How to Prepare for Pre-Med Undergraduate Studies
Updated: Jul 4, 2019
Socrates said it best—“Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.” If you have decided to become a doctor, you are getting ready to embark on a journey that will be as rewarding as it is challenging.
Preparation is a key element of any journey. Imagine a hiker who sets out to climb a mountain with no water, food, equipment, or preparation. What do you think his fate would be? The same could be said for the future medical student who doesn’t figure out how to prepare for pre-med undergraduate studies.
A lot of students think that this prep begins after your senior year. However, you really should start planning while in high school if at all possible. If you are looking for ways to make sure you are ready for college and your future medical career, keep reading.
Follow a Pre-Med Checklist
Pre-med has earned a reputation as a challenging and competitive major. There are ways to set you apart from other students, but you must make a plan and stick to it. The first step for many students is creating a pre-med checklist. By creating and marking off accomplishments, you can avoid procrastination and get ahead of the game.
You’ll want to consult your medical studies advisor for a personalized plan, but the following recommendations are a good place to start.
How to Prepare for Pre-Med Checklist:
Seek advice from your high school counselor. Your school counselor is a great point of contact. He or she can provide guidance and help you design an academic plan that will help you prepare for pre-Med Undergrad studies. Many high schools offer a health professionals track that allows students to take science and health-based classes.
Take as many AP Courses as possible. Universities look for these College Board-approved courses on student transcripts. Taking advanced math and science classes is especially important since pre-med undergraduate tracks are traditionally math and science-based.
Beef up your GPA. 3.5 is considered the lowest grade point average accepted for medical school, so high school students wanting to major in pre-med studies should shoot for the same or higher. However, it isn’t just your overall GPA that matters. Many college admissions officers look at students’ science GPAs as well. This is why making As in science courses is so important.
Develop strong study skills. College is very different from high school. Many college freshmen realize early on that the study skills they learned in high school just don’t work well in college.
o Thankfully, this is a problem that can be avoided before you start your first
semester of pre-med undergraduate studies. Spend a little time each week researching college study skills and putting best practices in place.
Start Volunteering Now. One thing that you will need for medical school acceptance is a solid track record of altruism. This means that you must demonstrate acts of goodwill toward others. One way to accomplish this requirement is through volunteer experiences.
o Many students put this off until right before they are scheduled to finish their
pre-med undergraduate studies. This can come across as inauthentic. If you
begin looking for health-related volunteer experiences now, your future med
school application will be much more competitive.
o Get creative with your volunteering! Select volunteering and shadowing
opportunities that will provide experience in various medical settings. This will
help you determine if a career in medicine is really for you and which specialty
you might want to focus on in the future.
Take on Leadership Roles. Medical practitioners must demonstrate strong leadership skills. Proven leadership ability coming out of high school is essential. Having a significant leadership role or two will help you stand out when you begin your pre-med undergraduate studies. Beta Club, the National Honors Society, and student government are all good involvement opportunities. Other sources of leadership experience include:
o Clubs and Team
o After School Employment
o Volunteering Opportunities
o Peer tutoring
o School-based and National Organizations
Keep Social Media in Check. Medical school students are often held to a different standard than those of other majors. As a doctor, you will have a lot of responsibility for the care of others. This requires strong integrity and sense of ethics. The popularity of social media can be especially problematic for high school students. Before posting, snapping, or Tweeting, keep in mind that everything you do and say on the internet could come back to haunt you later.
How to prepare for pre-med undergraduate studies is a very personal process. Using the checklist above, map out a plan for yourself. Make sure to update it periodically and check in every 3-6 months to make sure you’re on track. Having a parent or mentor’s support can help keep you accountable. Finally, make sure to walk into your studies confidently. You have the tools to succeed and will do so if you stay determined and focused.
Written by JASON PATEL, Former Career Ambassador at the George Washington University and Founder, Transizion.