How to Prepare for Medical School in High School

You might think that you don’t have to worry about your college major while you’re in high school, but if you’re interested in pursuing a competitive degree, such as medical school, you’ll want as much advantage as possible. This article will include tips and resources on preparing for medical school while in high school.

The path to a career in healthcare emerges as a bright and promising option. Unlike many fields where recent graduates grapple with the challenge of student loan debt and uncertain job markets, healthcare stands out as a sector teeming with opportunities and growth. The Center for Health Workforce Studies projects a staggering addition of 4.2 million jobs in healthcare between 2010 and 2020, aligning perfectly with the career timelines of today’s high school seniors. The array of options is vast and varied from nursing and physical therapy to specialized roles in finance, data management, and IT within healthcare settings. This guide is tailored to help high school seniors like you lay the groundwork for a successful journey into healthcare, offering practical steps and insights to prepare you for a vibrant career in this ever-growing field.

However, the healthcare field is booming. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the healthcare industry is creating jobs and is expected to add more than one-third of all new jobs by 2024. This is part of a broader trend, with overall employment in the U.S. economy projected to increase by 6.5 percent during the 2014–2024 decade, adding approximately 9.8 million new jobs. This growth trajectory positions healthcare as a sector ripe with opportunities for today’s graduating seniors.

If you’re looking for a healthcare career, you’ll want to consider at least following the steps on how to prepare for medical school in high school. All of these tactics can also be applied to a nursing career and you’ll be well ahead of your peers and classmates.

There are many opportunities in nursing, physical therapy, pediatrics, oncology, hospice care, and sectors like finance, data management, and IT. Hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare organizations also need marketing teams, public relations staff, and executive chefs. All of these jobs promise opportunities for talented young people willing to put in the work. As a high school senior, here’s what you must do to get started.

Get Good Grades

As high school students contemplating a healthcare career, it’s crucial to understand the importance of maintaining good grades. The healthcare industry, known for its rigorous standards and intense competition, often requires a strong academic background for entry. Excelling in your studies not only enhances your knowledge but also significantly boosts your chances of gaining admission into top healthcare programs at esteemed universities. These programs often have stringent entry criteria, where your academic performance is a key deciding factor. Furthermore, securing high grades can open doors to numerous scholarships, reducing the financial burden of higher education. Scholarships are not just financial aid; they are also a mark of distinction that can set you apart in the competitive world of healthcare. So, aiming high in your academic pursuits is not just about good grades; it’s about paving a smoother path toward a fulfilling healthcare career where you can make a difference in countless lives.

SAT and ACT Scores

If you’re a high school senior, you’re probably already familiar with the SAT, and probably took the PSAT in your junior year. However, taking the ACT is also worth your while, a different type of long-form standardized test requiring different study strategies and a few ACT prep sessions.

According to the official ACT website, the ACT is an achievement test, while the SAT is an aptitude test. This means the ACT focuses on subjects you have already learned, such as algebra and reading comprehension. In contrast, the SAT focuses on your learning ability, with logical reasoning questions and penalties for guessing wrong. (If you can’t tell, I’m a huge ACT fan.)

All colleges and universities in the United States accept both the SAT and the ACT, so make sure you take both tests to determine which one gives you the higher score. Because the two tests are so different and tailored to different learning styles, you may be a much better ACT test-taker than you ever are at the SAT. Take ACT prep classes at your local Huntington center, then sign up for an ACT in your area.

Work at a Hospital

Sometime during your freshman or sophomore year, make sure you work at a hospital. Look for volunteer candy striper positions; these unglamorous jobs are classic ways to teach young people what a hospital career is all about. Before you devote your life to the healthcare industry, ensure you can handle the fast pace and the emotional stressors a hospital brings.

Volunteer at a Community Health Clinic

Volunteering at a community health clinic is an enriching and impactful way to contribute to public health, especially in underserved areas. These clinics often serve as a vital lifeline, providing essential healthcare services to populations who may otherwise have limited access to medical care. As a volunteer, you could engage in a variety of roles, ranging from administrative support to direct patient interaction, depending on your skills and the clinic’s needs. This experience not only helps those in need but also offers you a unique opportunity to gain practical, hands-on experience in a healthcare setting. It’s an excellent way for aspiring healthcare professionals to understand the challenges and rewards of working in this field, while also developing important skills like empathy, communication, and teamwork. Additionally, volunteering at a community health clinic can deepen your understanding of community health issues and the social determinants of health, enhancing your perspective on how healthcare can be tailored to meet diverse community needs.

Go on a Medical Mission

Participating in a medical mission, often organized by churches or non-profit organizations, can be a transformative experience, particularly for those interested in the medical field. These missions typically involve traveling to underserved areas, domestically or internationally, during summer breaks to provide crucial healthcare services. As a participant, you can work alongside experienced healthcare professionals, gaining hands-on experience in treating a wide range of medical conditions often not seen in more developed areas. This experience is not only about providing medical care but also about cultural immersion, understanding global health issues, and learning to adapt to different healthcare environments. The exposure to diverse health systems and practices broadens your perspective, enhances your medical skills, and deepens your empathy for patients from various backgrounds. Additionally, participating in a medical mission can strengthen your resolve and passion for a healthcare career, inspiring a commitment to service and community well-being that lasts long after the mission ends.

Shadow a Nurse or Doctor

Shadowing a nurse or doctor is an invaluable experience for anyone interested in pursuing a career in healthcare. It offers a unique, behind-the-scenes look at the day-to-day operations in medical settings, providing real-world context to the skills and knowledge required in this field. By observing professionals in action, you gain a deeper understanding of patient care, medical procedures, and the healthcare environment, which can help solidify your career decision and enhance your future educational and professional pursuits. Here are some steps to set up a shadowing opportunity, using both your personal network and cold calling:

How Can You Find Someone to Shadow?

If you don’t already have a close friend or family member who can allow you to shadow, you can still find a way. Here are just 2 methods to finding a healthcare professional to shadow.

Utilizing Your Personal Network

  1. Identify Potential Contacts: List family members, friends, or acquaintances working in healthcare settings. This could include nurses, doctors, or even administrative staff with connections.
  2. Reach Out for Connections: Contact these individuals directly. Explain your interest in shadowing a healthcare professional and ask if they know anyone who might be willing to offer this opportunity.
  3. Follow-up: If they provide contacts, follow up promptly with these leads. If they don’t have immediate contacts, politely ask if they can keep you in mind should any opportunities arise.
  4. Express Gratitude: Regardless of the outcome, thank your contacts for their time and assistance. Maintaining good relationships is key, as they might consider you for future opportunities.

Cold Calling Healthcare Professionals

  1. Research Healthcare Facilities: Identify local hospitals, clinics, or private practices. Focus on those that align with your interests in healthcare.
  2. Prepare a Script: Draft a concise and clear script for your phone calls. Introduce yourself, explain your interest in healthcare, and your desire to shadow a professional to gain firsthand experience.
  3. Make the Calls: Call the facilities using your script as a guide. Start with the reception or human resources department, and ask if they can direct you to the appropriate contact for shadowing opportunities.
  4. Be Professional and Concise: During the call, be polite and direct. Respect their time by keeping the conversation focused and brief.
  5. Handle Rejections Gracefully: Not every call will be successful. If you’re turned down, politely thank them for their time and consider asking if they can suggest another contact or facility.
  6. Follow-up on Leads: If you are given a contact name or referred to another department, follow up promptly. Be persistent but respectful.
  7. Prepare Required Documents: Some institutions may require a background check, a signed confidentiality agreement, or other documentation. Be prepared to complete these requirements.
  8. Confirm Details: Once you secure a shadowing opportunity, confirm all the details, including the date, time, location, and any specific instructions or dress codes.

By methodically approaching both your network and cold calling, you maximize your chances of securing a shadowing opportunity in the healthcare field.

Specialize Within Your Major

Once you’ve decided to work in the healthcare field, stand out from other candidates by picking up a specialty while in college. Many human resources professionals complain that recent college graduates’ skills are too general; they send in resumes stating they have a degree in marketing but have no idea about the specific needs of a hospital marketing team.

No matter what your major, specialize. If you want to become an RN, take the extra courses and specialize in a few additional certifications, such as nutrition. The more skills you have on your plate, the more valuable candidate you are to potential employers.

If, for example, you want to enter the healthcare field through an unusual route – like becoming an executive chef – start planning this career in college. Job-shadow a hospital chef or spend a summer working in a nursing home cafeteria. The more healthcare-specific experience you have, your job prospects improve.

Build Your Network

It may feel strange to start building a network as a college student, but the fact is that getting jobs often depends on who you know. Don’t lose track of your contacts during your volunteer work or specialization courses; look for mentors, keep them appraised of your progress, and ask them for recommendations during your college senior year. Many college students don’t realize the importance of building a professional network and miss out on potential career opportunities.

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