Does where you take your pre-reqs matter?


I’ve posted a few questions here before - and always gotten excellent and informative responses - so here I am again. I’m currently in the middle of my personalized ad-hoc postbac program. I’ve taken Physics and Chemistry at the University of Washington (I’m from Seattle) but haven’t been able to get into the o-chem classes that I need (due to the school being severely over enrolled). I’m not sure that I’ll ever be able to get in and I was wondering if it matters, or how much it matters where I take these classes. There are two other “four year” schools in the area, Seattle University and Bellevue College (although the latter may be a community college) and there are obviously a number of community colleges. So my questions are 1) does it matter if my pre-reqs are from more than one institution. 2) How much does the caliber of the institution matter (i.e. should I fork over significantly more money to take a class at Seattle University vs. Bellevue College). 3) Is taking classes at CC really that bad. I’ve heard that I should avoid it at all costs.

The o-chem at this point is purely about knocking out the pre-req, I’ve already taken the MCAT (34) so I know the material fairly well already, and just need to get credit on paper for the classes.

Thanks in advance for all your help!

  1. I would think it doesn’t matter. I hve physics from somewhere else and Bio 1 & 2

  2. I think the grade you get is more important than the university, but the comparison is more like getting a C at an Ivy -vs- Getting an A at a state school

  3. From what I heard taking upper levels at a CC should be avoided at all cost. The only acceptable excuse is that you live to far away from a four-year school, and possibly working during the day and needing a night class

The following link should be helpful:…

In my opinion, your case perfectly justifies CC courses. JMO though. By the way, in your first post, you indicated an MCAT of 37. Typo?

Haha. My husband and I are both going back to school (doing the pre-med thing) and I’ve hijacked his account. I signed up a while ago but forgot my password…and username, so I just post through his account now, which is obviously very lazy of me. Sorry for any confusion, and thanks for all the great advice!

I recently relocated from Seattle after realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to have my reqs done at UW for the next decade. It was sad to let Seattle go, but a post-bacc program was the best way for me to do this in a timely manner. If you want to stay in the area and don’t want to go to a CC, I would suggest looking at SU, PSU, or UPS(Tacoma). SCCC is a really great community college, and I’ve heard from several people who have earned a BS from UW that it’s every bit as challenging and well-instructed; plus class sizes are much smaller. If you’re not tied down in Seattle (I can understand, it was hardest for me to leave my Sounders season-tickets behind), you could always look into enrolling in a post-bacc program that doesn’t have restrictions on the amount of prior reqs taken.

I wrestled with this question for what seemed like a very long time, and acted on it; here is my experience with that so far:

I was attending a small-ish school east of Los Angeles for the start of my college career. It was (and is) a good school, but midway into my second semester there, as a general biology major, I began to desire a transfer. Here are the reasons why:

  1. I despised the area. It made me terribly unhappy; it is constantly congested, becoming very dangerous for a couple in our income bracket, and mostly concrete…which means that it absorbs absurd amounts of heat and floods in the rain.

  2. I did not feel like the school I was attending would get me to where I wanted to go.

    a) I did not agree with the president’s stated vision for the school. They seemed to be focused on growth as a means for driving up revenue. In the 3 semesters I was there the student population nearly doubled, which is not inherently a bad thing, but leads into my next sub-point.

    b) In the midst of massive growth, the small biology department was becoming increasingly stretched to the max. In one semester the number of biology majors jumped from 15 to 50, and the school only hired one brand new Ph.D. to help take in the slack…add on top of that the new nursing students (who took the A/P classes in the bio department, further taking up prof’s time which was already loaded with 2-3 times the maximum units the school would allow prof’s to teach…30+ units/semester for a couple of them) and it was bad news for people paying big $$ for a quickly demising student:prof ratio.

    c) This one may be the most relevant for you. The longer I spent there, the more I felt like the schools was too easy. I almost failed out of high school (I literally scraped by at the bottom of my class rankings back in the early part of the new millennium) I was reeling off the As seemingly without trying, by hardly studying, of course in part to the large amount of grade curving that went on, no doubt. I felt as though this school would not have a very good reputation with some of the medical schools I had my eye on, such as UCSF. That, and the school in question did not offer any classes above the standard bio degree/pre med classes. I really wanted to take some medically minded classes.

    d) Pre-meds from this school were typically getting in to the kind of medical schools that I have no interest in; I say that in regard to programs offered, as well as locations. The school I was attracted to had a very good tract record of alum getting into the schools I had my eyes on.

    So, I applied to three other schools and ended up here on the CA central coast, to another school that obviously, though inconspicuously, touts itself as being one among the best, most academically rigorous schools of its kind in the country. I got into their honors program, signed up for classes, and moved there from spending the summer with my wife in south-east WY (a magical place…).

    Things were going well until midway through this semester. I have now discovered what it means to be a student here:

  3. They (my current school) refer to themselves as “academically rigorous.” I call it pushing students WAY to hard for the sake of a bachelor’s degree. The instance of double and triple (yes…TRIPLE) majors is alarming. The school is very aware of over commitment and burnout, and I get the impression that they say they are against casualties of such, but don’t do much to prevent it, because, after all, it makes the school look really good.

  4. There is no tutoring center. None. Their version of tutoring is for professor’s to recommend students to seek help from. I don’t live on campus, I am married, and I have a house, truck, and bicycle to maintain…I don’t have time to run up to campus really quick at 8pm to ask for homework help. Frankly, I think this is garbage; the tuition here is approaching the mid 30’s per year, and they can’t put a tutoring center in??

  5. The class scheduling here is based on a 4 unit class, not a 3 unit class. I didn’t know until now, but that means the time invested in each class is absurd. The last semester I spent at the previous school I took 18 units and no trouble getting As without much studying. Here, I am taking 16 units and drowning in work. How does that happen?

  6. The overall lack of support for commuters such as myself is very discouraging. I am working to remedy this by becoming a non-trad student rep, but the hearing for my proposal isn’t until next semester.

  7. Maybe its just me, but the profs here are way too busy to have actual conversations with students. They’re no where near as friendly as my previous school, and though that seems like a minor detail, I really miss that. I don’t relate to the students here because our age gap and so I don’t connect with any of them…I’ve been all over the world, blown up, shot at, I am married, and slowly rounding out my mid-20s, but feel like ten years older (they say the military does that to you and I feel it for sure). I want to talk with older, more mature audiences, but this school doesn’t afford that. Everyone is too busy. Shame.

    So, what’s the verdict? I wanted to go somewhere with a little more “prestige” and “rigor” than where I was. I got it, but my grades are going WAY downhill fast. I have received more failing grades on exams and assignments then I care to mention, and I am going to have to fight incredibly hard for Bs and Cs in classes that I don’t have inherent interests in (Greek, Calc, Gen Chem). I regret coming here, but for various reasons I cannot transfer back to where the grades came easier. The area is incredible, but that does nothing for me when I am trying to enjoy time around town or out in the hills yet have a nagging reminder that my grades now suck. I had plans to be an awesome success story, from failing high school to the military to magna cum laude in college…but that is now gone. I will also be losing the school scholarship for my high grades, which my wife and I live off of. Ouch.

    So…the lesson here is to find somewhere that you will enjoy going to, which does not push its students way too hard. Find somewhere with a population that you can connect to, and somewhere that offers free tutoring. Don’t go somewhere based on where it will get you, base that decision on how you will do while you are there. Let the rest come after.

    I have to cut my rant short so I can make it class on time…


Further answering your question…and also a quick apology for the grammar in my last post.

Whether or not a particular medical school will frown upon, or raise an eyebrow at, taking classes at a CC depends upon what school it is. Cost is certainly a legitimate reason for attending a CC, and the only reason I am not doing that myself is because, by the grace of God himself, there are new veteran’s bennies that cover the bill for me.

I would suggest contacting a rep with your prospective school’s admin department and find out their perspective about CC classes. I would tend toward the thought process that lends more credibility to that situation in regard to someone who is already on the non-trad track to med school.

Hope all of that helped in some way.

I think that whether or not community college courses are good for medical school depends on the medical school. I personally know three doctors who did all their pre-reqs at the same community college. Two went to UCSF and one is now a professor there, and the other is in private practice; the other CC graduate went to Albany Med and is now an ER doc in Manhattan. But they all did really well on the MCAT, all had unique past histories, and all had really exemplary ECs (we were all at the same free clinic together).

The CC’s in california are the one major exception to general rule that CC will make you less competitive.

As the previous poster noted you can make it to medical school with pre-reqs from CC but it does by most evidence makes you less competitive. How much that will impact any particular applicant’s chances needs to be looked at in the overall context of each individual and to the schools that they apply to.

For example, even thought the CC in New York State are part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, the 4 SUNY medical schools either formally do not accept or suggest on their website not to take courses at CC. Yet some ofthese schools all formally accept AP courses for some of the prereqs (go figure

Generally speaking, you want to go to the most rigorous four-year institution that time/$$ will allow. There is huge competition for med school slots, less than 50% gain entry, and you want to have as many positive aspects to your application as possible.



One thing I am finding is that the research opportunities as a pre-med are enhanced when you go to a “better” school. I am at Columbia and have been able to work on amazing studies that I never would have gotten had I been at another school, as they only advertised to us. It’s totally elitist but hey, I am grateful since my post-bac GPA is not as high as I would have liked it to be. I think every once of effort you demonstrate to shine helps. On the other hand, know yourself, what learning environments work for you (I would have had a better GPA in a less competitive environment, and I do not like the way labs and lectures at Columbia are not combined, so you often learn something in a lab before you study it in lecture or vice versatile- big time Easter!) who knows what will benefit a particular person. I would visit each school and take your time making the decision to find the place that will work best for you.

Ill preface my reply with this: I am just starting also, and don’t have the experience that other members do.

I’ve chosen the CC route primarily due to money. I recognize that it isn’t the best possible path but it is possible. Ive called the schools I am interested in and CC courses are accepted. Everyone needs to evaluate their situation and make their choices accordingly. For me it came down to the fact that there is no guaranteed acceptance. I can’t put my family into major debt and possibly have nothing to show for it. My income and resources cannot justify it. I can pay cash for CC, but other options cost 4 times more. With that said, everyone’s resources and aversion to risk are different. Do what is right for you and your situation. You are the only one that knows the answer to that.

I’m having the same issue. I was told by a postbacc advisor to retake all my pre-req at a jc. Plus it’s affordable to do it at the jc. Sometime I get so discourage. I’ve always wanted to go to med school. I really mess around during my undergraduate. Completed my MBA this May but still not satisfied. Now I have to redeem myself and retake my science pre-req.

I agree its way cheaper. I also have a family definitely dont want the extra burden.

  • husniya Said:
I’m having the same issue. I was told by a postbacc advisor to retake all my pre-req at a jc. Plus it’s affordable to do it at the jc. Sometime I get so discourage. I’ve always wanted to go to med school. I really mess around during my undergraduate. Completed my MBA this May but still not satisfied. Now I have to redeem myself and retake my science pre-req.

Rule 3: It Depends.

Instead of viewing the issue as CC(jc) vv 4 year, try saying CC vs not retaking courses at all. The answer there is obvious.

Nontraditional implies atypical. While we all share ideas, strategy, and experiences, ultimately, the path that each of us take in indeed our own. It must fit your life, your family, your responsibility, and your obligations.

  • gonnif Said:

Instead of viewing the issue as CC(jc) vv 4 year, try saying CC vs not retaking courses at all. The answer there is obvious.

That couldn't have been better put. I've decided not to do this for years because I couldn't justify debt for a goal I may or may not reach. I am much happier taking a chance with CC and paying cash than not trying at all.