PreMed Major? What Your Homeschooler Should Expect

pre-medPreMed is a popular plan of study for students entering college. Medical careers are considered “recession proof” so that’s part of the appeal. Students are also drawn to the opportunity to be well compensated in a career where they can help people.

Medical school admissions are increasingly competitive. Among the top 10 ranked medical schools according to US News the acceptance rate the average acceptance rate was only 2.5%. Looking at all of the ranked medical schools, over 100, the acceptance rate is still under 10%.

If your homeschooler is considering a premed major it makes sense to start your research in high school and to discuss the following considerations.

High school matters
Homeschoolers who aspire to med school really need to start their preparation in high school. That preparation should include: strong core academics preferably on the most competitive path, strong ACT or SAT scores, and STEM emphasis including quality lab sciences. Students aiming at selective schools should take the three core sciences – biology, chemistry, and physics during high school.  The reason for taking this solid foundation is not just to get into college, but to enter college prepared to get achieve top grades. Most students aiming at selective schools will take at least some college level work in high school, either through APs or dual enrollment. Homeschoolers should note that even college work taken during high school through concurrent or dual enrollment options will typically be reported during graduate and professional school applications. College grades, no matter the age they were earned matter.

Premed students have choice of major
While biology is the most popular premed major there are many choices available. All students who apply to med school will need to have taken core science and math requirements, but they can do so while opting for a wide variety of majors. Many people are surprised to find out there are students who major in political science, classics, or computer science and then go on to medical school. In fact, sometimes students with unconventional majors can actually stand out from the pile of applicants when it comes to med school admissions. Medical schools like applicants who have developed their critical thinking and writing skills. The MCAT test for medical school admissions has been revised to place a greater emphasis on being able to place science and medicine into the context of society and culture. Students can prepare for this emphasis through taking courses in social and behavioral sciences such as psychology. The medical school admissions test also requires students to read passages about humanities and be able to answer critical reasoning questions. Students who have had a well-rounded education with development of writing skills can be at an advantage on the MCAT.

“Weeder” classes
You may have heard of the idea of “weeder” classes. Courses such as introduction to biology or chemistry often function as a way to clear out students who may aspire to medical school. Organic chemistry is known to be a particularly difficult class. As the story goes the professor says “Look to the left of you, look to the right of you, only one of you will make it through the semester with a grade of C or above” (or some variation of that). Many students’ path to medical school comes to a screeching halt as they struggle to pass these courses freshman year. So, arm your premed homeschooler with the best high school preparation you can give them so they enter ready to be successful. It is important to realize that the majority of students in these “weeder” classes will have done well in AP level science and math while in high school. Even if your student is highly capable, if they do have that background they will be at a disadvantage.

Grades and Service Matter
Med school admissions are incredibly competitive. Students who are seriously pursuing med school need to have top grades in college, period.  Medical school applicants are evaluated on a number of factors including grades, MCAT scores, letters or recommendation, interviews, and extracurricular and volunteer experience. It is increasingly the expectation that students interested in medicine will devote time to learning about the career through patient care volunteer experiences and through medical shadowing and internships. Still, overall grades and grades in math-science courses, remain the biggest determination of which students will be selected for medical school interviews. As student enters freshman year, grades should be crucial and most important area of focus. Students should carefully evaluate non-academic commitments (sports, work, etc.) to make sure classes are the top priority.

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Quoted in the College Confidential article What a Perfect Score Can – and Can’t Do for Your Future…”Grades, rigorous courses, extracurricular activities, awards and character all matter for selective admissions. Colleges are looking to build a community of learners and citizens and that’s about a lot more than test scores.”  Barbara Hettle, Hettle College Consulting

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