For some people, the dream of becoming a doctor starts very early. Elementary school may fire your interest but high school is where that vision can spring to life. But how important is it to knuckle down and begin your journey this early into your academic career?
Do medical schools even look at high school?
No. Medical schools don’t usually look at your high school grades unless there are some serious red flags in other parts of your application. Your post-high school career, specifically your undergraduate GPA and MCAT score, is of significantly greater interest. For extracurriculars, however, it can be a little different.
We’ll get into why that’s the case, later in this article.
Here’s what else we’ll cover:
- If your high school GPA can carry over into your med school application
- How you can still be a doctor even if you did bad in high school
- What you can do in high school to help raise your chances of getting into med school
As a med student myself, who actually had to go all the way back to high school as an adult to get in, I understand the importance of questions such as these. The sooner you begin preparing for a life in medicine, the better your chances of making it!
Ready to learn more? Let’s go.
Why med schools don’t care about high school
In terms of your grades and how you perform academically in high school, med schools aren’t really interested.
The reasons for this can include:
- Other aspects of your application carrying greater weight (undergrad GPA, MCAT score etc.)
- The fact you can turn things around, significantly, during college
- Life experiences after high school lending themselves well to a medical career
Of course, this is usually true for most medical schools. Top-tier ones, whose candidates might be very evenly matched, could possibly be interested in looking at high school to help differentiate candidates. But I’d argue that it’s rare!
Although they can help prepare you (more on this later), your high school years certainly don’t define you in terms of your future career prospects.
Medicine falls into that.
Is high school GPA important for med school?
As previously mentioned, your high school grade point average (GPA) doesn’t usually matter for med school. The course prerequisites you take after high school, specifically, those in the hard sciences, carry more importance in terms of your GPA.
Of course, that’s not to say that your high school GPA is totally redundant. Working hard academically in high school, and aiming for as high grades as you can, is excellent preparation for applying to med school (and beyond).
Learning to be competitive during these years (and employing effective study techniques), to help you perform well, will certainly help you in the long run.
Don’t think that just because it usually doesn’t count, you can snooze on high school.
Most med school applicants boast very strong high school GPA’s as a rule.
Does med school look at high school transcripts?
No, not usually. Med schools focus on your undergraduate transcripts primarily, specifically to see whether you match a school’s particular prerequisite requirements.
The only exceptions to this are outside of the US.
Medical students in Europe, for example, usually go straight to med school out of high school (foregoing an undergraduate degree first).
For students in countries like the UK, Germany, and Spain, your high school transcript is huge. Schools in these countries look to see if they have high grades in subjects like Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. And select their candidates based on their high school transcripts and extracurricular experiences.
Here’s what the UK’s University College and Admissions Service (UCAS) says about the process. A-level grades are equivalent to US high school years…
Academic Route: three A levels at grade A in chemistry and either biology, physics or maths, plus another academic subject.(Source)
Can I become a doctor if I did bad in high school?
100% yes. You can definitely become a doctor if you did badly in high school and don’t have a great GPA or transcript. It will probably require exceptional extracurricular experiences and satisfactory fulfillment of a specific school’s subject prerequisites (and possibly MCAT), but it is doable.
I’ve written before how it’s also possible to go to community college and go on to become a doctor in the article below. It’s never too late to go back, steady the ship and aim for med school.
You’ll need to be 100% committed and really raise your study game, but I’m living proof that high school doesn’t have to limit your chances.
How can I best prepare for getting into med school during high school?
Aside from what I’ve already discussed in terms how better learning how to study (and using science-backed study techniques), here’s what else I feel you can do to help prepare for med school in high school.
- Develop strong habits (time management, consistency and discipline)
- Research as much as you can (use this website to help you!) about the process
- Contact current (and past) med students and ask them for tips and advice
- Attend sessions and workshops with your high schools career development center
- Actually visit med schools you’re interested in and talk with staff, students and alumni
Possibly my greatest tip for what to do in high school to help you raise your med school application game, however, revolves around extracurriculars.
Although the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) states that most schools won’t look at your extracurriculars during this time…
“We advise not including high school activities or activities in which your participation was minimal. Also, try to avoid boasting or exaggerating.”(Source)
…I’d argue that it’s still fundamentally important to begin getting involved during these years.
Any networking you do, connections you make, etc., through volunteering, shadowing, taking part in summer programs, etc., can help massively when it comes to gaining meaningful experience.
And there’s an absolute ton of things you can get involved with while you are at high school age (just check out my city hospital volunteering guides as proof).
Do med schools look at age?
Sometimes, but it’s not hugely important.
The median age of med school applicants in the US is around 24 (Source). I myself went to med school at 31. And I’m by no means the oldest in my cohort.
There are lots of pathways open to mature students interested in studying medicine that are largely country-specific. It just takes research (and a little discussion) to find them.
Don’t be put off by age!
To wrap things up; the vast majority of med schools won’t be interested in your high school years. While you can use those years as a good training ground for the years ahead, they are by no means definitive in terms of pursuing a healthcare-based career.
If you’re in high school and reading this, keep pushing hard and focus on your extracurriculars, activities, and making connections with physicians and other healthcare workers to help expand your experiences.
If you’re older and worried about what you did in high school holding you back, don’t.
It’s what you do now that counts. There’s always time to make a go of it.
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.