It's never too early to start preparing for your career as a doctor. Here are some things you should know and do to help smooth the path to medical school and beyond:
Science, Science, Science
If you think you want to pursue a career as a doctor, you need to load up on your science studies in high school and the first few years of college. Entrance requirements for New Jersey's Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, for instance, demand multiple undergrad college courses in biology or zoology, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. The school also recommends cell and molecular biology, biostatistics and biochemistry. Keep in mind that pre-med is not a college major, but rather a career path you choose. A pre-med student can major in anything. But don't spend ALL your time in the lab. Applicants are also expected to take courses in English, the humanities, mathematics, behavioral sciences and liberal arts. Even docs need to be well-rounded.
Test Drive the Stethoscope
You may be a math and science whiz in high school and even devour books about vampires, but can you truly handle the sight of blood? Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (and no doubt the future Rowan Medical School) offers a Mini Medical School for sophomore, junior and senior high school students interested in medical careers. It's a great opportunity for students to sample a medical school curriculum. This year's courses, offered in the evenings between February and April, included lectures on global health, stem cell research, pediatric HIV and heart transplantation.
A Little MD R&D (Research & Development)
When it comes time to research the medical schools that interest you, check out their requirements, size and location and the average GPA and Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) scores. The MCATs are a special test that you take to get into medical school. Requirements to get into New Jersey's Robert Wood Johnson Medical School include a mean total MCAT score of 30.6-verbal reasoning 9.6, physical sciences 10.2, biological sciences 10.8. The required mean total grade point average is 3.64 with a science GPA of 3.59.
The Personal and the Professional
Wondering how much activities in your personal life affect your chances of getting into medical school? This month's expert docs answering questions on the website, aspiringdocs.org, say that your extracurricular activities and personal experiences are an essential part of your application. Medical schools will have lots of extremely bright applicants with fantastic MCAT scores. Your life experiences are what make you a real person to the admissions committee, says Matthew Rudy, a third-year medical student at the Medical College of Georgia. Be proud of your strengths and share what you've learned from your weaknesses. Everyone has them. Adds Dr. Wayne Samuelson, a professor of medicine at the University of Utah: medical schools want well rounded individuals who have had meaningful life experiences, not experiences that are largely superficial and self-centered.
A Demanding Path
Exactly how much time will it take to become a doctor? eHow.com says you better be prepared for a long, expensive journey through medical school and residency. Don't take this decision lightly. Once you have completed the four years of medical school (after college), then you have to apply for a residency program in the United States to become licensed to practice in this country. You must take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) before you can apply for a residency program. Most programs are four to six years depending on the specialty that you are interested in entering. Some residency programs can be even longer, for example, becoming a neurosurgeon.