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59 Great Medical Programs for High School Students + Advice

Posted by Dora Seigel | Oct 30, 2017 7:00:00 PM

Extracurriculars

 

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Thinking about a career in medicine? I highly recommend trying out some medical experiences in high school before committing to a pre-med track. Many of my high school friends who hoped to go into medicine ended up changing their major during college when the pre-med courses got too difficult.

Doing a medical internship, summer program, or community service project in high school can help you decide if medicine is the right track for you before you waste time and money trying pre-med in college. This guide will explain what experiences are open to you as a high school student, what those experiences involve, and how you will benefit from them.

 

What Medical Experiences Are Available to High School Students?

There are lots of ways to get a taste of it's like to work in medicine. In my opinion, the best time to do this is over the summer. You have the most free time during the summer, and there are more experiences available. 

There are many summer medical programs and summer medical internships for high school students across the country. These opportunities range from research experiences to in-hospital experiences. Some of these programs and internships charge you a fee to attend, some are paid for, and some even pay you to attend.

I’ve compiled a list of over 50 summer medical programs for high school students. Several of these programs and internships are just for students from a specific state or area. Check specific programs for application requirements and fees. I've provided links to each program below. 

If you’d like to get experience during the school year (on weekends and after school), you should consider shadowing a doctor or volunteering at a hospital. I’ll discuss the details of volunteering and job shadowing later in the article. 

 

List of Summer Medical Programs for High School Students

I've divided up the summer medical programs into three categories: Medical Programs, Medical Research Programs, and general Science Research Programs. 

 

Medical Programs

In the medical programs category, I list programs that offer high school students the chance to get hands-on experience in medicine (non-research related) such as learning simple medical procedures, watching surgeries, shadowing doctors, working in hospitals, interacting with patients, and more. There are very few programs that offer this type of experience to high school students, and I highly recommend them since they'll give you the most realistic look at what life's like as a pre-med student, medical student, and medical professional. 

Program
Host Institute/Hospital
Location
Cost
Program Length
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Cincinnati, OH
No cost. Interns are paid up to $1,296
8 weeks
Mentoring in Medicine and Science
Oakland, CA
$1,000
5 days
National Student Leadership Council
Various universities throughout the US
$3,095- $3,395
9 days
Stanford University
Stanford, CA
No cost
5 weeks
Rady Children's Hospital and UC San Diego
San Diego, CA
$1,975
12 days
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA
$7,925
4 weeks

 

Medical Research Programs

If you're unable to do one of the above medical programs, the next best thing is a medical research program. In these programs, you'll be working in a lab and helping with medical research that's in progress (i.e. looking at slides under a microscope, recording changes) or assisting with on-going clinical research (i.e. interviewing participants in an on-going trial of new medication, logging participant information in the computer). Many of these programs pair you with a mentor who works at your location. Also, several of these programs require you to give a presentation at the end of the program.

These medical research programs are extremely valuable because, as a pre-med student, you'll likely end up doing lab work either for class or as an extracurricular for your medical school application. If you do one of these programs in high school, you'll be a step ahead of your pre-med classmates. 

Program
Host Institute/Hospital
Location
Cost
Program Length
Arthritis Foundation
California
No cost. Interns are paid $1,500
8 weeks
Buck Institute for Research on Aging
Novato, CA
$2,500
7 weeks
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC
Atlanta, Georgia
No cost
5 days
Children's Hospital Colorado
Aurora, CO
No cost. Interns are paid $3,500
8 weeks
Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute
Oakland, CA
No cost
9 weeks
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
Cincinnati, OH
No costs. Interns receive a stipend of up to $2,916
9 weeks
Eugene and Ruth Roberts Summer Student Academy
Duarte, CA
No cost. Students receive a stipend of $4,000
10 weeks
Coriell Institute for Medical Research
Camden, NJ
No cost. Students receive a stipend of $1,000
3 weeks
Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center
Boston, MA
No cost. Students are paid per hour (salary varies)
2-3 years (part-time during the school year)
Indiana University Cancer Center
Indianapolis, IN
No cost. Students are paid per hour (salary varies)
9 weeks
Magee Women's Research Institute
Pittsburgh, PA
No cost. Students are paid an hourly minimum wage
4 weeks
Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience
Jupiter, FL
No cost. Students will receive a stipend (amount varies)
6 weeks
McLaughlin Research Institute
Great Falls, MT
No cost. Students will receive a stipend (amount varies)
8 weeks
MD Anderson Cancer Center
Houston, TX
No cost. Students receive a scholarship for housing costs
7 weeks
Medical College of Wisconsin
Milwaukee, WI
No cost. Students receive a stipend to help with housing costs
6 weeks
National Cancer Institute
Frederick, MD
No cost. Students receive a $3,400 stipend
8 weeks
National Eye Institute
Bethesda, MD & Rockville, MD
No cost. Students receive a stipend to help with housing costs
8-12 weeks
NIH
Bethesda, MD
No cost. Students receive a stipend to help with housing costs
8 weeks
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases
Bethesda, MD
No cost. Students receive a stipend to help with housing costs
8 weeks
NIDA
Various universities throughout the US
No cost. Interns are paid $12 an hour
8 weeks
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Bethesda, MD
No cost. Students receive a stipend (amount varies)
8-10 weeks
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Research
Triangle Park, NC
No cost. Students are paid per hour (salary varies)
8 weeks
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Bethesda, MD
No cost. Students receive a stipend (amount varies)
8 weeks
Roswell Park Cancer Institute
Buffalo, NY
No cost. The most competitive applicants will receive stipends of $2,520
7 weeks
Stanford University School of Medicine
Stanford, CA
No cost. Students receive stipends from $500 to $1500
8 weeks
The Jackson Laboratory
Bar Harbor, ME
No cost. Students receive a stipend of $5,250
10 weeks
Translational Genomics Research Institute
Phoenix, AZ
No cost. Students are paid $10 an hour
8 weeks
University of Connecticut Health Center
Farmington, CT
$1850 per week (some discounts available)
1-4 weeks
University of Hawaii, Cancer Center
Honolulu, HI
No cost. Students receive a stipend of $1,500
4 weeks
University of Minnesota Medical School, Lillehei Heart Institute
Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
No cost. Students receive a stipend of $3,000
9 weeks
University of Nebraska Medical Center, Department of Pharmacology & Experimental Neuroscience
Omaha, NE
No cost. Students receive a stipend of $1,500
10 weeks
University of Texas Medical Branch
Galveston, TX
No cost
8 weeks
Wistar Institute
Philadelphia, PA
No cost. Students receive a stipend (amount varies)
7 weeks

 

 

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Science Research Programs

If you can't do one of the medical research or medical programs, you should consider trying to do a science summer program/internship. These programs are not medicine-specific and cover a wide range of science topics (from plant life to space). However, these programs are still very valuable because, as a pre-med student, you'll be learning a ton of science. As a part of your pre-med track, you'll be required to take Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, and more. Doing one of these science programs will give you a preview of the coursework ahead of you.

Also, many of these programs are lab work, and, although they're not focused on medical research, they will still give you good general insights into how to do lab work. As I said before, as a pre-med student, you'll likely end up doing lab work either for class or as an extracurricular for your medical school application. If you do one of these programs, you'll be well-prepared to do that research.

Program
Host Institute/Hospital
Location
Cost
Program Length
Cornell University Boyce Thompson Institute
Ithaca, NY
No cost. Students receive a stipend (amount varies)
6 weeks
George Mason University
Fairfax, Virginia
No cost
7.5 weeks
Department of Defense
Washington, DC
Varies. Some programs have no cost, some give a small stipend.
Varies depending on program
J. Craig Venter Institute
Rockville, MD
No cost. Possibility for a stipend (varies) or school credit
8 weeks
Maine Space Grant Consortium
Augusta, ME
No cost
6 weeks
Massachusetts Institute of Technology - MIT
Cambridge, MA
No cost
5 weeks
Monell Chemical Senses Center
Philadelphia, PA
No cost. Students receive a stipend (amount varies)
7 weeks
Monmouth University
West Long Branch, NJ
No cost. Students are paid about $9 per hour
12 weeks
Museum of Science
Boston, MA
No cost. Most interns receive an hourly wage
Varies
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Greenbelt, MD & Wallops Island, VA
No cost. Students receive a stipend of $2,100
6 weeks
Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center
Wooster, OH
No cost. Students will receive a stipend of $2,400
10 weeks
Saturday Academy
Oregon & Southwest Washington
$250
Interns must work a total of  at least 318 hours
Scripps Research Institute
La Jolla, CA
No cost. Students are paid $11.50 per hour
7 weeks
University of Maryland
College Park, MD
No cost
1 week
University of Miami
Miami, FL
No cost. Some students receive stipends
7 weeks
State University of New York College at Oneonta
Cooperstown, NY
No cost. Interns receive a stipend of $1,750
10 weeks
The Forsyth Institute
Boston, MA
No cost. Students are paid an hourly wage (amount varies)
8 weeks
University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center
Princess Anne, MD
No cost. Students are paid $500 per week
6 weeks
University of Utah, Department of Biology
Salt Lake City, UT
No cost
7 weeks
University of Wyoming
Laramie, WY
Varies depending on program
Varies depending on program



What Are the Pros and Cons of These Programs?

These medical programs can be a great experience for many high school students, but they can have some drawbacks. In this section we'll look at the pros and cons of medical programs for high school students.

 

Pros

  • These programs and internships provide a real look at what life's like as a researcher, scientist, or medical student. You'll have a great sense of whether or not you'd like to pursue a career in the medical field after you finish your program. 
  • If you do a college campus program, you'll get a preview of college life. You can experience living away from home, and you can decide if you like the college. I did a summer program at UCLA during high school, and it made me realize that UCLA was not the school for me.
  • As I said before, these opportunities give you the chance to evaluate if pre-med is the track you want to go down before you waste time and money in college. If you love your program, you'll be even more motivated to work hard to become a medical professional.
  • You'll meet like-minded students who’re interested in medicine/science.
  • You'll have a great program or internship on your college application. By actually participating in a medical/science program, you'll show colleges that you're committed to pursuing a career in the medical field.
  • If you attend a college campus program, and you’re interested in going to college at the school that hosted the program, you’ll have shown real interest in that college (which admissions officers always like to see).

 

Cons

  • These programs can be expensive (depending on the program you choose, some can cost almost $10,000). However, some programs pay you! Make sure you check out the individual program websites to find out the cost. 
  • Also, they can be highly competitive (some admit very few students or have special qualifications such as having a 3.5 GPA or higher). 
  • Some may not provide you with the best insight into medicine, especially those that are less hands-on or only offer research exposure (which is not what you’ll necessarily be interested in).  

 

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Other Options: Hospital Volunteer or Shadowing a Doctor

Volunteering and job shadowing are both great ways to participate in medical experiences at your local hospital. You can do them during the school year or the summer. Also, both opportunities are free! 

What's the difference between volunteering & job shadowing a doctor? As a hospital volunteer, you'll have to apply (and likely interview) to be a volunteer (along with getting a TB test and filling out paperwork). You'll attend a hospital volunteer orientation and be assigned a specific "job" at the hospital (such as assisting the nurses or assisting hospital visitors in navigating the hospital). As a volunteer, you'll be required to commit to volunteering for a certain number of shifts per week. You also may have to commit to volunteering for six months or more. 

Job shadowing is a shorter experience and much less formal. You can shadow a doctor for as little time as a few hours or a day or two. While shadowing, you follow a doctor around while they go about their normal activities. They may ask you to help them with basic tasks (grabbing a chart or taking notes), but probably not. You'll be there to see what a doctor does in their daily routine to determine if it interests you. 

To sign up to be a hospital volunteer, apply through the hospital's website. If you're having trouble locating the hospital's website or contact information, check with your school academic advisor. They may have a connection to the local hospital or might know another student who has volunteered or job shadowed there and who could help you get involved. 

To find a job shadowing opportunity, reach out to any friends or family who work in the medical field. See if they know any doctors whom you could shadow. Also, ask your school's academic advisor if they know other students who shadowed a doctor and could give you more information. If your school can’t help you, get in touch with the hospital directly to see if they can help you set up a job shadowing opportunity. If you need more advice on job shadowing, read our other guide.

 

What Are the Pros and Cons of Shadowing a Doctor or Being a Hospital Volunteer?

Shadowing a doctor or being a hospital volunteer is a significantly different experience than participating in a summer medical program, and they have their own set of pros and cons.

 

Pros

  • As opposed to summer programs, these experiences are always free. As I said above, some medical programs and internships can cost up to $10,000 (so much!). Job shadowing and being a hospital volunteer are free experiences that will only cost you your time. These are great options if you can't afford the cost of a summer program.
  • Job shadowing and being a hospital volunteer can provide a real look into life as a doctor or nurse. By following them around or working in a hospital, you'll get a sense of the work environment and what life is like on a day-to-day basis for a medical professional. 
  • As I said before, these opportunities give you the chance to evaluate if pre-med is the track you want to go down before you spend time and money in college. If you don't like your experience job shadowing or as a volunteer, you might realize pre-med isn't the right path for you. However, if you love your experience, you'll feel more motivated to work towards your goal of becoming a medical professional. 
  • Job shadowing is a great experience if you don't have a lot of time to commit. You can choose to job shadow for a few hours, a full day, or for several days. It's very flexible.
  • If you want to be pre-med, volunteering at a hospital is a great extracurricular activity for your college application. While volunteering elsewhere (at a homeless shelter, animal shelter, etc.) can be great for a college application, it's good to keep your extracurriculars focused on your future goals. Volunteering at a hospital will show colleges that you're serious about a career in medicine.

 

Cons

  • Volunteer experience may not provide you with quite the medical experience you're looking for. Volunteering may not be very hands-on, and your duties may be repetitive and not directly related to medicine, such as answering phones, filing papers, and helping visitors find where they're going. 
  • If you only job shadow for a day, it's not a great experience for your college application. It's not an extracurricular activity if you only do it once because that doesn't show enough commitment. However, I recommend doing job shadowing just to get insight into the medical field. 

 

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How to Choose the Right Medical Experience for You

Each of the medical experiences listed in this article has value, but to decide which is right for you, you should ask yourself three questions:

 

#1: What Is Your Main Medical Interest?

Are you more interested in research or patient care? If research, look into one of the summer research programs. If patient care, look into one of the hospital-based programs, job shadowing or being a hospital volunteer. 

 

#2: How Much Money Are You Willing to Spend?

Do you have money to spend, do you have no money to spend, or do you need to have a job that pays? If you have money to spend, you can consider all of the options. If you have no money to spend, look into an all-expenses paid program (or one with financial aid). Also, consider volunteering or job shadowing since both are free experiences. If you need a job that pays, look into the programs with stipends for participants.

 

#3: How Much Time Do You Want to Invest in Your Experience?

Do you want to spend a day, a few hours per week, or a few weeks full-time on this experience? If you want a quick experience, consider job shadowing a doctor for a day or two. If you’d like an on-going experience to use as an extracurricular, consider volunteering since you could do that a few hours per week throughout the school year. If you’d like an intensive experience, consider doing one of the summer programs or internships. 

 

Also, always make sure to research a program or experience before you commit to it. Doing so will help avoid a bad experience (such as a program that's not very hands-on or volunteer work that's mostly grunt work). Whatever you're interested in doing, try to find another student who did it previously and ask them about their experience. For the programs, get in touch with the program coordinator to see if they can put you in contact with a program alum you can speak with.

 

How Will Colleges View These Experiences?

Colleges mainly look for extracurriculars that show your commitment, passion, and ability to handle responsibility and leadership. As I mentioned briefly above, job shadowing isn't a great experience for your college application because it's not enough of a commitment if you only do it for a few days. On the other hand, volunteering at a hospital is a great extracurricular activity for your college application because it shows a commitment to medicine.

The summer programs and internships are also great experiences for your college application because they show that same interest in and commitment to medicine. Also, many of these programs and internships are competitive, and colleges know that. If you're accepted into one of those programs or internships, colleges will view it like you won a prestigious award.

 

What’s Next?

Doing a medical program is a great step, but what else do you need to do to prepare for med school? Check out our step-by-step guide to preparing for med school as a high school student.

Also, you should learn about how to write about extracurriculars on college applications. Check out four amazing examples of extracurriculars for college applications.

Interested in a BS/MD program? They can be a great way to save some time and get your medical degree sooner. Read our guide on getting into BS/MD programs to learn more.

 

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Dora Seigel
About the Author

As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.



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