A career as a physician requires long training, including undergraduate college, four years of medical school and post-graduate residency. Most applicants earn at least a bachelor's degree before applying to med school, bringing the minimum years of college to eight. If you can't afford to start out in a four-year college or university, or if your high school grades are mediocre, a community college can be a stepping-stone to med school.
Med School Musts
It's not easy to get into med school. Although not all medical colleges require a bachelor's degree, most applicants have one, and many have graduate degrees. You don't have to declare any particular undergraduate major, but you must complete the required college-level prerequisite classes. The specific classes depend on the particular medical school, but typical requirements include a year each of English, biology and physics and two years of chemistry, including organic chemistry, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Other required classes may include math, humanities and social science.
Community College Starters
Starting at a community college and then transferring to a four-year school won't ruin your chances for medical school, according to Dr. Mark D'Agostino, writing for U.S. News Education. When evaluating applicants, med schools look at the whole picture of a student's qualifications. Two years at a community college can be a good idea because it gives you a chance to save money for medical school and bring up your grades. If you make top grades in community college and maintain excellent grades at university, you can still qualify for medical school.
In general, you'll have the best chance of getting into med school via community college if you save most of the required prerequisites for university. At a minimum, D'Agostino recommends taking biology, chemistry and organic chemistry at your four-year school. If you take them at a community college, medical school admissions officers may conclude you wanted easier versions of these important subjects. Taking a few prerequisites at a community college may be acceptable. However, your medical school admissions office is the best source of information on where to take required classes.
Your transcripts and grades are important in competing for medical school, but admissions committees look closer than your overall grade point average. Unless your grades are always top-notch, the direction of your grades is also important. Great grades in community college followed by so-so grades in university weaken your application. In addition to excellent grades in the final two years of college, admissions departments look for high grades in the science prerequisites. Mastery of these classes demonstrates that you can excel in difficult med school subjects such as biochemistry.
Most medical schools require good scores on the Medical College Admission Test, which covers math, physics, chemistry, organic chemistry, verbal reasoning and biology. In addition to community college and university transcripts, you'll need to submit recommendation letters -- for example, from science professors. Medical schools usually also require a personal interview with the admissions committee.
Med school admissions committees look for well-rounded applicants, so participate in extracurricular activities while at community college and university. Emphasize activities that showcase your leadership abilities or relate to science or medicine. For example, volunteer or paid work in a hospital or work as a research assistant for a science professor will help demonstrate your readiness for medical school.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- How to Become a Physician or Surgeon
- Daily Finance: From Community College to Amherst College and Yale Medical School
- Association of American Medical Colleges: Admission Requirements
- U.S. News Education: How Medical Schools VIew Community College Credits
- The State University of New York at Buffalo: Medical School Admissions -- Myths and Realities
- The Princeton Review: What's on the MCAT?
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