Students often ask about what they should do in high school to be prepared to enter college as a biology major. It is important to realize that the biology major is a challenging curriculum with required chemistry and math and physics required or recommended in some areas.
Success in these university courses is actually less dependent on having had specific high school courses, and more dependent on their content and rigor. Successful students bring some facts and general knowledge with them, but more than anything else they bring a studious attitude, good study skills, and the determination to work hard. Surprisingly, high school biology, taken by itself, is a poor predictor of success in college biology. An easy time in high school can leave a student under-prepared for the college biology major. If you were not made to work hard in high school, you will have to make a transition to the college biology major.
- Take challenging high school coursework in and out of the sciences.
- You need chemistry and physics - they provide a solid foundation in the physical sciences for biological study at the university. In general, students with good chemistry and physics backgrounds from high school have a better chance of succeeding in biology.
- Additional biology or science classes, such as anatomy and physiology, genetics, or advanced science are often taken in high school. These are beneficial classes, but do not neglect solid chemistry and physics classes! Take biology as a sophomore, chemistry as a junior, and physics as a senior. Then while a junior and senior take additional science courses if they are available. Tackle a challenging Science Fair project, too!
- Math courses are also important. Algebra I, algebra II, and trigonometry are common high school math courses you should have. If you have the chance, take calculus, or wait for a university class. Math is important because it is a "way of thinking", as much as anything else, and helps prepare your mind for chemistry and biology.
- Take a computer course that allows you to develop real skills using spreadsheets, word processors, and databases. While Internet browsing is fun and interesting - we use it all the time - you can learn the net anytime.
- English, literature, history, and speech? Yes! You will become a biologist, but biologists read, write, and speak - a lot. Reading is so fundamental to success that student test scores on reading are often better predictors of success in science than is a science background. If you read well or like to read and are curious about the world, you have the basic skills to succeed at the university.
- See your guidance counselor for information about the Regents Qualified Admissions and other requirements for acceptance into PSU and other Kansas Board of Regents institutions.
Attitude and Aptitude
A good attitude is important. But a good attitude comes from working hard. Satisfaction comes from achieving goals you had to work for. A good attitude is a mature view of learning - a desire to learn everything you can and not let minor complaints about the course load, the tests, the book, or the instructor get in the way of your achievement. And what about aptitude? You don't have to be a "rocket scientist" to be a decent biologist. While high scholastic achievement certainly puts you in the competition for some very competitive medical fields requiring post-graduate study, in most other areas a solid GPA and good technical skills will do.
Will I succeed?
Many students like biology and are drawn to it because of life experiences - love of animals, an encouraging high school teacher, a family relative or friend that is a health professional, or the love of the outdoors. While these experiences are a start, they must be accompanied by the ability to do well in university coursework.
Overall, the biology major is a very demanding curriculum. In the medical areas, even very qualified students do not always get into the professional school of their choice - the competition is great. Medical schools and physical therapy programs are full and many more students apply than get in. Consider alternative careers in health, some that may be achieved at community colleges. Visit our careers web page for links to your future in all the various areas of biology. See your high school teacher or counselor and be realistic when you evaluate your skills and interests.
How to apply! Want to visit?
Contact the Pittsburg State University Office of Admissions for all the details. Want to visit? We'll be happy to see you.