There are several things you can begin doing while in high school to help prepare yourself for a career in health care, ranging from after-school and summer volunteer and work opportunities to courses you take while in school.
Volunteering, Shadowing, and Work Experience
Professional schools like to see consistent experience in working with people. They want to make sure that you are choosing a field because you genuinely want to help people, and so extended volunteer work, especially into high school, can go a long way in convincing them that you are right for them.
Additionally, they want to make sure you know the field you are getting into. By shadowing someone who works in your desired field, or by choosing to work (even in a small capacity, like file clerk) in that field, will show them that you know what the work involves and that you are not naive about what it entails.
For more information on shadowing opportunities for high school students, contact our pre-health professional recruiter.
High School Classes: There are several classes that you need to take while you are in high school. Some general guidelines are below.
Math: Try to take as many math courses as you can. When you enter college, you will need to be through college algebra before you can take your chemistry courses (it's recommended to be much farther along than college algebra if you can), and this can set you back significantly. Once you enter college, you will need to take up to Survey of Calculus or Calculus I (though it is recommended that you go farther), and so it's highly recommended that you take at least trigonometry/precalculus while in high school. You will be placed in a math course by your math ACT subscore, so you will need to aim for a subscore higher than a 21 to be placed in Precalculus and a 23 for Calculus.
Chemistry: Take as many advanced chemistry courses as your school offers. Whether you major in biology or chemistry, you will need to have a firm background in chemistry to do well in the college science courses. Many students find that regular high school chemistry is not rigorous enough to prepare them for college chemistry, and we highly recommend students enroll in upper-level chemistry courses (at least Pre-AP, if not AP) so that they are adequately prepared. Math is crucial to success in chemistry courses.
Biology: Take as many advanced biology courses as your school offers. Many freshman take our entry-level biology courses and realize it is much more rigorous than their high school biology courses. It is important that you challenge yourself as much as possible in the sciences while in high school so that you do not immediately fall behind upon entering these difficult college courses. Pre-AP and/or AP Biology is highly recommended.
English: If you can, try to take Composition I and II or AP English while in high school. These classes can replace your entry-level freshman english courses in college, and by doing this, you will "free up" a lot of your time, allowing you to spend the time on the classes you need in order to be competitive for entering a professional school.
Foreign Language: While many schools offer different foreign language classes, it is important that anyone considering a career in health care in the United States take Spanish. Many of your future patients will only be able to communicate in Spanish, and by having the ability to speak with them is vital. It also increases your chances of being accepted into a professional school, and increases your marketability once you begin working.
If you choose a major in Biology, you will technically only need to have two semesters of a foreign language (two "years" in high school), whereas for Chemistry, you will need to get through "Intermediate (foreign language) II" (4 semesters of the foreign language). If you take the opportunity while in high school to take as many Spanish classes as you can, you will be placed in one of the advanced Spanish classes, which saves you a significant amount of time. If you choose to major in Chemistry, it is even more important that you take as many high school Spanish classes as possible; most students who take only two years of high school Spanish are placed in "Elementary Spanish II" - the second semester of your required four and the equivalent of only one year in high school. The more you take in high school, the less you have to take while in college.
Community College Classes: Many students take the opportunity to get a head-start on their college classes by taking courses at a community college. If you choose to take classes at another university before coming here, it is important that you take the right classes. Review our transfer student section below to learn what classes you should and should not take.
Many students plan to transfer into ASU. If you are planning to transfer, there are some very important things of which you need to be aware.
Do not take only "General Education" Courses.
Yes, these courses will count toward your degree and may help you earn an associates degree at the school from which you are transferring, which may be very important to you, but you may end up being behind and having to add extra semesters to your time at ASU. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you begin taking the required preparatory Biology and Chemistry courses while you are there. You will be needing to take a qualifying exam after your junior year, and there are very specific courses that need to be completed before then for you to do well on it. These courses often have prerequisites that need to be met. If you do not take these prerequisite courses at your first school, then you will be behind once you arrive at ASU. Instead, build your schedule around the "core" classes (Math, Biology, Chemistry), and add the General Education courses to it at your convenience.
Pick your classes carefully.
Not all classes will transfer to ASU and "count for" one of your required classes. For example, a general Biology class may "technically" meet your requirements at your initial school, and may also meet the General Education requirements for ASU, but it may not replace the Biology class you need to take here. As a result, those credit hours will have done you no good, and you would need to retake those entry-level Biology courses.
To help you decide what classes to take at your initial school, click here for a list of recommended courses for transfer students. Please keep in mind that these are general guidelines and not tailored to your school. For a complete list of equivalent credits that transfer into ASU from other schools, please click here.
Meet with an ASU advisor in the Biology or Chemistry department before you start.
This will help you avoid any potential problems you may have as you begin at ASU. It is difficult enough to get into professional schools without being at an immediate disadvantage.