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FAQs: Summer Credit for Organic Chemistry Taken Elsewhere

Our lab instructor, Mrs. Halley works with the Organic Chemistry II students in the lab.


Q: Can I take an organic chemistry course over the summer and receive Swarthmore credit?

A: Yes you can, but the amount of credit transferred may vary (see below).

Q: Can the chemistry department suggest a particular course at a particular institution?

A: No, unfortunately we do not keep a database of appropriate courses at different colleges or universities.  The quality of a given course can change over time – even year-to-year – depending on the institution and the faculty involved.

Q: How do I go about selecting a course?

A: The process is entirely initiated by you:  during the spring semester you will need to contact the chemistry department at the college or university you are considering for the summer course.  You should ask for syllabi and other information about the appropriate courses – please note that at many institutions, lecture and lab courses are separate.  Therefore you need to be sure to obtain information about both.  The specific types of information generally required are listed below.  Then contact Prof. Rablen (for Organic I) or Prof. Paley (for Organic II) and forward the syllabi to one of them for inspection before taking the course over the summer.  They will advise you if the course is suitable and how many credits can be expected to transfer, assuming the syllabi you present is an accurate reflection of what the course will actually be. [Please note that courses taken at community colleges are not considered suitable for medical school applications.  See:].

Information generally required for pre-approval:

·  Lecture syllabus, listing topics covered and textbook used (and chapters covered).
·  Lecture class meeting schedule (i.e., information about the number and length of class meetings). (This information is often, but not always, included in the syllabus).
·  Lab syllabus, listing titles of experiments.
·  Lab meeting schedule (i.e., information about the number and length of lab meetings). (This information is often, but not always, included in the syllabus).

Please note that institutions will often give you syllabi for the academic year courses, and then claim that the summer courses are equivalent.  However, that is usually not really true, despite what the institutions claim, and so we insist on seeing syllabi and schedules specifically for the summer courses.  For the purposes of pre-approval, syllabi and schedules from the previous year can be used, if ones for the current year are not yet available.  However, once the course is complete, you will also need to present the materials corresponding to the version of the course you actually took.  REMINDER: You make sure to take the course, with lab, that the institution's premedical students would take.

Q: How many credits will likely be transferred?

A: There are important differences between summer courses elsewhere and Chem 022 (Organic I) and Chem 032 (Organic II), including mismatches with our curriculum as well as substantially reduced rigor and breadth.  In general we have been more flexible with awarding a full credit for the equivalent of Chem 022, provided the summer course meets for approximately 80% each of our lecture and lab hours.  In recent years, however, most students inquiring about summer course transfer credit have completed our Chem 022 and are looking to complete the two-course sequence elsewhere.  However, the overwhelming majority of summer courses for Organic II translate to only 0.5 Swarthmore credits, as inspection of syllabi routinely reveals significant overlap with our Chem 022 as well as decreased academic rigor.  Because of this, Swarthmore chemistry and biochemistry majors should complete the organic sequence in our department.

Q:  What is the impact of receiving only 0.5 credits for a summer Organic II course?

A:  Lack of a full credit transferred generally does not affect the medical school application nor the prerequisite requirement for Chem 038 (Biochemistry).  For medical school, you would simply need to provide the summer institution's transcript in addition to the Swarthmore transcript in order to demonstrate the completion of two semesters of organic chemistry (with lab).  For Chem 038, we need to be certain that you would see the material that our department deems to be necessary in order to take that course (just about every summer Organic II course does include that material).

Q: What happens after the summer course has been completed?

A: Prof. Rablen (for Organic I) or Prof. Paley (for Organic II) need to inspect ALL of the work from the summer course (notes, quizzes, exams, lab reports, etc,) once you return to campus in order to establish the amount of credit transferred as well as (for those who have completed an Organic II course) to verify that you would be ready for 038.  Typically Prof. Paley informs Prof. Miller of your readiness, and he (Prof. Miller) then expects you to ask his formal permission to take Chem 038.  Please note that we inspect the roster of Chem 038 immediately following registration, and students who we do not recognize due to lack of contact with us are identified and may be removed from the roster by the Registrar at our request.

Q:  Must I obtain Swarthmore credit in organic chemistry to register for biochemistry?

A:  No. Provided we have inspected your summer course work, and we find that you have seen the required material that should prepare you for 038, then you will be allowed to register for that course (as described above).

Q:  Can I take Chem 032 at Swarthmore if I take the equivalent of Chem 022 someplace else?

A:  Yes, if the summer course you take receives a full transfer credit.  However, we caution students against taking this route, for the following reason.  Even courses that receive a full transfer credit that we designate as equivalent to Chem 022 typically do NOT actually cover all the material in Chem 022.  In particular, these courses typically do not cover aromaticity and conjugated systems (the last two weeks of Chem 022), and they also typically cover NMR spectroscopy in considerably less detail than we do here at Swarthmore.  As a result, students who have taken Orgo I elsewhere are typically at a disadvantage in Chem 032, unless they carefully and thoroughly study the material they have missed in advance of taking Chem 032.

Q:  If I am taking organic chemistry purely or mainly to satisfy medical school admission requirements, what should I know about taking organic chemistry over the summer?

A:  The transcript from the institution where you took the course is the official record of your work, whether or not the credit is transferred to Swarthmore.  Therefore, whether or not you transfer the credit to Swarthmore actually has no impact on your eligibility for medical school.  You only need to transfer the credit(s) if you wish to count the credit(s) toward your graduation requirements at Swarthmore, or use the credit(s) as a prerequisite for other Swarthmore courses.  As explained above, you can typically get approval to take biochemistry (Chem 038) without having to transfer the organic chemistry credits.  And again, be sure to take the course(s) – with lab – that the institution’s pre-medical students would take.