Am I Wrong for Retaking Classes At Community College?

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OPM 342: Am I Wrong for Retaking Classes At Community College?

Session 342

Is it acceptable for a student to take postbaccalaureate science classes at a community college? While some advisors and schools may disapprove, most medical schools will not care as long as the student performs well academically. Find out why!

Questions answered here on the podcast are taken directly from Go ask your questions there and use #OPMquestion.

Also, please be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as we try to bring you as many resources as you need on this journey.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

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“Hey there Dr. Gray, super grateful for everything you’re doing for the pre med community. You’ve helped me jump back into my journey when I thought all hope was lost. I love hearing that story. I hear it so much as someone who went through school reading Student Doctor Network. I was amazed and relieved to find more people like me through your podcast.

I am a nontraditional student supporting myself through a full-time scribing job. I’m  pursuing a do-it-yourself postbac through a local community college for both affordability and accessibility. 

I’m just a few extra science classes to increase my science GPA and hone my study skills microbiology, biochemistry, etc. I already have my bachelor’s degree in biology but have a small downward trend, given my last two years of college were during the beginning and height of the pandemic. My undergraduate GPA was around 3.3 cumulative 3.2 science. I’m not looking for a major GPA shift, just something to show I’ve learned from my past mistakes. 

However, one of my premed advisors advised strongly against this and even seemed disgusted that I had started taking classes at community college. 

I’ve seen mixed opinions about how medical schools view community college courses, particularly after one has earned a bachelor’s degree at a four year university. For someone like me who cannot afford courses through a four year university – and can’t afford to quit their job for a postbac – do medical schools actually care if you take postbac classes at a community college?”

The Unjust Stigma Attached to Community College Education

There’s no denying that differing opinions exist when it comes to the perceived value of community college education. Regrettably, we cannot unite as a society or even as a species and declare that community colleges are not inferior. Tragically, some elitist members of higher institutions look down upon community colleges with disdain, perceiving them as lesser.

This prejudice suggests that choosing a community college somehow reflects an individual’s inferiority. Despite our best efforts, we cannot alter these entrenched perceptions. It’s a bitter reality we must acknowledge.

Choosing Community College: A Valid Path Amidst Differing Opinions

As individuals navigating through this process, it is crucial to understand the existence of these differing opinions. Yet, it should also be noted that the majority of people and academic institutions accept and appreciate community college education.

Yes, you might face questions along your journey. You may be asked why you chose this path. Your response could be simple and honest – affordability, flexible scheduling due to full-time work, or the specific courses offered by the community college that suited your needs better. Perhaps you couldn’t afford a traditional postbaccalaureate program or non-degree seeking student status at a four-year university. Maybe you realized that you wouldn’t be able to register for the courses you needed elsewhere.

“As long as you have a reason for why you were doing this, then for the majority of schools out there, you’re going to be fine.”

Whatever your reason, as long as it’s valid and true to your circumstances, most schools will respect your choice. Remember, the majority of educational institutions will accept your decision and, most importantly, the value you’ve gained from your community college experience.

Ingrained Prejudices: The Unyielding Perception of Community Colleges

Regrettably, some academic advisors and institutions still adhere to the outdated notion that community colleges are universally inferior. Changing their opinion is not an easy task. Institutions like Northwestern, for instance, are known to harbor a certain bias against community college coursework. Unfortunately, this is an issue we have little control over.

Multiplicity of Opinions: The Greater Acceptance of Community Colleges

However, it’s important to remember that there are over 200 medical schools in the United States, each with its own admissions committee and individual review process. A significant number of these individuals and committees have no issues with applicants who have attended community colleges, as long as they have demonstrated strong academic performance.

“Admissions committees reviewing applications have no problem with you going to community college, as long as you are proving yourself academically.”

There may be questions raised about why a student transferred from one school to another, especially if there was a noticeable improvement in grades. This question could arise regardless of whether the transfer was from an Ivy League institution to a state school or vice versa. The underlying concern is whether the improved performance reflects the student’s abilities or if it’s a result of transferring to a less rigorous institution.

The Reality Check: Community Colleges and Four-Year Institutions

Unfortunately, there seems to be a tendency to lump all community colleges together and associate them with lesser academic rigor. However, the reality paints a different picture. Often, community colleges and four-year institutions share the same professors, syllabus, coursework, and textbooks.

Despite this, the institution’s name tends to carry more weight due to societal perceptions. It’s crucial to challenge these biases and recognize the value that community colleges bring to the academic landscape.

Navigating Hierarchical Attitudes in Education and Medicine

There are defined levels or “ranks” that different institutions, programs, and roles are viewed through. For example, community colleges are often looked down upon as being “less than” four-year universities. Similarly, state schools may be considered inferior to private or Ivy League institutions.

This hierarchical mentality also exists within medical training, with medical students viewed as below residents, who are below fellows, and so on. This type of ranking system unfairly judges institutions and individuals based on superficial factors rather than the content of their character or abilities.

While hierarchies may inevitably form to some degree, they should not be used to make broad generalizations or dictate worth. Biases stemming from these attitudes can negatively impact how some evaluators view applicants’ educational backgrounds and achievements.

Embracing Choices: Taking Ownership of Your Academic Journey

Ultimately, your decisions regarding your education should be based on factors such as your life circumstances, budget, and schedule. If community college fits these criteria, then that’s the path you should take.

When applying to schools, tell your story, and understand that while some institutions may not appreciate your choices, many others will respect them. The most important thing is to be able to articulate your reasons for choosing a particular path.

“Do what fits your schedule, do what fits your life, do what it fits your morals and ethics.”

The “It Depends” Factor: Navigating the Uncertainties

In the course of your academic journey, you’ll make numerous decisions – from selecting activities to choosing courses. It’s crucial not to overanalyze these choices because, ultimately, the answer to whether they are “right” or “wrong” often depends on various factors. For instance, will every institution accept community college credits? That’s uncertain. It depends on the school.

Dealing with Prejudice: The Unspoken Bias Against Community Colleges

In recent years, it’s rare to find schools outright refusing to accept community college courses. However, some institutions subtly suggest that community colleges are subpar. Northwestern, for instance, uses phrases like “the rigor of the school”, which implicitly implies that community colleges are of lesser value.

This bias is an unfortunate reality, and there’s not much we can do to change these ingrained opinions. The best approach is to focus on your journey, make the choices that suit your needs, and remain confident in the value of your educational experiences.


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