Being a physician is one of the most rewarding and highest paying hospital careers out there. There are currently 854,698 practicing physicians in the United States. Although there are so many of them, becoming one isn’t as easy as it looks.
Many people dream of one day becoming a doctor, but are ultimately deterred by the long and difficult process of getting an MD degree. The process takes a lot of dedication, passion, and hard work, and can take up to twelve (or more) years of schooling and residency.
However, getting through medical school and residency is only half of the battle. Between studying for the MCAT, taking prerequisites, filling out applications, and going to interviews, actually getting into medical school can be one of the hardest parts of a doctor’s journey.
To help simplify it, here’s everything you need to know about how to prepare for medical school in high school and college:
So, you’re in high school and you already know you want to be a doctor? That’s awesome! The earlier you can start the process, the better. Even though you are not in college yet, you can start gaining experience and preparing yourself for medical school right now.
One thing you can do to begin preparing for medical school is take advantage of any classes that are related to the medical field. Many high schools offer classes targeted at future healthcare professionals. It can also be advantageous to take rigorous courses (like honors, AP or IB) to prepare yourself for the academic challenges of undergraduate and medical school.
High school is a great time to gain real-world experience in the medical field. Hospitals always need volunteers, and volunteering allows you to see what it’s really like to work inside a hospital. Shadowing is also helpful because it gives you the opportunity to be one-on-one with a physician. You can see what a typical day is like, and you can even interview them and ask them questions about their job.
Another way to get valuable experience is through a summer program for high school students interested in the medical field. There are dozens of universities across the country that offer opportunities for students to get hands-on experience in the medical field. It is also an effective way to see if you really like medicine as a career.
Taking relevant classes and gaining experience through volunteering, shadowing, or a summer program shows colleges that you are serious about becoming a physician. When choosing the right university to get your pre-med schooling, keep in mind that you will have a chance at getting into medical school whether you attend the most prestigious college or your local state school.
What really matters is how you do at that particular school -- the grades you get, the experience and extracurriculars you are involved in, and how prepared you are for the MCAT and professional school.
Once you determine which university you will be attending, picking the right major is the next step. Typically, colleges don’t offer a pre-med major -- you’ll need to choose one. Many medical school hopefuls think that they need to major in biology or chemistry, but that’s not always the case.
In fact, 25 percent of people accepted to medical school majored in disciplines other than the sciences. Medical schools just want to see that you are hardworking and well-rounded, so choose a major you are interested in. However, make sure to make room in your schedule to take the prerequisite courses for medical school, like chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics, and others.
In college, it’s all about keeping your grades up, gaining experience, and preparing for the MCAT. For experience, consider volunteering, shadowing, or even becoming an EMT or medical scribe. This shows that you are passionate and serious about a career as a physician.
You can also look at your university to see what research opportunities are offered. Besides staying on top of things in school and gaining enough relevant experience, preparing for the MCAT is another top priority you should focus on during the last few years of your undergraduate career.
Specialized courses are offered (online and in person) to prepare for the test. It is also helpful to purchase a set of prep books and take full-length practice tests. More tips on how to create a study plan for the MCAT can be found here.
It is never too early to begin preparing yourself for medical school. Whether you are in high school or college, there are plenty of opportunities to prepare you for a future in medicine. Follow this guide during high school and college and you’ll be well on your way to getting into medical school. Stay tuned for our next post in the med school series -- how to pick the right medical school for you!
If you're interested in reviewing some of the other comprehensive medical school guides we've created, take a look at some of the following: Top 10 Best Osteopathic Medical Schools, Top 15 Easiest Medical Schools To Get Into, The Pros and Cons of Caribbean Medical Schools, Choose the Right Medical School, A Doctor's Guide To Paying Off Medical School Debt, Medical School Interview Questions: An Overview, Most Affordable Medical Schools, How To Get Into Medical School, Top Medical School Rankings.