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Courses What classes to take in HS

  1. Jul 27, 2017 #1
    I am currently a sophomore in high school. It is my dream to go to a very good college and from there to medical school. I need help deciding which classes will be best to take in the next two years to really prepare myself for the course work of college and further on medical school.
    In my freshman year I took Adv. Algebra 1 and Biology.
    In addition I was wondering what other things would make me stand out to colleges, especially for a science major, aside from my academics.

    Thank you to everyone who replies :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 27, 2017 #2


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    You need college preparatory Mathematics for all of your high school years, and as much or whatever science and related courses you can manage at your high school.
  4. Jul 27, 2017 #3
    I think extracurriculars regarding science will also help, as will work experience/volunteering.
  5. Jul 28, 2017 #4


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    There's no perfect formula. I think the real key is to be fully engaged and passionate about the things that you choose to do. Make choices in elective courses and extra-curricular activities because you're interested in them, not because you think they will look good on a college or medical school application.

    For now, I would try to take all the mathematics and science courses you can. Some students think they can do "just" biology and avoid physics, but up until about second year university, a lot of the sciences are really complementary in that the more you understand about one, the better you'll understand the others (even if it seems like they're completely divorced from each other at the time). You might also want to pick up an MCAT prep book, and that will give you an idea of the material you'll need to know.

    Another tip is to look at the prerequisite courses for medical schools that you're interested in attending and then work backwards from there. In most cases they amount to a first year general science program, but look carefully and figure out what prerequisites you'll need to get those.

    Often @berkeman has some good advice for students interested in pursuing medicine. On top of academics it's good to figure out whether you actually like helping people in a medical context, and start to develop some of the "soft skills" necessary for the profession. One of the first things you can do is to take a first aid course. From there you could look into volunteer organizations like search and rescue groups, St. John's Ambulance, etc. which will often have more advanced training options. When I was old enough, I joined the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves and chose the medical assistant trade. While not an experience for everyone, that job provided me with a wealth of opportunities. As a high school and early university student I got to work with professional nurses and physicians, observe surgeries, help out with medical screening, take advanced first-aid courses, and learn (and practice) many fundamental skills like taking a blood pressure, starting an IV or taking a basic medical history.
  6. Jul 28, 2017 #5


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    Great advice as usual from @Choppy -- I definitely believe that it's important for you to start getting some patient contacts early on, so you can see if you enjoy them. If you end up not really enjoying patient contacts, or get frustrated when the situation turns difficult, maybe a career in medicine is not right for you. But if you find (like I did) that you really enjoy the patient contacts, even with difficult patients and patients who are very badly injured, then that's a pretty good motivator for you to take the long and challenging road to a career in medicine.

    It's awesome that @Choppy was able to start his experiences with medical volunteering back in high school (much like where you are now). I didn't get my start until much later in life, but if I had found out early how much I enjoy patient contacts, I probably would have gone into emergency medicine.

    A nice story to help motivate you -- one of the events that I volunteer at every year is an Ironman Triathlon here in Northern California (it used to be called the Vineman Ironman Triathlon). Depending on the weather, it can be just a busy 15-hour shift, or it can be a mass casualty incident for much of that time. Most of the volunteers are doctors, nurses, PAs, paramedics and EMTs, but there are also a number of high school students who volunteer each year. They tend to be like you, with an interest in getting into medicine or a related healthcare field. The doctors and nurses are very good at taking the extra time to nurture these young folks, to listen to what their future plans are, and share what their motivations were for getting into medicine. One year there was a young woman (I think she was a junior or senior in HS) who was asking a lot of questions of everybody early in the shift before things really started to pick up. I was happy to talk about my experiences in EMS and how much I enjoyed patient contacts. And I heard her talking with both of the doctors at various times about their experiences in medicine.

    One of the nice things about working with doctors in a setting like that is that you can do more advanced medical procedures than your experience or license allows, as long as the doctor is right there helping you to learn and use the skill. So at one point late in the night when a patient needed an IM injection of Zofran (a shot in the arm to help ease nausea problems), one of the doctors asked her if she'd like to give the shot. After getting the permission of the athlete who needed the injection, she was able to give her first shot to a patient. Great stuff. :smile:

    At the end of the long and very busy shift around 1AM. as we were cleaning up and putting the supplies back into their storage bins, I asked her how the day went for her. She was beaming with a grin from ear to ear, and said, "That was great! I can't wait to do it all again!" Now that is a young person who enjoys patient contacts. :biggrin:
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
  7. Jul 30, 2017 #6


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    When I was in college, most of the pre-med students majored in biological sciences, took two quarters of calculus and a quarter of statistics, and then they grit their teeth and took a year of physics (because they had to). If you want to be like everybody else, do that. If you want to stand out (when applying to med school), do more than the minimum required, particularly in math. As the others have said, start early and take as much math and science as you can.

    Also, don't limit yourself to majoring in biology. I seem to recall reading (though I can't remember where) that physics majors who went on to medical school did better on average than their peers. My brother, who is a doctor now, majored in bio and then stuck around an extra year to get a degree in chemistry. He remarked last month that if he had to do it over again, he'd just major in chemistry.

    Volunteer work and community service look good on your applications as well. In addition to what Choppy and Berkeman said, volunteer work may open your eyes to the bigger picture. One student of mine learned through her volunteer work what kinds of problems the poor faced when getting health care. This experience helped her decide how she wanted to practice medicine and in what field to specialize in.

    Finally, it wouldn't hurt to start thinking about what you want to say in your statement of purpose (or whatever they're called these days). If you want your college application to stand out, don't write the same boring essay that countless other students will write. Find something unique, interesting, and entertaining to say.
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