Preparation in High School for a Major in Biology

Students often ask about what courses they should take in high school to be prepared to enter college as a biology major. Below are some thoughts from the faculty at Emporia State University. In general, you can never be over-qualified to enter college, but being under-prepared may close some options to you or delay your graduation as you develop skills that should have been developed in high school. Do not consider these courses to be hurdles to be gotten over but instead consider them to be knowledge and skills to be developed and used.

CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS: If you wish to major in biology at Emporia State University, or any university for that matter, we strongly encourage you to take as much science as you can in high school. This should include a year of biology, a year of chemistry, and a year of physics. Additional biology can be very helpful but should not be taken in place of chemistry and physics. Regardless of the field of biology that you enter, you will need to take college-level chemistry and physics. Having a solid basis in these courses in high school will make the transition to college-level courses much easier.

MATHEMATICS: In addition to these science courses, you also need to take as much mathematics as possible. It would be very helpful if you complete what are commonly called algebra I, algebra II, and trigonometry. With a solid background in mathematics, you can begin chemistry your first semester. This is important as chemistry serves as a pre-requisite to many later courses in biology such as anatomy & physiology or microbiology. With adequate knowledge from high school, you could also take calculus immediately upon entering college. Calculus is required in some biology programs and will prove immensely helpful to you as a student and provide you with some excellent problem solving skills.

COMPUTER SCIENCE: Computer skills are becoming increasingly important in biology. Computers are used for communication (via email and the internet), for data and statistical analysis, for graphical representations of information, and for word-processing. The more familiar that you can become with the uses of a computer, the better prepared you will be for your course work. We recommend at least one computer course before coming to college.

COMMUNICATION: As biologists, we are increasingly being called upon to communicate what we know to a variety of audiences (our colleagues, the public, lawmakers, etc.). Thus, verbal and written communication skills are extremely important to a successful career. In fact in surveys of companies, communication skills are often at the top of the list of skills most necessary for advancement, regardless of the person's position in the company. To this end you should take as many high school-level courses in English, literature, and speech that you can. These courses will allow you to hone your writing and speaking skills and prepare you for more advanced work at the college level. Like any activity the more you practice the better you become. Thus the more you write for an audience and the more you speak to an audience, the better writer and speaker you become.

We hope that you find the information helpful. If you would like to visit Emporia State University, including talking with a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences, you can arrange a visit through the Admission Office.