If you want to be a doctor, the journey to medical school starts now.

In 2016, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported that only 41.5% of medical school applicants were admitted to a single program.

Although it’s competitive to be accepted into medical programs, there are things that you can do as early as 6th grade to boost your chance of an eventual medical school acceptance.

Middle School
In middle school, a future physician spends their time preparing for the rigors of an advanced high school curriculum. Enroll in the highest level of math. Many successful medical school applicants completed at least one year of Calculus in high school, which means that you should try to complete Algebra I in 8th grade if possible.

Learning how to perform well on standardized tests will also benefit you. If you are underperforming on the PSSA, for instance, it may be because you struggle with test taking. There are free resources that you can use to improve your test taking skills. I particularly like Khan Academy’s tips and tricks.

Grades 9 & 10
Maximize your academic effort and push yourself in challenging classes when you get to high school. If you can get at least a B/84% in an Honors/AP/IB class, it is worth it to stay in that level.

This is a good time to explore if medicine is a good fit for you while also logging community service hours. For example, volunteering with the Special Olympics might expose you to genetic and developmental diseases that you could envision yourself treating or researching. Joining a hospital-based volunteer program will allow you to witness clinical care up close.

Grade 11
Continuing your study of a foreign language throughout high school may give you an advantage when you apply to medical school. This is because the number of Americans for whom English is not their primary language is growing, and medical school admissions offices often look to develop a physician population that serves community needs.

Use the summer after 11th grade to grow your exposure to healthcare or the sciences. Some notable free programs include the UPMC Hillman Academy, the Governor’s School for the Sciences, and I Look Like a Cardiologist (more details below). Be wary of expensive programs, as you can find equally prestigious free and paid opportunities.

Grade 12
When researching colleges, email the pre-health advising office. Ask about the volume of medical school applicants and acceptance rates.

Also find opportunities to talk to adults about their careers. Ask what they like about their chosen field, what their day looks like, and what training they needed. Although you may be planning a pre-medical track, it’s always possible that a conversation with your dentist could reveal a hidden interest in dentistry.

I Look Like a Cardiologist

The first “I Look Like a Cardiologist” conference was held on January 26th for western Pennsylvania girls interested in medicine and cardiology, more specifically. Cardiologists are doctors who specialize in studying or treating heart diseases and heart abnormalities. Professional mentors guided the students through simulations, discussions, and panel sessions. The program will be run again in the summer and this time, all students from backgrounds underrepresented in cardiology, including women, people of color, first-generation college students, and LGBTQIA+ individuals, are encouraged to apply.

To learn more about the program, email Diana Rodgers.