Advice to give a rising 9th grader and high achiever from an underprivileged background

(For what it’s worth, I’m an MD, in Texas.) So an employee of mine has a daughter who’s going into the 9th grade this coming fall. FYI she is from an underprivileged background and is an under-represented minority. She’s a very high achiever, a straight A student, in “advanced classes” at her below average public middle school. She’s also a very outgoing, friendly type with leadership qualities, and quite an athlete as well, competing in every sport she can, and cheerleading too! And her mom is telling me about her and how she wants to be a doctor like me.

But she’s signed up for a vocational program in high school, sort of a pre-healthcare track, that’s actually a great program which would get her a CNA and knock out some of the pre-reqs for an Associates Degree in Nursing, setting the stage for taking the NCCLEX and getting her RN.

But I’m telling mom, if daughter really wants to be a doctor, she needs to be taking a college prep track full of AP’s, really as many as she can get but at least AP Bio, and AP Chem, so she can handle the pre-med curriculum when she hits college. And additionally I’m telling her to transfer high schools, to the best public high school in town, so she’ll get better instruction, a larger college bound peer group, and perhaps more AP classes to choose from.

I’m saying if she later decides she wants to be a nurse, it will be a lot easier to back off of the premed track and redirect, than it will be to enter and be successful in the premed track in college after a pre-healthcare vocational track in HS.

I see her as a good candidate for Texas’ JAMP program, really what it was designed for, but my visit to the JAMP website didn’t yield a lot of resources for high school curriculum choice.

Do y’all agree? Is there anything you would add to, or subtract from this? I’m concerned also that there’s a chance that I could be encouraging her to overextend herself, setting the stage for failure/disappointment, and maybe RN would be great for her. But how can I really know? Your thoughts?

You are surely aware that one needs more than just drive to become an MD. One also needs a high IQ and access to decent education. This young woman may have the ability to become an RN and then BSN, and may not have what it takes to become a doctor. As you seem well aware, it’s not a good idea to push her out of her comfort zone, into a track that may not lead to success for her.

The vo-tech program to become a nurse is a good idea, for most young people who want to go into medicine. But if the young person is REALLY smart, plus has drive and family support, and is an URM, she should look into programs like this:

What this program does is support good students of color in getting qualified to be admitted to prep schools (on full scholarship). The prep schools take it from there. This young woman is eligible, but the parent would have to move ahead on this FAST. The idea would be to immediately start getting her ready to take the SSAT and apply for prep school admissions, for Fall 2022, with her repeating 9th grade. BTW, the prep schools like it if these kids have athletic ability, too. You might be able to help by getting her access to tutoring for the SSAT, because a high score on that is going to be very important.

I was in a similar situation to yours, and the reality was, all the families that I told about this were just not able to provide the support to their students. Frankly, although they all loved the idea when they heard about it, not a single one of them ever bothered to even ask for an application, let alone submit one.

If they’re the kind of people who wouldn’t follow through on such a thing, I think that it’s best to leave well enough alone. This girl could be streamlined to get her RN at the community college in one year, go to work, and then do an RN to BSN program. From that, she could go into any of the many fields available to nurses, beyond the BSN. Might be the best thing for her.

Getting a strong academic foundation is going to open doors, regardless of where this kid ends up. There is no substitute (whether as a nurse, a physician, or anything else) for a college prep course load in math, English, etc. Becoming a CNA can ALWAYS be a backup plan to a college prep program!


As the mom to a rising 9th grade girl, she wants to do a handful of things right now and who knows what she will end up wanting to do after she graduates high school, shes only 13. My middle kid was “advanced” in middle school. Hes now a sophomore and figured out he hates math and is getting a C in it.

Unless you have talked to the child yourself, who knows how strong of a pull to be a doctor is. If she decides she wants to be a doctor, she can do that in college. Many colleges lead to med school and your performance in high school isn’t going to prevent you from getting into med school. If she wants to be a doctor, she has a good 8 years of being cutthroat and miserable in college, let her have her fun in high school.

The vocational program doesn’t sound horrible. I actually know a handful of doctors who were actually nurses first. If she does want to be a nurse, no it is NOT easy to “redirect” after you start college pre med and go into nursing. Most nursing schools have a 10% or less acceptance rate. The nursing program I work for has only accepted 3 transfers in the last 5 years. Thats 3 total, not 3 each year. Most year we are declining due to space as we have to cap our numbers.

Appreciate the good intentions but per the terms of service on CC a poster cannot ask on behalf of anyone other then him/herself of child. You can suggest that the parents open a CC account to get advice.