Need advice on courses

Hello all,

Would appreciate any help in reducing the confusion I have on pre-med courses. I contacted UCSF admissions dept., and they said I would need “upper division” courses in Bio and Chem. Now, I tried to read thru the course offerings of a few Community Colleges here in the Silicon Valley area, and am confused whether the courses they offer classify as “upper division”. It seems to me that the only way I can take such upper division courses is from Universities after enrolling there for some degree. Now I have a BS and MS in engineering, and this doesn’t seem right that I enroll for another BS program just to complete the pre-med courses.

I was hoping that over the next year or two I would complete all the Bio/Chem pre-med requirements, and apply to Med schools for 2010.

I am sure I am not understanding these course requirements properly. Is there any one who can advice me as to how I can complete the upper course pre-med requirements here in the bay area without having to join a Univ for another degree?

Thanks in advance.

Having to complete upper division courses is contrary to what I understand the pre-requisites to be. For example, Chemistry I and II at my community college (in southern California) are considered lower division but it’s my understanding that they fulfill UCSF’s and, for that matter, all U.S. medical schools pre-med general chemistry requirements.

Maybe it would be worth another call to confirm. Instead of trying to explain the confusion, keep it simple and ask if the specific courses from that school would satisfy the requirements.

Good luck, I’m sure it will get sorted out.


Thank you for your reply. It is possible that I misunderstood what the Admissions person meant in their email to my queries to them- here is what they said (cut and paste from their email):

1)You may complete coursework at any accredited institution, this includes community colleges.

2)Our chemistry requirement is a year of general chemistry with lab and a minimum of eight quarter units of organic chemistry. Our biology requirement is a year of general biology with lab. You may enroll in upper division courses in these subjects (with lab) to satisfy the requirement. As premed coursework varies, I would encourage you to contact the other schools where you are interested in applying.

Thanks, again.

Another question I hope someone can shed some light on.

When folks here say they are taking pre-med courses (either at a CC or a Univ), are they actually registering for a degree or certificate in some major? Or are they simply enrolling for the necessary courses only? Is there such a thing as taking courses only without registering for a degree?? Needless to say, I have not done my basic studies in this country, so the entire system seems a bit confusing. How do I approach the local CC’s?

Any advice much appreciated.

They mean that while the lower division courses are sufficient, you may also satisfy the requirements with upper division courses.

As for myself, I did not enroll in any type of pre-med program. I am simply enrolled in the required courses at a local community college.

Most universities have something like a special student status, allowing you to enroll and simply take courses without pursuing a particular degree.

Do medical school admins look down at all on people who complete their requirements at community college rather than an elite university?

Depends on where you live. In California, it’s understood to be almost a necessity to take courses at a community college. Anywhere else, it’s better to take your courses at a 4-year college or university–but it doesn’t have to be a hot-shot Ivy League School by any means. If community college fits into your work schedule and universities don’t, you just have to do the best you can. Maybe take one final semester at a university if you can afford to be off work for a short time.

I believe that when upper level classes are mentioned it would be in the 3000 or 4000 level, usually taken in your junior or senior year of school. Community college classes are usually in the 1000 and 2000 level. Examples of upper level classes might be biochemistry and genetics.

As for looking down on community colleges…unfortunately some will, but I also believe that many won’t…but they will be looking to see what else you will have to offer.

Some schools might have a pre-professional program geared to getting into medical school and the like, but there really isn’t a pre-med major. Also, don’t just go for a biology major to get into medical school…go for a major that has some interest to you while taking the necessary prereqs. I’ve heard too many stories of students getting a chemistry or biology degree, not going to med school and feeling that they are in a deadend. Sad!

Best of luck!


tooold, I might be a little late in answering, but:

After speaking with a director of admission this week for a UC school, I was told that pre-req courses at a community college are okay and that I too would need additional upper division science courses. Their rationale being if you do well in CC courses, they want to make sure it’s not a “fluke” so to speak and that you can do equally as well in upper division courses. I was told I could enroll at a Cal State or UC and take courses numbered 300 or above.

If you contact any CSU I think you can enroll as a non-degree seeking student with permission from the professor of course. This school year (2008-2009) based on the CA budget crisis, most CSU schools are not accepting any non-degree seeking students at all. Also, a word of caution - enrolling in UC Extension courses are not suggested because schools cannot validate the degree of difficulty or quality of the course.

Hope that helps…

Just remember that advice for the UC system does not necessarily apply well outside California.

That why I gave a frame of reference in the post that was based on my conversation with a UC admissions rep. I also intended to do so when referencing “UC” “CSU” within my post. I sincerely hope that no one intended to use this info for any schools other than within the UC system! This info doesn’t even necessarily apply for other schools WITHIN California…

That’s why I always reiterate on OPM these are always opinions of others that should definitely be validated by yourself if you are going to follow the advice of another. I always find OPM to be a helpful place for seeking a variety of solutions for one situation or circumstance!