Pre-med programs are both challenging and notoriously competitive. If you’re interested in attending medical school, follow these steps to effectively prepare for pre-med while you’re still in high school.
If just reading the words, “prepare for pre-med while you’re still in high school,” make you feel a little anxious, don’t worry. Yes, the road to becoming a doctor is long, but you can get a jumpstart right now and get ahead of the game. Here, we go into detail about what you can do now to prepare for pre-med, and beyond.
Perform Well in Challenging Courses
If you want to begin your pre-med track, you’ll have to start by getting into college. To get accepted into a competitive school, you’ll need good grades in rigorous high school classes.
Many colleges expect you to take the most challenging classes available at your school, typically AP and/or IB courses. If these types of classes aren’t offered at your school, colleges will not penalize you for not taking them. However, they want you to make the most of the resources available to you.
Excelling in rigorous courses demonstrates that you have what it takes to work hard and excel at the college level. Plus, developing a solid work ethic and good study habits now will benefit you immensely in college and in med school.
Of course, you’ll want to especially focus on science and math. Take advanced science and math courses like AP Chemistry, AP Biology, and AP Calculus BC. These classes will give you a solid foundation for many of the courses you’ll be required to take in college and in medical school. They’ll also begin preparing you for the MCAT, a test you’re required to pass for admission to medical school.
Seek Relevant Experience
Relevant experience not only prepares you for life as a medical student and doctor, but it also shows colleges and pre-med programs that you’re passionate about the medical field. Demonstrating that you’ve worked toward this career since high school can make you a particularly strong applicant for medical school.
What is considered “relevant experience?” Try activities such as:
- Volunteering at a hospital or nursing home
- Participating in science/math clubs and competitions
- Attending a medical program or science/math related summer camp for high school students
- Applying for a research or internship program for high school students interested in science and medicine
- Creating your own health-related project (i.e. writing a column on health issues for your high school newspaper)
By including activities like these on your resume, you’ll show that you’re a passionate, committed, and curious student who is eager to study pre-med and acquire the skills needed to become a successful doctor.
A word of caution: Don’t do these activities solely to impress pre-med programs. If you find that you don’t genuinely enjoy these activities, you may want to explore other career fields that are a better fit for your interests. (And that’s okay—it’s great to try these activities now so you can find out if it’s best to take a different path.)
If you do enjoy these activities, be sure to keep a record of your involvement, including:
- Your role in each activity
- Dates you participated
- Any special accomplishments, awards, or recognition
- Meaningful anecdotes for use in a personal statement or college application essay
When you’re aiming for a big goal, it’s useful to break it into smaller steps. By gaining relevant experience and recording your involvement, you’ll pave the way for acceptance to a pre-med program.
Universities want pre-med students with more than just science, math, and leadership skills. They want to know that you’re responsible, dependable, ethical, and honest.
Take on Leadership Roles
Doctors must be assertive problem-solvers who can quickly make decisions under pressure, all qualities shared by good leaders. As you gain relevant experience, strive to take on leadership roles in your extracurricular activities.
You may be a club officer with an official title, but that’s not a necessity. You can also suggest new ideas and solutions to problems, step up and run an event, or organize a fundraiser. Leadership isn’t about a title; it’s about taking initiative and contributing to the clubs and activities you value.
As mentioned above, be sure to keep a record of what you did, when you did it, and any special accomplishments or awards you received in the process.
Your college application essays will give you the opportunity to discuss your leadership experience, so consider keeping a journal that details memorable and meaningful events. (When you’re filling out college applications under pressure, it can be hard to remember the specifics!)
Demonstrate Strength of Character
Universities want pre-med students with more than just science, math, and leadership skills. They want to know that you’re responsible, dependable, ethical, and honest. They want to know that you’re a compassionate person who will genuinely care about your patients.
Basically, strive to be a good person who makes a positive impact on others. Make good choices inside and outside of school, act with integrity, and treat others with kindness.
You can highlight these values on your college application through your activities (i.e. volunteering at a hospital or tutoring other students in math and science), through personal anecdotes that you share, and through teacher and counselor letters of recommendation.
When it comes to those letters, your teacher isn’t going to say anything that isn’t true, so make sure that your actions in class line up with the impression you’d like to make on college and medical school admissions officers.
Being a doctor can be a difficult and demanding job, and it’s even harder if your heart isn’t in it, so it’s important that you have a genuine desire to help other people and make a positive difference.
To Sum Up:
Medical school may seem far away, but it’s never too early to start laying the foundation for your future. Taking the steps outlined above will make you a competitive applicant to colleges and, later, pre-med programs. But more importantly, they’ll give you the skills you need to manage the challenges of medical school and become an excellent medical professional in the future.
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