This page is specially designed with high school students in mind. Parents and school counselors will also find this content helpful. Read this information thoroughly. Students may also find it helpful to read the UB Freshman and Sophomore Prehealth Handbook (PDF) to provide information on what the professional health schools are looking for in applicants, what a student should do during each of those years, and answers to other common questions students have.
We typically have an information table at the UB Open House Events and Discovery Days and will be happy to answer your questions. For more information further detailing each of the items below, please read this.
Typical Prehealth Activities to Complete During High School
- Get good grades
Senior-itis is NOT okay. Not only could it ruin your high school GPA and chances at honors programs and scholarships, it could ruin your chances if you would like to pursue an early acceptance, early assurance or accelerated program. Further, it might enforce bad habits that will carry over into your freshmen year of college. Keep working hard all four years of high school.
- Take SAT or ACT exam
Prepare for the SAT and take it seriously. Take it twice if you like. Colleges use your score as a determining factor for admittance and for merit-based scholarships and honors programs. Also, typically the SAT or ACT score is used for admittance to early assurance or accelerated programs. Keep in mind that some colleges and programs will combine your highest math and verbal scores while others will only accept your highest *single* score.
- Take biology, chemistry and physics (1 year minimum)
You will need to complete several of each of these courses in college as prerequisites to the professional health schools. By taking at least one year of each in high school, you will be familiarizing yourself with necessary basic knowledge of these subjects. If you do not take at least one year of each of these in high school then it is highly recommended that you take a basic introductory course once in college before moving on to the recommended course sequence of the subject.
- Take mathematics (4 years)
You will most likely need two semesters of calculus once in college as part of the prerequisites for a degree or for a science major. If you take too long of a break without studying mathematics, you may begin to forget key mathematical concepts that you will then need to relearn.
- Take English (4 years)
The professional health schools want students who write well and who can communicate effectively. By taking four years of English in high school you will continue to learn new vocabulary and build skills necessary for your undergraduate years in college and beyond.
- Take advanced science course (1 year minimum)
If you truly enjoy one of the sciences then it is a wonderful idea to take an advanced course in that subject. Although many colleges will give you course credit for AP credits in biology, chemistry and physics, it is still highly recommended that you actually take the courses from that content area once in college. Be sure to speak to a prehealth advisor about your individual circumstances. View how UB accepts AP and other alternative credit.
- Take foreign language (3 year minimum)
Taking foreign language provides you with a broader educational experience — something the professional health schools look for in applicants. Further, many colleges have foreign languages as part of general education or core requirements, and it will be helpful to take several years of a language if you then choose to continue learning that language in college.
- Do volunteer community service
Begin volunteering and performing community service, not just for high school graduation requirements, but to learn about serving others. The professional health careers are all about serving patients and caring for others, so it would be wise to develop an attitude of giving now. Performing community service can be a lot of fun and each community has dozens of ways for you to get involved. You can find service opportunities that are health-related such as for the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and United Cerebral Palsy, just to name a few, or begin working with specific populations you would like to learn more about such as with day care centers to explore working with children or nursing homes to learn more about the geriatric community. Any community service is great!
- Shadow a physician/dentist/vet, etc.
This is probably one of the best ways to really learn what the career you’re interested in is like. You can start with shadowing your own doctor, dentist, vet, etc. if s/he is willing since you already have a relationship with him/her. You may also wish to ask for referrals to their colleagues. You can also feel free to open the phone book and call another type of health professional in a specialization in which you are interested and ask if you can shadow him/her. Keep track of where you shadow and for how long. You may include it on your applications in the future and will want to continue to gain these experiences in college.
- Participate in pre-health club
If your high school offers a prehealth student club, join! It can be a great way to learn more information about the field you are interested in and offer insight into health fields that you may not have considered. It will also be fun to meet and become friendly with other students who have similar interests.
- Do must/want analysis for colleges you consider
A must/want analysis is a list of factors that are important to you when determining what college to go to. Make a list of various factors as you research and visit colleges. Then next to each factor, write what you have determined you “must have” in a college and what you “want” in a college, but could do without. Then as you compare and contrast colleges, apply to the ones that fit the most of your “musts.”
- Gather information about colleges/universities, medical school accelerated programs, and apply to both
If you are interested in colleges that offer early assurance or accelerated programs, find out the details now. View websites and read thoroughly through brochures. If you qualify and are interested, apply for such programs. Apply to the colleges you have discussed with your parents and guidance counselor.
- Consider taking psychology/sociology, computer science and speech/public speaking courses
Taking elective courses such as psychology, sociology, computer science and public speaking will broaden your educational experience, developing you into a well-rounded student. If you qualify and apply for early assurance programs, these electives will also strengthen your application.
List adopted from: Iserson, Kenneth V. M.D. Get Into Medical School! A Guide for the Perplexed, Second Edition. Tucson, Arizona: Galen Press, Ltd., 1997, 2004.