Today’s high school students have lived through an extraordinary–and extraordinarily difficult–chapter of history: the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly all students have missed out on critical in-person class time and fallen behind where they would have been academically were it not for the pandemic.
And yet, because of COVID-19, more high school students may now be considering a career in medicine. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals were truly “first responders” during the pandemic, helping to save lives. Their heroism has inspired millions.
So, what can students do throughout high school to best prepare for college and eventually, medical school?
Here are three important tips:
- Build a solid academic foundation in science, math, and communications
If a career in medicine is on your radar, plan to take foundational science classes including Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Exposure to this material in high school provides you with insight into these critical science areas at an early age. Quant classes are also vital. Beyond algebra, you will need to take Geometry, Pre-calculus, Calculus, and Statistics to cultivate problem-solving, reasoning, and critical thinking skills. Science, math, or language classes may be taken as AP (Advanced Placement) or (IB) International Baccalaureate. Either category indicates a higher level of academic rigor and may be accepted for college credit.
Beyond math and science, good doctors need to know how to communicate. Focus also on communications classes, including language & composition, literature, and/or a foreign language. Not only will these courses prepare you to write essays and personal statements for college applications and ultimately medical school, but knowing how to write clearly is an important life skill.
- Go for a variety of extracurricular experiences
Between school, sports, and work obligations, you may already have a tightly packed schedule. But if you are considering one day applying to med school, it’s important to gain exposure to a variety of experiences, which can shine a light on different aspects of healthcare, medicine, and life as a physician.
For example, join relevant clubs, such as pre-med, biology, chemistry, sports medicine, or neuroscience clubs. As members of these clubs, you will not only learn more about the specific topic, but collaborate with peers, discuss relevant research, and participate in academic dialogue.
Consider volunteering as well, especially at a hospital, clinic, or assisted living community. You will gain insight into the complex and interrelated tasks of a medical facility, become aware of the many medical specialities available in that setting and the scope of patient care offered. Just as important, if not more so, in a volunteering role you will learn to practice empathy, compassion, and communication skills. And, you will demonstrate a commitment to service that is fundamental to medicine.
Shadowing a physician is another volunteer activity that many students have found so inspiring that they decided, “Yes, medicine is for me!” Shadowing a physician allows you to carefully observe, listen, and watch a doctor in clinical practice for several hours a week. This is an excellent opportunity to observe patient-physician interactions, the scope of practice, work-life balance, and professionalism.
- Don’t feel locked in to a science major in college
As a former Director of Pre-Health Advisement at Sacred Heart University, the most common question I heard from incoming first-year pre-med students was, “What major should I choose?” My answer: “Any major you want!”
Pre-med students can select any undergraduate major they desire, so long as they are concurrently enrolled in pre-med prerequisite courses. These prerequisite courses should fulfill two goals: they should be required by medical schools, and they should help prepare you for the MCAT entrance exam. A majority of pre-meds select Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Neuroscience, or something similar as their majors, but there are also pre-meds who major in Psychology, History, Business, English, and Philosophy, just to name a few. When you consider your major, make sure you find it personally interesting and motivating, something that will provide you with academic growth and stimulation during your four years of college.
Our consultants have the expertise to help you plan and optimize your college applications, easing your stress and boosting your chances of acceptance. Check out our Career Coaching and Advising services here and get ACCEPTED!
Former Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at the William Beaumont School of Medicine, and former Director of Pre-Health Advisement at Sacred Heart University, Dr. Valerie Wherley has 20 years of successful experience working with pre-med, pre-health & pre-MS students to create their most competitive application. Want Valerie to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
- Med School Admissions: What You Need to Know to Get Accepted, a free guide
- How Your Academic Statistics Influence Your Medical School Choices
- Medical School Selectivity Index, discover the medical schools where you are competitive