Confessions of a Pre-Med dropout
I, like (probably) many of you prospective students, came to Vanderbilt with a fuzzy idea of what I wanted to do with my life. As an Indian American, culturally, the only profession worth anything is medicine. It’s every parent’s dream to have a child get into a top med school and be a world-renowned doctor, but it’s also every parent’s general expectation that one of their children will have some type of medical profession. I’m a first generation immigrant too so there was also the added pressure of the American Dream and all that jazz. So, basically I had to make all of my parent’s sacrifices mean something by being successful, and because there was only one defined path to success, I always lowkey knew I’d be premed in college.
Throughout high school, I quickly realized that I was enraptured with history and political science, not biology and chemistry. I found it really hard to reconcile my true interests with what I was expected to study. Not to say that all South Asian Americans who are pre-med only do it because of their parents or cultural expectations, because there are people who are genuinely passionate about the field, but I just wasn’t one of them. While applying for college, I marked undecided for all my schools because I had this inner tug of war between my true interests and what I was expected to do. Reflection from Mulan basically became by theme song – melodramatic, I know :/
Later, I learned that there isn’t a “Pre-med Major”. You just need to take the requirements and you can major in whatever you want. At Vandy, most people major in Neuroscience or this cool interdisciplinary major, Medicine, Health, and Society, but there are a bunch of people majoring in things like English or Philosophy that are on their way to Med School too, so that was really reassuring! I realized that I could still take all of the political science and history classes my heart desired and still be pre-med. So with that in mind I came to Vanderbilt with classes that interested me on my schedule along with the dreaded Chemistry 1601 (Gen Chem).
While my course work was more rigorous than high school, I found that I wasn’t drowning. I was actually doing really well in a notoriously difficult class, but inside I knew I didn’t really want to go through with the next 8+ years of study to be a doctor. It took a lot of convincing (of myself and then my parents), but eventually I found a major that just fit me better.
When I came back for my second semester I decided to be more decisive and deliberate about my future, taking the classes and making the choices that would lead me to finding what I want to study. This semester I’m taking PSCI 1100 Intro to American Government and Politics, SOC 1010 Intro to Sociology, WGS 1160 Sex and Society, SPAN 3303 Intro to Spanish Lit, MATH 1200 Single Variable Calculus I, and a Commons Seminar – Making Connections. While all of those classes are useful and interesting, the one that really helped me out was my commons seminar, which I actually ended up choosing after reading about it in an Inside Dores post (meta).
This class was so profoundly helpful because it forced me to really question why I’m here and not somewhere else, and what I’m going to do about it. One of our major assignments was the College Action Plan in which we had to literally plan out our next 3 years with the exact classes and organizations we plan on getting involved in.
We obviously won’t be held to this plan, but taking the time to figure out what classes to take for my major and what I want to devote my time and energy to was really helpful because it made me find a focus and a purpose instead of just floating around with no idea about what’s going on.
Also, my Professor brought in guests from the various centers at Vanderbilt, which also helped me see what resources were available. The most helpful guest was definitely Anne Reed from the Center for Student Professional Development because we did this activity that helped us decide where our interests lie, and that class convinced me to go the center again for more advice and help with applying to internships and working on my interview skills.
When I first got to Vanderbilt, I was unsure about what I wanted to do and following what I thought was the only path available. Being here has given me the resources to figure out who I want to be and what I want to achieve.
So yes, I admit it: I’m a pre-med drop out. But that’s fine.