So, you’re already considering a career in medicine, but you’re still in high school! Are you looking for ways to hedge your bets when the time comes to apply for pre-med programs? We’ve put together a list of 7 ways to start prepping yourself now for pre-med in high school. We’ve pulled together surveys from med students and doctors, tips from the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the latest research on pre-med coursework.
“Medical school applications are tough, because you want to have good grades, a good MCAT score, research experience, and volunteer and/or clinical experience. I did not get all of that done in four years, although I’m amazed by the people who do,” says Rebecca, a student at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
So, take Rebecca’s advice: get a head start now, before pre-med. That way, when the pressure is really on, you’ll have some of the coursework done!
7 Ways to Get Ready for Pre-med in High School
1. Take AP or IB courses if you can.
AP stands for Advanced Placement courses. These are college-level classes offered in some high schools. AP courses provide a more challenging curriculum and the opportunity to earn a few college credits before ever entering a college campus.
IB stands for International Baccalaureate. These are a European counterpart to American AP courses. They offer higher-level learning opportunities to prepare high school students early for college or career planning.
These types of advanced courses will demonstrate to colleges and med schools that you excel in rigorous academic environments. Plus, they will genuinely prepare you for college-level courses.
Additionally, the standardized tests at the conclusion of AP & IB courses will prep you for intense testing scenarios such as the MCATS for entry into medical school.
If your school doesn’t offer AP or IB courses, look for academically challenging courses offered elsewhere. There are community colleges and online platforms that offers AP course training, such as Stutorialz. Stutorialz offers AP courses online and allows you to choose from the most popular AP courses, while tailoring an individualized plan for your academic goals. Supplementing your school curriculum with outside courses demonstrates to pre-med college reps that you are driven to seek additional resources as needed to reach your career goals.
2. Learn to do well in challenging academics.
Enrolling in advanced courses isn’t the end of your college prep – it’s just the beginning. Sure, having a slightly lower GPA in AP courses is still better in the eyes of admissions agents than having a perfect GPA in basic high school courses. However, it’s always important to genuinely learn how to succeed in rigorous learning environments.
Digging in to discover how you learn best is at the core of this preparation. What type of schedule will you thrive on? What are the best study habits for you to develop to ensure you’ll perform at your best while juggling a lot of different courses, activities, and distractions? Practice your test-taking skills so that you will be more confident and comfortable during the more intense, high-pressure testing leading up to pre-med.
Again, you can check with your guidance counselor to discover whether there are prep courses in study habits and test-taking skills offered locally or online. These will give you additional training and tips for practicing strong habits early on. For example, Stutorialz online advanced course training for high school students is learner-centric, focusing on spiral learning, highly interactive learning, and personalized study practice. It’s designed to pinpoint your biggest weaknesses while building on your areas of strength. These opportunities give you a clear understanding of how to study, what to study, and how to maximize your efforts in the right areas. (And since it’s offered online, you can participate anytime, anywhere it’s most convenient for you.)
3. Focus on science and math courses.
Specifically, AP Chemistry, AP Biology, and AB Calculus BC are the best preparation for the advanced math and science courses required in pre-med and medical school.
Research on pre-med preparation reveals that one common problem facing students who drop out of pre-med programs is the difficulty with chemistry. In one 2010 study, researches summarized that
“Students especially often stated that chemistry courses caused them to abandon their hopes of becoming a physician. It appears that undergraduate courses in chemistry have the effect of discouraging otherwise qualified students.” (Barr et all, 2010)
So, it’s safe to say that it’s never too early to start a relationship with chemistry!
Similarly, physics is a critical course that many pre-med students struggle with and upon which their medical academics depend. If physics doesn’t come easily to you, then studies show you can improve your physics exams grades by boosting your math skills. Math is a focal point that many high school students interested in medical careers don’t consider with high importance. The reality, though, is that numerous studies have shown a correlation between a student’s math skills and their college physics exam grades (Meltzer, 2002).
Don’t let one subject matter become the fulcrum on which your medical career hinges.
Consider hiring a tutor for weekly classes in chemistry, physics, and math in order to get a jump start on the difficult concepts covered in each. Online programs like Stutorialz offers STEM tutors that provide the right type of support based on your needs. Whether it’s personal tutoring, academic coaching, or test prep, your tutor will guide you.
And don’t panic if the concepts of one subject baffle you the first time around – bookmark it and come back to the idea later down the road. The more times you go over a concept with your tutor, the more familiar it becomes.
Additionally, consider joining math and science clubs that offer a fun new social component while learning and practicing these difficult pre-med concepts. State and national competitions will give you even more practice with pressured situations – not to mention boosting your application.
4. Don’t ignore English and Communications classes, either!
English classes aren’t typically the first subjects that come to mind when considering pre-med. There are many concepts covered in these courses, though, that will be put to test in medical school and as a practicing physician. If your grades tend to be less-than-stellar on essays or speeches, you’ll want to consider ways to get more comfortable with your written and verbal communication skills. English and
Communications classes offer plenty of opportunity to analyze literature, write essays, give presentations, and test comprehension. After all, as a physician, you’ll be required to write health reports, communicate clearly with patients and colleagues, and potentially write research proposals and study reports.
5. Start training your body and mind to cope with stress.
You’ve probably already heard how difficult pre-med and medical school are. Long days of classes that start very early, ending in long nights studying alone. The pressure to succeed will come from not just your own lifelong dream, but possibly that of your family as well. Plus, medical programs are notoriously competitive, so the intensity of competition among your peers is just one more level of stress on top of an already long list of anxieties.
“The inability to cope successfully with the enormous stress of medical education may lead to a cascade of consequences at both a personal and professional level,” observed researchers in a 1998 study.
Their research focused on implementing meditation training for premedical students (Shapiro et al). Taking simple meditative practice regularly now will give you a stress-relief outlet later to lean on.
There are plenty of other sources of stress relief you can explore, too, before it turns into a full-blown anxiety disorder that affects your success in premed or medical school.
“Pick something that means a lot to you, and do it every night. If you’re not doing that thing anymore, then you know something is wrong. Whatever it is, give yourself from half an hour to an hour every night to do that – work your schedule around that. Doing nothing but study 24 hours a day will not benefit you in the long run,” suggests Marcus, a 2nd Year Premed Student at Toledo University.
6. Develop your passion for healthcare, and fine tune your reasoning for becoming a doctor through experience.
Gaining as much hands-on experience as possible is the best way to really prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the academic path of becoming a doctor.
Don’t just study for the tests – study for the job.
Pushing yourself through extra-curricular activities that you don’t enjoy with the sole intent of impressing colleges is not the goal here. Finding out what sparks your curiosity and passion the most will give you a genuine experience to draw from when filling out pre-med applications and participating in interviews.
Here are some great ways to start gleaning real-life experience that could shape your passion for the healthcare field:
- Volunteer at hospitals
- Bend every research paper in school around healthcare topics that interest you
- Participate in science fair with health-related experiments
- Start a health column for your school paper or neighborhood newsletter
- Attend summer camps themed in health, biology, and medical sciences
- Attend pre-med summer programs offered through colleges (For example, Boston University offers a high school summer program geared toward anatomy and surgical exploration.) One participant said,“I loved the program. I learned so much from the morning labs. I really enjoyed the hands-on labs in the afternoon, and I found them to be both fun and educational. My teacher kept class fun while also managing to teach us a lot. This class strengthened my love for learning and my interest in surgery.”
- Participation in these types of hands-on extra-curricular activities will help you identify your specific areas of interest and passion. Furthermore, you may discover a dislike of certain areas of the healthcare industry, which will help shape the choices you make in your college curriculum and post-graduate paths.
Oh, and be sure to keep track of any positions of leadership you hold in clubs or awards you win in competitions! Keep a journal of situations that leave an impression on you or inspire your academic and career choices. These will add even more fodder to fuel your individual experiences.
“If I could give any advice to pre-meds, I would say: do what you enjoy and what you find interesting. Medical schools want to see that you have done things that you are passionate about. I remember being worried about spending so much time working for a non-profit that I loved but that was not explicitly healthcare-related, but it ended up being a great talking point on most of my interviews.” Rebecca, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine
6. Demonstrate leadership.
Doctors find themselves in a position of leadership in almost every aspect of their work. You may have to manage a team of nurses and administration in your own practice. Or, you might find yourself taking control of an emergency situation. Leadership training is considered a significant part of the modern medical curriculum.
Any opportunities you have to gain leadership training or experience before pre-med would be beneficial. While there is less pressure and more free time, take advantage of fun leadership experiences. Look for programs that combine practice and fun during high school summer breaks, Try summer camps or even free leadership training courses at the local library. And don’t forget to include any positions of leadership you hold on your application and resume!
7. Be mindful of your personal values.
Doctors must demonstrate a high level of integrity, adhere to strict ethics, and be incredibly responsible. Admissions agents bear this in mind as they’re considering every aspect of your application and gauging whether you’ll succeed through school and eventually as a physician. Keep this in mind any time you’re faced with a difficult situation or a moral dilemma. It may seem like no one cares what a high school student does at a party or in their free time with friends.
However, in today’s technologically-driven, low-privacy society, the wrong video or Facebook post could be the difference between two perfect applications competing for one last spot.
While we may not be able to help with shaping your moral compass or giving you hands-on surgical practice, Stutorialz can ensure you get off on the right foot with your academics right from the beginning. If you’re in high school and considering the path toward pre-med and later medical school, take a look at the Stutorialz Pre-Med Mastery Program.
Courses are offered entirely online, allowing you to start your training anytime, anywhere.
The goal of the program is to offer high school learners an opportunity to build, practice and master the concepts of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology utilized in premed coursework. Courses in the Pre-Med Mastery Program help aspiring premed students develop a deep understanding of all the subject areas and concepts essential to achieve excellence in all school related exams. Additionally, they help students to ace any competitive exams for medical college admissions.
The unique approach to learning offered through Stutorialz includes:
- Leveraging each student’s individuality, strengths, weaknesses, and drive to succeed,
- STEM master tutors with above-average success rates, wide range of teaching styles and investment in the success of each student,
- A comprehensive and personalized study guide,
- Study tasks designed to ensure deeper and long-term learning,
- Question bank-aligned to different difficulty and cognitive levels,
- The LRPT cycle (Learn, Revise, Practice and Test),
- Critical analysis of learner’s contextual learning performance data after every unit by master tutors,
- Focus on the strengthening of foundation of basic concepts before moving to the mastery of advanced concepts in a methodology which is aligned to pedagogy of spiral learning.
- Focuses on developing application skills, critical thinking, and analytical skills.
Over the course of 48 months, students follow our online learning modules, which include PowerPoint presentations pdfs, audio, video, multimedia sequences, and online tutors.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Pre-Med Mastery Program through Stutorialz Online AP Course Training Center, head to https://www.stutorialz.com/pre-med-mastery.php
The relationship between mathematics preparation and conceptual learning gains in physics: A possible “hidden variable” in diagnostic pretest scores. David E. Meltzer. American Journal of Physics, 2002.