What do high school students need to know before committing to specializing in pre-medicine or looking for the best premedical programs for adolescents? How can you know if medicine is your true interest? What should you look for in a high school summer medical program?
High school is not too early to start thinking about pre-med. You can prepare academically, explore various medical careers and participate in a medical or science summer camp program. Not only will these preparations help you decide if a career in medicine is for you, but they will look great on your high school curriculum and result in positive responses from the colleges where you apply.
Is Medicine the Right Career Choice?
Many high school students know medicine only through TV shows or a trip to the doctor. Before you start pursuing medicine as a career path, think about why you want to go on the field. According to the headquarters of the medical school, there are five good reasons:
- You want to improve the life and health of others.
- You have a sense of leadership.
- You like the variety of career options.
- You like the intellectual challenge.
- You want to perform surgery
There are also reasons not to go into a medical career, including the pressure of parents, the drama and romance of medical television series, or the inability to cope with a very stressful environment.
How Can High School Students Learn About Medical Careers?
If you are thinking about pre-medicine, explore the areas of medicine that interest you. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) offers fact sheets on the medical school. He also has inspirational stories of people on their medical journeys and a series of videos answering questions on the way to medical school.
Then interview or observe someone in the fields of medicine that interest you. Interviewing a health professional is a good way to learn about different careers in health care by asking questions such as:
- Why did you choose a career in the health sciences?
- What does a typical day look like in your field?
- What would you recommend me to do to prepare for a career in medicine?
- What do you like or dislike in your career?
- How did you choose your pre-medical program and/or medical school and why?
You can also enroll in a summer medical program for high school students or an internship in a hospital or medical facility. (Some summer programs for teens drop tuition fees for low-income students or provide financial assistance.)
See if a local hospital, medical facility or ambulance company in your community is accepting high school volunteers. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to communicate with a patient and helps you decide if medicine is something you want to pursue. Medical schools are looking for students who have shown an interest in medicine while in high school.
How Can High School Students Prepare for a Pre-University Major?
To prepare for a pre-med major, you must take the right courses in high school. These include sciences, such as physics and chemistry; mathematics, including calculation and statistics; and even English. Pursue a rigorous combination of AP, Honors or IB courses and aim for the best possible results.
It is important to note here that even if your college accepts AP credit, medical schools can not. If you are pursuing a medical career, take the college course and earn the AP credit. Not only will this college-level course be better on your pre-med application, but it will also prepare you for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and Medical School classes.
Then look for a summer medical program in high school. These programs will give you an exposure to the world of medicine and also the opportunity to work with health professionals. Colleges like Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown and many others offer summer programs that introduce students to the medical field. Some hospitals, such as Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute, also offer summer internships or research opportunities for high school students.
High school medical summer programs provide learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom. Many include hands-on lab training. For example, the Pre-Med Institute at the University of Texas at Austin allows students to study anatomy by manipulating real human remains and soft tissue specimens. Students also learn to examine MRIs, X-rays and CT scans. If you look at summer medical programs, think about who is teaching the courses and whether it includes opportunities to be in the lab, or even do your own research.
If you like how you feel at one of these pre-med summer programs, it’s a good indicator that you’re on the right track to a career in medicine.
Can I Go Directly to Pre-Med out of High School?
If you are already sure that you want to be a doctor, you might consider a BS-MD program in college, which combines undergraduate school with medical school, giving you both your bachelor’s degree and your medical degree. These programs last seven years and the requirements vary from program to program. The advantage of these programs is that they generally offer guaranteed admission to medical school after the third year of college. After completing medical school, the courses apply to your BS and your MD degrees.
As you can imagine, these programs are popular among students who are sure that medicine is the area in which they want to specialize. For this reason, the colleges that offer these programs can be very competitive.
You need a strong GPA, high standardized test scores, and will also need to prove your interest in medicine by writing an essay or attending a special interview. These programs are not for everyone. You will need to commit to academic excellence because you meet your prerequisites for medical school in just three years. You will need to have your priorities in place and be ready to sacrifice some of the normal academic experiences in order to focus on your academics. If in doubt, it would be best to enroll in a normal pre-medical program and take the time to find out if medicine is the right field for you.