I graduated from high school in 2014, left feeling pretty lost. I applied to 5 University of California campuses (UCLA, Cal, UCSD, UCI and UCSC) and a few Cal State Schools as my “back up”. My heart was set on attending a UC but was unfortunately flat out rejected from every single UC school I applied to. Even through I was accepted to CSU’s, I was devastated and heartbroken. I knew I wanted to attend a UC more than anything and I knew I would regret settling for my back up school. I spent weeks researching the pros and cons between going to community college for a few years and then transferring or attending a CSU. After weighing the finances, I made the decision to attend a community college in the Fall, which is quite honestly the best decision I have ever made. Not only did it end up being the best for my financial situation, I gained so much from my 3 years at community college. Being fresh out of highschool, I know now I was nowhere near prepared for being a university student.
When I started college, I had my mind set on becoming a doctor. I had no idea what that really meant at the time since I was the first in my family to have this goal. I started with a lot of self reflection and tried to find my motivation as to why I wanted to set out to do this crazy thing in the first place. I researched and witnessed needs in my community for Spanish speaking health care providers. The more I looked at the data, the more prevalent the need became, and the more I wanted to fulfill that need. I wrote my ideas down and identified ways in which I could serve this community through medicine. I kept that sheet of paper as a motivational tool which I referenced every time I felt as if this dream was out of reach.
Set goals and make a plan
Since I was the first in my family to pursue a medical degree, I had no guidance whatsoever. So, I set out to figure out what it was going to take to get there. I did research and I mean a lot of research. You would not believe the incredible amount of web sites that exist for helping students get into the medical profession. Based on my research, I identified some key things that would help me reach my goal.
- GRADES OVER EVERYTHING. Remember, that this should be your priority. Being in community college, the classes are not necessarily easy per se. However, be sure to take advantage of the academic resources available. If you need help, reach out to the tutoring center or a professor. Professors are en excellent resource to get help from when you’re struggling. The smaller class sizes give you a unique opportunity to get a lot more time and help from your professor, which should definitely be taken advantage of before going to a university
- The most important thing, I believe, if you’re just starting out is to get experience. I cannot stress this enough. Not only will medical schools want to see that you know what its like to be a doctor by acquiring clinical experience but, you’ll also be able to solidify whether this path is right for you.Clinical experience can be acquired in a number of ways: volunteering, COPE Health Scholars Internship , shadowing a doctor, working as a scribe, working as a secretary, working as an EMT… the list goes on and on. I made it a goal to get at least a year’s worth of experience while I was a community college student.
- Your immediate goal is to ultimately transfer from community college to a university. To do this, you need to determine which university you want to transfer to and which classes you need to take. I went to a California community college so many universities have agreements with Community colleges to accept students once certain requirements are met. The classes you need to take to transfer should be a priority while at a CC. Usually Community Colleges have a transfer center geared with counselors to guide you through classes at a CC. They also offer resources to help you through the application process itself and other workshops.
I hear people call community college “Commuter colleges” because often times students just go to class and go home. You will really be able to set yourself apart when you apply to universities(and beyond) when you demonstrate your campus involvement. I myself got involved in co-founding a pre health organization, volunteering as a student note taker, helping out at the on campus food bank, and the honors program. Being involved also helped me find some amazing resources that helped me be successful at school.
3 years later, I look back at everything I’ve accomplished, and I have no doubt that for me, choosing to attend a Community College was the best decision I could have made for myself. I got so much out of my experiences which have prepared me for success as a university student. I am happy to report that now, I have been accepted to UCSD, UCI and UCSC. My next goal: to conquer my classes at UC San Diego and make it to medical school.