High School Students and Parents
Dear High School Students and Parents,
Welcome to the Health Professions and Prelaw Center! HPPLC is part of University Division and the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, but serves the entire Indiana University Bloomington community and beyond. HPPLC's mission is to help Indiana University students, from freshman to alumni, become thoughtful, well-prepared applicants to professional schools across the country. In this spirit, we would like to offer some suggestions for high school students who are considering a career in law, medicine, or another health profession, and we're confident that parents will also find this information useful.
We hope you will consider Indiana University Bloomington, but the suggestions below apply no matter what colleges you are considering. As part of your decision-making process, we hope you will contact the Admissions Office to arrange a meeting with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center during your campus visit. You can call them at 812.855.0661 or fill out their online webform to make the arrangements. Every year over 5,000 prospective IU students nationwide indicate an interest in one of our areas, so unfortunately HPPLC cannot take direct phone calls or emails concerning visits or advising prior to your matriculation in the fall. If you are admitted and decide to attend IU, you will meet one-on-one with an academic advisor for up to one hour during summer Orientation, where your preprofessional plans will be discussed in detail.
Best wishes, and great success along whichever path you choose!
The HPPLC Staff
in Law, Medicine, and Other Health Professions
Arrange a Visit with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center
If you are not yet an IUB student but are thinking of becoming one, whether as an incoming freshman or as a transfer student, we encourage you to contact the IU Undergraduate Admissions Office to schedule a campus tour (call 812.855.0661, or fill out the online form on the Office of Admissions website). When you contact the Admissions Office, you may request to participate in a group academic session with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center during your visit. We would enjoy the opportunity to tell you more about HPPLC, and answer your questions. Parents are very welcome to attend. Please do not call or email HPPLC directly, as all visits must be arranged through the Admissions Office (we will simply refer you back to them)!
A critical first step in exploring careers is to arrange, as soon as possible, job shadowing, observation, or internship experiences with people who already work as professionals in your area or areas of interest. Doing so can help you decide for certain whether a given career is the best choice or whether you need to continue exploring different areas. For instance, if you are considering both nursing and respiratory therapy as possible careers, then arrange to shadow both nurses and respiratory therapists in a variety of settings - hospitals, clinics, retirements homes, and so on. Or, if you are thinking of attending medical school or a physical therapy program, you should undertake clinical observation of people working in a variety of settings within those professions. Many students are able to arrange shadowing initially through a family physician, dentist, or other healthcare provider. Students interested in law school can gain exposure to the legal profession by, for instance, interning at a law firm or committing themselves to law-related volunteer activities. If your high school has a shadowing and observation program or offers classes that involve such, we strongly encourage you to participate in them.
For Those Interested in Graduate-Level Professional Programs
Law schools, medical schools, and graduate-level health professions programs generally have no preference as to what your undergraduate major is as long as you complete admission prerequisites. For instance, it is a common myth that prelaw students should major in political science, or that premedical students must major in biology or chemistry. If one of these majors genuinely interests you, then that's fine - you could certainly choose to pursue it. But in any case, for those leaning towards graduate-level professional programs, as you begin to think about what your undergraduate major might be, we strongly suggest you gravitate towards those areas in which you do have a genuine interest. In addition, you do not need to decide for certain what your undergraduate degree or major will be before you begin your college coursework. If you decide to enroll at IUB and are exploratory (sometimes called "undecided"), you will receive personal advising that can include help in choosing a major. University Division's Exploratory Student Services is another resource you could utilize once you begin classes.
Other Resources to Explore
Elsewhere on the HPPLC web site you will find additional resources and information about careers in medicine and other health professions (including both undergraduate and graduate-level programs). Our Health Professions Descriptions document is also a useful resource.
Those interested in exploring careers in law may wish to visit the University of Pennsylvania's Law as a Career Choice page as well as the material on this site entitled Making the Decision to Attend Law School, and refer also to the American Bar Association's pamphlet on Legal Careers. We also suggest you take advantage of the wealth of information available at the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics web site. Their Occupational Outlook Handbook is another invaluable research tool.
High School Preparation for Careers
in Law, Medicine, and Other Health Professions
What Classes Should I Take in High School?
Take a variety of classes
High school students interested in professional programs need to excel academically and lay a strong foundation for college. All professional programs and careers, including law school, medical school, and other health professions, will require you to have excellent reading, writing, oral communication, and critical thinking skills. Taking a variety of challenging courses in the humanities and social sciences (literature, writing, history, philosophy, and the like) is usually the best way to hone these skills. Other courses like public speaking can also help prepare you for college-level coursework and other preprofessional experiences.
In addition to the areas of study noted above, science courses play a critical role in preparing students who plan to seek admission to medical school or other health professions programs. These students should take advanced coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics (including pre-calculus or calculus) consistently throughout high school, including senior year. If your school offers anatomy and physiology you might consider taking these courses as well. And remember that one cannot overstate the importance of humanities and the other types of courses previously noted. Remember that completing humanities and the other types of courses previously noted is also important. Medical schools and other health professions programs expect applicants to have a solid foundation in those areas as well.
Advanced Placement (AP) credit
We advise premed students to complete all medical school requirements in college in order to obtain the best preparation for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and admission to medical school. At Indiana University Bloomington, many of the courses that fulfill premed requirements are specifically taught in a manner which helps prepare students for the MCAT. Also make note of the fact that, even though some AP credit may be used to fulfill IU undergraduate degree requirements, many medical schools restrict or prohibit the use of AP credit to meet admission requirements. The same holds true for some masters and doctoral-level graduate programs; for example, some occupational therapy, physical therapy, and physician assistant programs do not allow AP credit to fulfill admission prerequisite courses, or restrict how it can be used.
High school courses compared to college courses
It is critically important that you absorb the fact that there is a dramatic difference between how classes are taught in high school and how they are taught in college, both in terms of subject matter and expectations. This is one reason why it is so important that you establish a solid, well-rounded academic foundation before college. This foundation must include not only coursework, but also time management and study skills, strong motivation, persistence, and the willingness to get extra help immediately when a grade begins to dip below an A- or B+. (IUB does use "shaded grading," and so awards pluses and minuses.)
Once in college, you will need to adapt the good skills and habits you developed in high school to a more demanding work load. The expectation at IUB is that undergraduates spend 25 or 30 hours each week outside of class working on their coursework - studying and so on. The 5 or 10 hours per week which some students find adequate in high school will not be sufficient for someone who wishes to become a competitive applicant to medical school or another health professions program. We say this not to make you nervous, but to let you know you have an opportunity now to work on developing the skills and habits which will help you find success once you are in college.
Continue with job shadowing and/or clinical observation. We want to reiterate the importance of this component of career exploration and preparation. In addition to its other benefits, this kind of activity provides good networking potential for arranging future experiences, garnering references, and so on, and is your opportunity to ask detailed questions about the profession. As such, it is also an important part of your professional development. See below.
It is never too early to begin your professional development. You are welcome to explore the HPPLC professional development page to learn what it is and how to get started. Volunteering, skill development, professionalism, and most other components of professional development are things you can begin to work on now.
College is Different from High School
As a high school student you are likely to hear repeatedly - from parents, high school counselors, teachers, and others - and it bears repeating here - that there are vast differences between high school and college. This is a very wise observation and we urge you to take it seriously. College freshman, including those who earned excellent grades but who "did not need to study much in high school," are usually surprised at how much more commitment of time and effort is required in college. In addition, college students are often reluctant to get extra help from instructors and tutoring services when they are having difficulty with a course or their grade dips below an A- or B+. This is a serious mistake we would like you to avoid, no matter where you attend college. Students who hope to earn admission to competitive programs simply cannot afford to pass up these opportunities to improve their performance. We say these things not to intimidate you, but so that you are not caught off-guard once you begin your college coursework. Please read the HPPLC document, How College is Different from High School for more details.
Important Note Regarding Background Checks
Many law schools, medical schools, and other health professions programs require a criminal background check prior to admission. In addition, many will want an accounting of any personal or academic misconduct recorded by your undergraduate institution. Most licensure and certification processes also require a background check. Keep your record clean!
Other Important Resources
Elsewhere on the HPPLC site, you can read more about high school preparation for law school, preparing for a career in medicine, and careers in other health professions. As mentioned earlier, the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics web site and Occupational Outlook Handbook are also invaluable research tools.
And again, we welcome you to arrange a visit to the Health Professions and Prelaw Center!