Your high school coursework will provide you with a great foundation for your pre-med classes and beyond. While your high school grades won’t count for your medical school prerequisites, getting a feel for the content you’ll be diving into as a pre-med and medical student will help you decide if a career in medicine is right for you. Here’s a list of classes you can take in high school to prepare you for a career in medicine.
- Science Classes. This might seem obvious, but take lots of science classes, and take them seriously. Some high schools only require students to take 2 years of science, but you should take more than that to get comfortable with the topics you’ll be diving into as a pre-med and medical student. Biology, chemistry, and physics are three nearly universal medical school prerequisites that most high school students have access to. Take them in high school to get a head start on the material.
- Calculus and/or statistics. One or both of these advanced mathematics courses is usually required for medical school. Again, taking them in high school will help familiarize you with the material so that when you take them in college you’ll be confident and prepared.
- Student government. The medical field requires doctors to be good leaders. Whether a doctor is the attending physician at a teaching hospital, the owner of a small practice, or just managing their own careers, opportunities for leadership pop up regularly in medical careers. In an effort to prepare future doctors for these roles, many medical schools have programs dedicated to fostering leadership skills and providing leadership opportunities to medical students. Participating in high school student government, whether as an elected officer or a committee member, will give you a running start. You’ll learn how to communicate with others, understand the needs of the people you’re serving, and confidently make decisions that will impact others.
- Foreign languages. There are a couple ways taking a foreign language in high school will help your medical career. First, it’ll expand your reach as a medical professional. If you’re working in a diverse community, the ability to speak Spanish or Mandarin or any other language will allow you to communicate with many more patients than if you speak only English. Some jobs even require you to speak multiple languages. Second, foreign languages teach you to be confident and not fear mistakes. If you’re paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes as a doctor, you’ll never be able to confidently treat patients. You’ll inevitably make some mistakes practicing medicine, just as you’ll inevitably make mistakes learning a foreign language. But if you learn how to get past the mistakes and focus on the message you’re communicating, or the patient you’re treating, you’ll be much more successful.
- AP and Honors classes. Your pre-med and medical school curricula are going to be rigorous. High school is a good time to develop good study habits and get used to doing lots of reading. Although medical schools may not accept credit earned from AP test scores, AP and honors classes will teach you analytical skills and help you get used to intaking a high volume of information, which you can carry over to undergraduate and medical school.
- English. Communication--both written and verbal--is key to being a good doctor. Whether you’re writing notes about a patient or working on a research paper, presenting patients for rounds or explaining a diagnosis to a patient and his/her family, you need to be able to communicate your ideas clearly and succinctly. English classes will teach you to formulate ideas and present them in a concise, direct way.
- Any medical electives offered by your high school. No matter what medical electives your high school offers, taking one or more is a great way to get your feet wet in the medical field.
While it’s true that taking classes on this list will prepare you for an education and future career in medicine, keep in mind that you have plenty of time. BA/MD programs are great options for students who are already absolutely certain they want to be a doctor, but most people don’t apply to medical programs until much later. You’ll spend all of your undergrad and all of medical school taking classes and gaining experiences that will prepare you to be a great doctor, so don’t stress yourself out by trying to develop all the skills and learn all the knowledge while in high school. Enjoy high school and do lots of things that interest you.