Prereqs and LOR

Hey All,

I am wondering what I need to do about prereqs and letters of recommendation. I did most of my schooling a pretty long time ago (MS Physics 1999). Back in the day I had taken courses which cover all of the standard prerequisites except for organic chemistry. I am taking the organic now at a community college and a biochem class at my old university (they let grad students take any undergraduate course).

So here are my questions:

  1. Will my old courses count toward the prereqs in e.g. biology and physics?

  2. How should I go about getting letters of recommendation? I guess I could ask my organic and biochem professors, but they have only known me this semester. I imagine that all of my other professors would have forgotten me long ago.

    Thanks for any advice.

I am in much the same situation-- graduated back in '99 and left the area. Many of those professors have moved on or retired. So when I read that the med schools I am interested in require 2-3 lors from science faculty, I was a little worried.

  1. Pre-reqs: Every med school is different, so consult your program(s) of interest as to the expiration date on pre-req course work. None of my programs had a problem with it (although I am retaking anyway), but some require it to be within the past x number of years…

  2. I am refreshing on the pre-reqs now, but because I am juggling a full time job and a family (as opposed to being a college student with lots of free time), I’m not exactly hanging around lab or going to office hours… so I was unsure if I would be able to really forge any relationships with current professors that would be worthy of a solid letter.

    I was wrong! I have yet to ask for an LOR from anyone… but I’ve been invested in classes, I ask good questions, I engage the professors in dialogue-- and at the end of the semester, I always make a point to tell the professor how much I appreciated all their work and effort, and how much I enjoyed the class…to date, 2 of them have actually offered to write letters for me, without my even needing to ask. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many of my current professors “get it.” They know what it takes to get into med school, and when they see a student who is really putting forth the effort, they want to help.

    That’s been my experience–here’s hoping you have the same positive result! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and let people know what you need. You might be surprised.

    **Because the science professors will only be able to attest to my classroom ability with regard to knowledge, problem solving, leadership, etc., I am also using some key contacts within my job to write letters for me. These letters will give admissions committees a rounded out picture of who I am, because these corporate references will really fill in the gaps and attest to important skills that will serve me well in med school.

    Hope that helps give you a few ideas! Best of luck!

Rule 2: It Depends.

As CarrieLiz has pointed out, it all depends on the school.

Some like NYU have a definite policy:

“Courses will only be accepted up to 10 years back.”

Other like Einstein require to see recent work but not necessarily repeat the prereqs:

“Applicants who have completed all of their pre-medical requirements prior to five years at the time of application must show evidence of participation in either academic or work experience in the biological sciences. Academic experience should include at least one course in a discipline such as cell biology, molecular biology, genetics, immunology or neuroscience. Work experience may include research in the biological sciences”

Cornell Weill Medical school has both

“Validity of courses. To fulfill an admissions requirement, courses must have been satisfactorily completed within 10 years of application. We recommend that one or more advanced science course(s) be completed within 5 years of application. All premedical required course work should be completed by January 31 of the year for which admission is sought.

Advanced Placement credit. AP credit from high school can be used to satisfy the WCMC requirement in physics. AP credit in other areas cannot be used to satisfy the WCMC requirement. If a student has AP credit in an area other than physics, the student fulfills the WCMC requirement by completing advanced science coursework.”

BTW, I came across this tidbit on the SUNY Downstate website:

“Do we accept AP credits for our prerequisites?

If your undergraduate college has awarded you AP credits and the credits are listed on your transcript, we will also accept your AP credits to fulfill our prerequisites. However, in order for the Admissions Committee to consider you to be competitive for admission, you should take advanced level science course work equivalent to the number of credit hours which have been accepted for AP prerequisites.”

Now I am advising students that in order to understand fully the admissions requirement for each school you must

  1. get and read the AAMC MSAR and AACOM CIB

  2. FULLY read the website of each school your are considering applying to.

  3. download and fully read the admissions booklet for each school (usually downloadable on the school’s website).

    I consider the above required reading for anyone planning to apply to medical school

I’m starting my pre-meds in the Spring. I’m planning on taking a couple of classes at the local CC since 1) I’m not wealthy and 2) I already have some prior loan debt from my BA and BSN and a MA and don’t want to pile too much more debt onto what I already have.

Question: Does taking a couple of pre-meds at the CC (maybe 4 at most) look bad even if I ace them? (I’m going to take my biology and upper division work at the university later on). I’ve heard arguments for both…

Thanks for the words of wisdom!!

The article below should answer your question (it is a bit lengthy): lege…

In sum, do well on the classes you take regardless of where you take them. You should also do well on the MCAT. Taking upper division courses at a 4-year school, in addition to the prereqs, should make you a more competitive applicant.

Perhaps you should find out how some of the med schools you wish to attend view CC class work. Look at the info on their websites or contact them if the info is unavailable.

  • Leuschner4 Said:
Question: Does taking a couple of pre-meds at the CC (maybe 4 at most) look bad even if I ace them? (I'm going to take my biology and upper division work at the university later on). I've heard arguments for both

Rule 3: It Depends.

The arguments for and against CC are often discussed, as many things in medical admissions by premeds, as an independent and separate factor. It must be looked at in context of your background, your current logistics, and the pattern of achievement that you will ultimately present to an admissions committee.

As a general rule, CC will make you less competitive. But the impact of that will depend on many factors.

1) Some medical schools do not accept community college credits to satisfy the perquisites.

2) Many more medical schools strongly discourage either directly

"Chemistry: Should you have trouble in either general or organic chemistry, consider taking these courses in isolation, i.e., during a semester where your other courses might be less rigorous. However, avoid taking more than one or two pre-requisite science courses during the summer and avoid taking them at community colleges." (SUNY Upstate)

or indirectly

"Q. Can I take my prerequisites at a community college?

a. Generally speaking, community college courses are not viewed as having a similar level of rigor as the courses provided at four-year institutions. There are certainly many reasons to pursue your first two years of coursework at a community college prior to transferring to a four-year institution. Should you choose to do so, we would recommend either holding off on taking your prerequisite science course until you transfer to the four-year institution, or taking introductory level science courses at the community college and then planning to take upper-level science courses at the four-year institution. (Pritzker/University of Chicago)"

3) If you have a previous degree, consider the impact of any previous premedical course work.

For example, if you have a non-science degree with no premed coursework and a good GPA, then taking some courses at a CC and doing well, then doing well in upper level at a 4-year school and on the MCAT, would seem less of a negative impact then say if you did poorly in a premed curriculum 10 years prior and try to retake a CC.

4) Do not, repeat, do not underestimate the impact of your life logistics to decide where to take prereq courses. Course availability and schedule, cost of credits, commuting time, finding parking, job, family obligations, etc all impact your time and energy to study and do well. Driving a longer distance to go to a better, more costly school, with a higher level of student competitiveness may impact your grades and GPA. My general advice is go to the best school that you can do well in and having time/energy to study is a key ingredient in doing well.

5) Instead of CC vs 4-year school, the question may be better framed as going to a CC or not redoing prereqs at all. For many people, CC is the only affordable, available, logistically possible game in town. You do it, take additional courses where ever you can, do well on MCAT, discuss your preparation in your application, and move on.

6) My general philosophy of a medical school application is a concise, coherent, and compelling narrative showing a pattern of commitment, motivation and achievement. Part of the pattern is of course academic achievement. So if you do well in CC, do well in additional courses at a 4 year, do well in MCAT, write a compelling application, have a great interview, you might (I said might) be accepted to medical school.

Rule 10: Beware of FUD -- Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.