For high school students who are considering a career in medicine, a great way to learn about the medical field and get a head start on the clinical skills required for medical careers is to participate in an immersive pre-med summer program. Many universities and other organizations offer summer opportunities for high school students to learn more about medical school and medical professions. We’ll discuss some of the top programs further in this blog.
What kinds of medical programs are available to high school students?
High school is the ideal time for motivated students to try out college courses. Why invest time and money in a college major only to discover it’s not the right fit? The field of medicine is a popular choice for many. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has this to say: “employment in medicine is projected to grow 16 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 2.6 million new jobs.”
There are many leading U.S. institutions that offer summer medical courses to high school students. Some universities offer in-person courses and others provide courses online. There’s bound to be a school that works for any high schooler.
A few examples include:
- Wake Forest University: Topics cover areas such as medicine, sports medicine, and psychology.
- Brandeis University: has both women’s health and global health online options.
- Case Western Reserve University: has a neuroscience and medicine course designed specifically for high school students.
Students greatly benefit from these types of programs for a number of reasons:
- The chance to try out the college experience before choosing a school or a major
- Working with top-notch professors
- Getting a leg up on other students in the field
Medical Research Programs
But clinical medicine is only one area of this vast field. Another study within medicine is the role of medical researcher. With a summer course in medical research, high schoolers get hands-on experience working in labs and potentially assisting in ongoing studies. One example is Georgetown University, which has a renowned summer medical research program.
Students find enormous value in experiencing medical research courses early, as pre-med students typically require lab experience to qualify for acceptance in a pre-med program.
Science Research Programs
Similar to medical research, science research programs offer prospective pre-med students the opportunity to gain hands-on lab experience in non-medical scientific topics such as biology, chemistry, and biochemistry. A working knowledge of lab work is essential for anyone looking to join a pre-med program as medical students either conduct lab work for a class or as an add-on to their medical school application. Universities with notable science research programs include:
- Case Western Reserve’s Astrophysics and Evolutionary Biology online course
- University of Rochester’s Biomedical Engineering course for high-school students
- Brandeis University’s precollege course on Climate Science
Why do colleges value medical summer programs?
Colleges and universities are constantly searching for the most motivated students. Since many of the precollege courses are from very prestigious institutions, it’s an indication to the college that, not only is the student motivated, they are also competitive and comfortable in the college environment. Also, high school students who are motivated enough to utilize these courses indicate a level of drive that is very attractive to colleges and universities. Both top schools and smaller secondary colleges are using pre-college courses to attract prospective students. This offers high schoolers additional options that might better fit their comfort zone.
Students participating in Brown’s summer program for high-schoolers can choose from a huge variety of medical and health-related courses, including Introduction to Medicine: Do You Want to Be a Doctor? and Hands-On Medicine: A Week in the Life of a Medical Student. The length of the program is between 1 and 3 weeks, depending on the course, and there are both residential and commuter options.
Brown also has a distance learning program for students unable to travel to Brown’s campus (see “Distance Learning Options,” below).
Transcripts, personal statements, and sometimes teacher recommendations are required for students applying to either the online or on-campus program. Students must be 15 or older to participate.
The Penn Medicine Summer Program is a week-long experience modeled after Penn Medical School’s actual first-year curriculum. Each morning, students attend interactive lessons on the topic of the day, which could be emergency medicine, cancer, kidney disease, or any number of other topics. Each afternoon, students participate in interactive virtual medical experiences. Additionally, students go on two hospital trips and two academic field trips.
Any student who has taken or is taking a high school biology class at the time of their application can apply.
The SMYSP is a five-week residential program open to high school sophomores and junior low-income and/or underrepresented minorities who live in Northern and Central California. The program includes anatomy and pathology labs and courses, college admissions help, a research project, lectures by Stanford faculty and other medical professionals, and insight into the day-to-day operations of a hospital. Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in a career in medicine and/or science and a B-average in their science classes; however, applications are reviewed holistically, meaning that a low science GPA won’t necessarily preclude participation. Each accepted applicant will receive a full-tuition scholarship for the program.
The Medicine Institute at Wake Forest University is a one-week program with a non-residential option in Charlotte and residential option in Winston-Salem. The program covers topics such as obstetrics and gynecology, neurosurgery, ophthalmology, pediatrics, and other medical topics. Students visit local healthcare facilities, learn about the latest medical technology, practice taking blood pressure and suturing, participate in a dissection lab, and learn minimally invasive surgery techniques.
Rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors are welcome to apply.
Georgetown Medical Academy
Georgetown has 1-week and 3-week Medical Academy programs, and students can either stay on campus or commute. Both programs provide an introduction to the field of medicine and a glimpse at Georgetown School of Medicine. Students participating in the 3-week program also register for one of three tracks:
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Emergency Medicine
Each track will give students classroom, lab, and case study experience with their chosen topic. To apply, prospective students must submit a 300-500 personal essay and the contact information of a school counselor, teacher, or administrator who can speak to their academic readiness and confirm their GPA. This program is open to students who are freshmen, sophomores, or juniors at the time of application.
The NSLC on Medicine & Health Care is a nine-day experience available at many different university campuses across the United States including Vanderbilt, the University of Washington, Northwestern, and Harvard. You’ll explore different medical career paths, visit medical facilities, diagnose and treat simulated patients, identify public health concerns and come up with potential solutions, and hear from guest speakers from the medical field. You’ll also gain some clinical skills such as suturing, testing vital signs, and surgical knot-tying. And, true to its name, the NSLC Medicine and Health Care program will teach you leadership skills that you can apply to any field you go into.
This program is open to any high school student with demonstrated academic and leadership abilities. Students are either nominated by a teacher or counselor, invited to apply by a talent identification program such as the College Board Student Search Service, or apply of their own accord. There are also summer Nursing and Psychology & Neuroscience programs available.
Distance Learning Medical Program Options
Sometimes preexisting summer plans, finances, or other personal circumstances prevent students from being able to participate in on-campus summer medical programs. Luckily, there are distance-learning options available for students in these situations. Read on for information about two such programs.
Students 13 years old and older are eligible to participate in Wake Forest’s online pre-college medical course. This 30-hour program—completed over the course of two or four weeks, depending on the dates selected—focuses primarily on the life cycle of a heart attack. Students will also get a virtual tour of a working hospital, learn about what it’s like to work in the medical field, and complete a final Capstone project demonstrating what they’ve learned in the course.
The class is taught by Wake Forest School of Medicine faculty, and students are assigned a Wake Forest mentor to encourage them, provide direction on assignments, and help brainstorm for the final Capstone project. Although the class is online and asynchronous, students will have many opportunities to connect with their mentor and fellow classmates. This course is ideal for students interested in learning about the inner workings of a hospital, how to prevent and treat heart attacks, and/or what it’s like to have a career in medicine in a completely flexible way.
Students participating in Brown’s online summer program can sign up for classes such as Neuroscience in Action: Understanding Our Brains and Nervous Systems and Biomedical Engineering: The Smart Design of Medical Implants and Devices that range from 3 to 5 weeks. Classes are asynchronous and take approximately 10 hours per week. Despite the fact that all coursework is completed online, Summer@Brown Online courses provide ample opportunity to connect with instructors and other students.
Hospital Volunteering or Job Shadowing
Most aspiring high school students live in communities with teaching hospitals and healthcare systems. Volunteer jobs for teenagers can include: assisting nurses with basic duties, helping visitors navigate the hospital, and in some cases, working in a physician’s office with checking patients in. Volunteer programs are a great way for high school students to get a feel for the world of medicine and see if it's a possible fit.
While volunteering is a greater time commitment, job shadowing is an option that requires less of a high schooler’s time. As the name implies, shadowing allows high schoolers to spend a day or two following a doctor to observe their day-to-day responsibilities. It can be a wonderful learning experience for a young person.
Medical Summer Program Key Takeaways
- The medical profession is poised for growth according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—employment in medicine is projected to grow 16%, adding roughly 2.6 million new jobs in the next ten years.
- Driven high schoolers who seek opportunities in the medical fields will find a whole array of options including, online courses from leading universities, summer immersion programs, summer camps, volunteering, or shadowing.
- There are different disciplines that live under the medicine or health umbrella. These include medical research, science research, biomedical engineering, climate science, and specialties such as women’s health.
- These programs not only provide an inside look at the field for students, but give universities a pool of motivated future students who have proven themselves in some of the best universities.