premed at Colgate

How is the premed environment at Colgate? Are the students cut-throat or collaborative? Is there grade deflation in the science classes?

As one source of opinion, you may want to search “The 25 Best Colleges for Pre-meds,” in which Colgate appears.

Definitely not cut throat. In fact, just the opposite: Colgate seems to foster collaboration among students, especially those doing research together. Professors are a large part of this equation, inviting research groups into their homes for meals and giving older students opportunities to train and mentor newer ones in the lab.

The pre-med track is difficult, however. Colgate has an extensive and complex set of distribution requirements which must be overlaid with requirements for your major plus pre-med track requirements. Colgate’s registration system is a bear, so getting the classes you need to graduate becomes a major source of stress. There is some overlap among the three categories of requirements, but it still doesn’t leave many opportunities for exploring electives. If you are interested in rushing, be aware that Colgate’s rush takes place sophomore year right when you will be taking organic chemistry. Another thing to be aware of is that Colgate strongly urges students to take a gap year between graduation and med school.

Now for the good stuff. If you intend to major in the sciences, Colgate offers ample opportunities to work with professors on original research. It is not unusual for you to apply to med school with your name as a co-author on a professional research publication. Although Colgate does not have summer school classes, research can be continued on campus through the summer, and stipends are available for living expenses. Colgate also has an off campus study group at the National Institutes of Health. You apply to work in one of the NIH labs, and Colgate makes housing available in a nice part of Washington a few subway stops from Bethesda. If you start your stint at NIH in May as soon as Colgate lets out, you can get 8 mos.—and another research publication—under your belt before the semester ends. Your professor relocates to Washington for the semester and teaches your classes there, so you stay on track for your class requirements. A collateral benefit to the NIH study group is that you make good contacts in the event you wish to do post-graduate research at the NIH before applying to med school.

The pre-med track at Colgate is probably more unwieldy than it needs to be, and certainly more so than at many other colleges, and yes, there is grade deflation through out, but offsetting that are some unique features that will make you a better med school candidate and perhaps, at the end of the day, a better physician.

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I’m going to be a freshman at Colgate in September, majoring in biology.
What is a typical freshman schedule for first and second semesters?

Your first year schedule depends on what you are bringing to the table. Normally you would take a one year intro bio sequence and a one year intro chem sequence. However, if you have AP credits for bio and/or chem, you can exempt out of the first semester bio course and can qualify for Chem 111, a one semester, accelerated course that replaces the regular two semester intro chem sequence. Each of those will free up a class slot in your second semester allowing you to accelerate fulfilling your biology major requirements.

You normally take 4 classes per semester not counting labs. In the first semester, you will take a bio and a chem course as well as your F sem. When you register, you will be asked to submit a list of F sems you are interested in, and the registrar will assign you one of those using some algorithm based on the rest of your schedule and course availability.

The other class slots are usually used for classes that fulfill the core curriculum requirements some of which, like “Legacies…” and “Challenges…”, must be taken during your freshman and sophomore years. Be sure you understand the core curriculum requirements and get them out of the way early to avoid headaches later on. 100 and 200 level courses that don’t require pre-requisites are good for meeting your core curriculum requirements for disciplines outside your major but are not usually available to juniors and seniors.

After the first semester, the registration process becomes difficult, and you will not always get the classes you need in the timeframe that works best for you. In fact, there is a chance that you will never get some popular courses at all, biostatistics, for example. The best defense is to plan ahead and always have plan B ready because registration takes place in real time, and while you are doodling around wondering what to take in lieu of that class that was full, you will watch your options dwindle.

Finally, if you are planning to go to med or vet school, be aware that there is a third set of required classes beyond your major and the core curriculum that must be incorporated into your planning. Start on these early, and look for as much overlap with your major and the core curriculum as possible.