I have been asked a lot, do you need to prepare for premed in high school? How much of a foundation in science do you need prior to studying the college level pre-med courses?
My answer, in short: none.
Before going to the University of Dallas, I attended a small liberal arts high school. Not only was this high school small, but it was also in middle-of-nowhere Elmhurst PA, all boys, AND a boarding school.
The significance of this high school is that the school had virtually no science courses.
Seriously, the only courses that involved even the same part of the brain were some Algebra II and geometry. I had no clue that DNA is transcribed into RNA, which is translated into protein which makes us. I thought we were just mass in space… (Well after learning about Descartes I wasn’t even sure about that!)
I finished high school with a very primitive understanding of science and decided that I wanted to become a doctor. I applied to the University I ultimately went to, and I soon found myself staring off into space as my general chemistry teacher lectured us about stoichiometry.
Okay, so I ended up dropping general chemistry and essentially failed general biology my first semester. But at the beginning of the post, I said you need no science prerequisites before you start pre-med, and now I’m saying that I failed my most basic course.
You’re probably thinking: “Clearly, you needed those science classes, you were about as sharp as a bowl of jello your freshmen year.”
Okay that’s true, I did screw up my freshmen year. Was it because I didn’t have the needed high school science basis like the rest of my class? Absolutely not.
The reason I did so poorly was simply that I was not at all prepared for what college life entails, and I was not working towards preparing myself given the fact that I was too focused on livin’ it up in college after being freed from the chains of boarding school.
Some science background might have eased the process, but if I had properly applied myself, my lack of knowledge wouldn’t have prevented me from getting an A.
As some of you might know, I had a tremendous GPA turnaround after my horrific start.
In the beginning, I convinced myself that my shortcomings were due to my lack of science background, but when I started up general chemistry again with a more focused attitude I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I realized that any science class before college-level science is largely unnecessary.
In order to excel in your upper level science courses, you do need the basics. These basics, however, are covered by the pre-med pre–requisites. When you study the basic sciences at a college level, you are forced to study on a more ongoing basis, which allows for more retention of the knowledge. When you move onto more advanced courses, you can actually apply the building blocks that weren’t dumped out of your head after the last general biology exam.
Essentially when studying at a college level, you are retaining more information; when studying at a lower level, you are mostly dumping that knowledge after the course is finished.
Granted there are plenty of outliers to this idea, and there is a value to obtaining AP credits before college, but do not worry about not having any science background before your pre-med years — if I can do it, so can you.
Once again, to answer the question, you do not need to prepare for your premed courses in high school. That being said, I understand lots of premed students realize they have a passion for medicine early on. Therefore, one might want to get ahead of the flock and prepare a little early.
That is completely fine. You are passionate about this subject for a reason, so there is no harm in learning as early as possible. My point in this article is that it’s not required. Whether you prepare in high school or not, you will have an equal chance of getting into medical school.
Recently I got accepted into my top choice medical school and I had virtually zero science in high school. Trust me, if I can do it so can you!