For many people, heading off to medical school is one step in the culmination of a long-held dream. However, you can get started on pursuing this dream much earlier. From your high school years to the time shortly before entering medical school, there is plenty you can do to prepare yourself to be the best physician you can be.
During High School
Meet with your high school counselor to help plan the classes you should take that will get you into the best college possible. You should take as many advanced science classes, including AP classes, as you can. Look for opportunities to volunteer at your local hospital or medical facility or to get a part-time job in one. See if you can schedule informational interviews with local physicians. Find out your state’s requirements for becoming a certified nursing assistant, which is sometimes allowed while you are still in high school.
Pre-med isn’t a major, so you should talk to your advisor about what to major in. Biology, chemistry and physics are all common majors for aspiring doctors. Working at a hospital, doctor’s office or someplace similar can increase your competitiveness. You should also build good relationships with your professors and talk to them about your ambition so they can write you letters of recommendation later. You’ll need to prepare for and take the MCAT, which is required by most medical schools. Finally, you need to think about how you will pay for it.
Training to be a doctor is expensive. Most students take out at least some loans. You may be eligible for some federal loans, but whether or not you are, research medical school private student loans as well so you know what is available to you. Look for lower interest rates and good repayment plans. There are a number of other ways to fund your education as well. For example, if you offer service to a particular organization, employer or program, some of your loans may be forgiven. Opportunities may include working for the military, for government agencies or in underserved areas. You should also look into what is offered by your state in terms of loan forgiveness or repayment for service.
Before Medical School Starts
The period of time between acceptance and actually starting your program can make you feel like you’re trapped in limbo, but there is actually plenty you can do in this time to get ready. First, start laying the groundwork now for stress management. Whether this means finding a good therapist, ensuring that you’ve identified the best running trails near your school, brushing up on your study and organizational skills or something else, you need to be ready for one of the most intense times of your life. You might also want to read up on some foundational subjects that will help you be a better medical student and doctor, such as physiology and medical humanities. Finally, if you know there is a significant immigrant population in the place where you’ll be attending school, your rotations will go much more smoothly if you start to learn some basic conversation and medical terms in the dominant language there.