. It is far cheaper to hammer out the courses at the CC than the University. The CC’s also offer more evening courses for those who work 9-5. So, which is better?


Welcome to the forum! You’ll find a lot of discussion regarding your question if you do a search for “community college” in the search feature of the website. It seems to be discussed on a fairly regular basis, so I’m sure you’ll have lots of view points to consider in making your decision.
Good luck, and if, for some reason, you don’t find an answer to a specific question you have, send out another post and undoubtedly you’ll hear back from several fellow OPM’ers.

I’ve been questioning the same thing … I took most of the pre-med prereqs a long time ago at a University (for an engineering degree). I wasn’t too awfully worried about making A’s - only to pass, so I ended up with mostly C’s. But, the Physics and Chemistry courses at the University were unbelievably difficult. It might have been due to my maturity (or lack thereof), but I do recall that the environment was very intimidating because of the large class size of 100+ in the auditorium, ethnicticity (is that the right word?) of the professors and basic attitude as “weed out courses”. Since I’m re-taking these classes, I decided on the CC route. The small classes have given me the ability to ask lots of questions and receive very personal instruction. I also find that (usually) there are more night courses offered. I have been able to pull A’s in each of my courses and, better yet, I feel that I am learning the material. Even though my A’s at the CC level may not be as highly regarded as an A at at University level by adcoms, I am hoping that my improved understanding will be reflected in my MCAT score. Maybe it will all even out in the end? I honestly don’t know if I would be learning as much at the Univ. Maybe today I’d be able to get more out of the classes than I did years ago, but I don’t think so … Oh, and there’s only so much you can do at the CC level … so once you get into taking a few higher level elective type courses, you’ll have to enter the 4-yr school anyway. Right?

I don’t know how others feel, but It’s honestly hard to do all that entails being a non-trad and take courses at the local university. The CC has everything I need in the evening, and for a fraction of the price!
I agree - My Gen Chem and Bio years ago were average (Bs) but in the cc I got all A’s - but I STUDIED and I knew it was MY money I was wasting, not my parents, if I did poorly.
Anyway, I’m going the cc route, too. I think those of us that are doing it that way should definitely post on our admissions progress to let others know how it worked, and for which schools!

As was mentioned, many a thread on this abounds already. That said, just from my own experience in calling around to local schools (Chicago-area) there is the potential for CC classes to negatively affect your applications. I called 6 schools in the area - Rush University Medical College, U. of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University, Chicago Medical School, Northwestern, and U of Chicago. There’s also a very good DO school but I have not contacted them. At any rate, Northwestern and U of Chicago both told me that they would consider courses taken at a community college, but in all likelihood they would not be competitive enough given the level and number of applicants they receive. The other 4 schools all seemed considerably more receptive to CC classes, or at least that was the impression I got on the phone.

The woman I spoke to at Northwestern did say that taking upper-level bio courses at a 4-year university may strengthen an application a bit, but generally prereqs done at a CC were not going to be competitive.

That said, I’m sticking with the CC classes for now There are only 2 4-year universities nearby that offer evening classes that I am aware of - one isn’t honestly that much better than a community college (Dominican University) and the other is Northwestern itself. Both are an order of magnitude more expensive, and would be difficult for me to afford at this time, especially since my wife is a full-time student.

Next year, if possible, I’ll try to take at least 1-2 courses at either Northwestern’s School of Continuing Studies or at the University of Chicago through their somewhat similar program (likely as a graduate student at large). Hopefully getting O-chem and/or a couple of upper level bio courses in that way will offset taking gen chem, gen bio, and physics at a CC - at least as far as Northwestern and U of C are concerned. If not, or if sheduling/finances do not permit, then oh well. Obviously it would be great to go to either of those highly-rated schools, but my wife is very happy as an M4 at Rush right now, and I would be perfectly happy there or UIC or Loyola. CMS, not quite as much, but it would still be med school

Thank you all for your responses. I’ve been doing some reading in the forums and it seems some “strategery” is needed in this. Asking the med schools if they do take CC courses is one suggestion that has come up numerous times. Another would be to do some at the CC level and the upper-division stuff at the 4-year.
The courses taken at the CC should all be A’s. MCAT’s would probably have to be a 30 or better.
(Sigh) Here goes nothing… If there’s anyone out there who has done this already, please sound off.
Best wishes,

Roosevelt University in Chicago and Schaumburg offers night/weekend courses in Gen. Chem., Organic Chem, Biology, and Physics.
Just a little FYI in case it helps.

To add my $0.02. Too many schools won’t accept, or give much credence to, pre-req course work taken at a community college. If you want to maintain viability at the greatest number of medical schools, take your pre-reqs at a four year institution.

Ahh, that’s right. I had looked at Roosevelt before, but it slipped my mind. Thanks for the tip though. I believe taking a year of bio and o-chem at Roosevelt works out to be about $2,000 more than the same courses at Northwestern’s SCS, and I just couldn’t justify that to myself. That said, I think the same classes at the U of C would be another $2,000 or so beyond that, so I guess I shouldn’t give much more thought to a return to Hyde Park next year. Northwestern’s SCS or CC all the way it is

Many Chicagoans forget about Northeastern Illinois University, right there next to the Channel 11 studios. Four-year state school, and much more reasonably priced. Considered much more favorably than CCs by the Chicago 7 medical schools.
Loyola offers night classes, but they cost about the same as Northwestern’s SCS.
For what it’s worth -
Susan - Chicago/Minneapolis/Baltimore
MS3 - University of Minnesota Medical School - Twin Cities
MPH Candidate - Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Interesting. Rush, SIU, University of Illinois, Loyola, and CCOM all gave the OK.
I simply can’t afford it, and took the advice to ask the schools directly.

A million thanks to you Susan
I just found out at the end of last week that the second semester of my bio sequence at Triton was only going to have one section next semester, at a time that worked out poorly for me on many levels. After reading your post I took a look at NEIU (which I didn’t forget, if only because I don’t believe I ever knew it existed ) and after speaking to someone there today and verifying that the Bio 150 I took this semester at Triton would satisfy their first semester gen bio requirement, I filled out a Grad Student At Large app this morning. I should be able to take their second semester gen bio starting in January at a much better time for me, and then continue on with some higher level bio (probably Cell Bio and then Micro) next year while I take O-chem. And given that the cost difference is not much at all (I think this class will cost about $100 more than the one I would have taken at Triton) I think I’ll do O-chem there next year as well, in all likelihood.
This really, really snapped me out of the funk I was in over my scheduling issues for next semester. And helps alleviate some concern over taking all of my pre-reqs at a CC. Many, many thanks