As a college-level pre-med student you can expect to be thrown into some pretty difficult and time-intensive science courses almost immediately. A concern that some incoming pre-med college students have is did they receive a good enough science foundation in high school prior to entering college.
Makes sense, everyone likes to be set up for success. The less unknown the better. Especially if you are a type A pre-med student.
So how much of a foundation in science do you need prior to studying the college level pre-med courses and being successful?
My answer, in short: none.
Hear me out.
My High school Experience Prior to Becoming a Pre-med Student
Before going to my Alma Mater, I attended a small liberal arts high school. Not only was this high school small, but it was also in the middle-of-nowhere Elmhurst PA, all boys, AND a boarding school. Pretty crazy right?
The significance of this high school is that the school had virtually no science courses. Seriously, the only courses that involved the analytical side 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! (Just a little philosophy joke…)
How Were My Grades?
So I finished high school with a very primitive understanding of science and decided that I wanted to become a doctor. I applied to my Alma Mater and I soon found myself staring off into space as my general chemistry teacher lectured us about stoichiometry.
Full disclosure, 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 the most basic pre-med course.
You’re probably thinking: clearly you needed those science classes Paul, 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.
What I Did in Order To Be A Successful Pre-med Student With No Highschool Science Background
Check out my about page and you will see that I had a tremendous GPA turnaround after my horrific start in college. 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 advance 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.