How to Prepare for Pre-Med in High School

April 25, 2024


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 4/25/24

Are you ready to get a head start on your medical school journey? Good thinking! We’ll cover how to prepare for pre-med as a high school student. 

The path to med school from high school is a long educational journey, and it can feel overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. The good news is we’ve got you covered! Learning the steps to prepare for pre-med in high school is an excellent move and a great way to prepare for medical school. 

Follow along to learn every step you should take as a high school student aspiring to become a physician. We’ll cover how to prepare for pre-med, recommended courses, and more. Let’s get started!

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How to Prepare for Pre-Med as a High Schooler

Here are a few things you can do as a high school student to prepare yourself for pre-med. There are plenty of opportunities out there for young future physicians!

Find Your Passion

If you’re considering a medical career, explore the different areas of medicine before choosing one path. It’s important to know how many years of education are required for each area you’re interested in, potential salaries, and job satisfaction rates. How long it takes to become a doctor depends on your chosen speciality! 

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) offers an “Aspiring Docs” fact sheet for students to learn the ins and outs of medical school. 

Remember, you don’t need to make any decisions now! You should do plenty of research to help yourself make an informed decision later. For now, focus on doing well in school and learning as much as you can. 

Summer Camps

Attending science or medical summer camps or pre-college summer programs are excellent ways to show initiative on your pre-med and medical school applications. These summer opportunities can range anywhere from a day to several weeks and typically take place from May to August. 

Take a look at your local paper, science centers, hospitals, and universities to see if there’s a science or medical summer camp available near you (or online options). 

Conduct an Independent Study 

An independent study or a “self-study” is a great option for high school students who don’t have many in-person opportunities nearby. To conduct a self-study, you simply have to set a goal and measure your progress.

Everyone has done some degree of independent learning in their lives. The difference here is that you measure success with benchmarks you set for yourself. Maybe you want to write 100 lines of working code, or you want to write your very own research paper – the sky's the limit with self-study. 

Self-study looks excellent on a pre-med resume because it shows initiative and a passion for learning.

Become A Tutor or Find Related Work Experience

Tutoring is an excellent way to demonstrate a passion for learning and a thorough understanding of different subjects. While you don’t necessarily need to tutor in a science or math course, doing so can show your commitment and understanding of the scientific knowledge you’ll need for college and beyond. 

There are several other high school jobs that may help you along your journey to medical school as well. For example, becoming a lifeguard can help you develop fast reaction time and basic health skills such as injury treatment and CPR. 

Volunteerism and Community Service

When it comes to volunteering, you can’t go wrong. Committing your free time to assisting underserved communities or volunteer organizations is an excellent way to show your community spirit. Volunteering can reward you with perspective and fulfillment, and you may even make new friends along the way.

Pre-med students may want to search for volunteer opportunities that allow them to be in medical spaces, such as local hospitals or clinics. 

Working in soup kitchens or community centers is also a great way to practice listening and learning about others. Ultimately, any volunteer opportunities you’re drawn to in your local community will look great on your pre-med CV.

Recommended High School Courses for Pre-Med

Here are our recommended high school courses to become a doctor. Taking these courses can help boost your pre-med profile! 

IB Program/ AP Courses

Participating in an IB program, AP courses, or any courses of elevated difficulty is an excellent way to prepare yourself for a pre-med track’s challenging curriculum. However, not all universities consider IB/AP courses when reviewing your GPA on an unweighted scale. 

If you feel that maintaining an excellent GPA might be challenging due to the difficulty of your advanced courses, ensure you seek resources available to you, and do your best not to overload yourself with challenging coursework by taking on too much at one time. 

Science and Math: As Much As Possible

You should take as many medical-related classes in high school as possible. Taking courses like biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus can give you a good head start in college. 

Cultural and human sciences such as languages, health, social science, and history are also great courses to take before pre-med.

Important Skills for High Schoolers Preparing for Pre-Med

Medical schools search for many particular skills from pre-med students. The 15 Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students demonstrates which skills pre-med students should possess by the time they reach med school. It’s never too early to begin honing these skills! These are the core competencies: 

Core Competency Description
Service Orientation Shows your desire to help others, serve communities at a local, national, and international level, and help others alleviate their distress
Social Skills Social awareness, including recognizing others’ feelings, needs, and goals, while adjusting behavior according to the situation
Cultural Competence Shows you understand sociocultural factors that impact interactions, appreciation for diversity, and that you work to limit bias in yourself and others as you interact with people from various backgrounds
Teamwork Demonstrates your ability to work and communicate effectively in a team setting
Oral Communication You can effectively convey information orally, are an active listener, and can work around communication barriers
Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others You’re honest, ethical, follow rules and guidelines, and have personal/academic integrity
Reliability and Dependability You can take responsibility for your actions and ensure you complete tasks/obligations in a timely manner
Resilience and Adaptability You can adapt to changes in your environment, keep going when faced with challenging situations, and can recover from obstacles
Capacity for Improvement You can handle constructive criticism, reflect on your progress, and continually set new goals for yourself
Critical Thinking You can use your logic and reasoning skills to problem solve
Quantitative Reasoning You can think mathematically to solve problems and “describe phenomena in the natural world”
Scientific Inquiry You understand the scientific method and can apply what you know to real-world scenarios, including making hypotheses and research questions
Written Communication Your written communication is effective

The last two competencies are Living Systems and Human Behaviour, which you’ll cultivate as you navigate the pre-med track. In summary, focus on developing your communication, social, teamwork, leadership, and critical thinking skills – these will help you prepare for medical school! 

FAQs: How to Prepare for Pre-Med in High School

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about how to prepare for pre-med in high school.

1. How Can A Teenager Prepare For Med School?

There are many ways a high school student can prepare for pre-med. The following are a few suggestions from our experts:

  • Take IB/AP courses (specifically in sciences, math, and English)
  • Attend science/medical summer camps
  • Take up a health-related summer job
  • Conduct a self-study
  • Check AAMC resources 

Don’t be afraid to get started! Showing initiative in your high school years in any way looks excellent on your resume.

2. What Extracurriculars Should I Do In High School For Pre-Med?

The best extracurriculars for pre-med aren’t all medicine-related! In addition to shadowing a physician or volunteering at a clinic or hospital, you can also:

  • Volunteer in a community outreach program
  • Learn a musical instrument
  • Develop a unique hobby or interest
  • Conduct a self-study
  • Find related or unrelated work experience

There are plenty of in-person and online opportunities for high school students interested in pre-med! Keep an eye on your local paper, hospital, and universities for camps and volunteer opportunities. 

3. What AP Classes Should I Take for Pre-Med?

You should take all the science and math courses available to you in high school if you are interested in attending a pre-med program; with a specific focus on biology, chemistry, and physics. However, any AP classes in arts, languages, social sciences, and other areas make for a well-rounded high school transcript. 

4. How Do I Prepare For A Pre-Med Track?

If you are nervous about becoming a pre-med, consider taking science or medical summer camps before starting school. Do your research, seek meaningful related activities, and hone your organizational skills for a smoother transition. 

5. What Classes Should I Take in High School to Become a Doctor?

High school students can take advanced math and science courses through honors, AP, IB, or dual enrollment classes. However, don’t feel limited to only science and math classes – social sciences, history, language, and arts courses can help you build a varied transcript while pursuing your interests. 

Final Thoughts: Preparing For Pre-Med in High School

If you’re considering pre-med in high school, you have a leg up on many other future med school candidates. Selecting the right courses and participating in meaningful extracurriculars at this stage can help propel you on your path. But don’t worry; you don’t have to make any solid decisions just yet!

By focusing on attaining an excellent GPA, taking as many science and math courses as you possibly can, and seeking relevant extracurricular activities, you’ll be well on your way to succeeding as a pre-med. Good luck!

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