Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Pre-med, pre-law, pre-dent…the list goes on, especially in the healthcare industry. Chances are, you’ll either meet someone who’ll follow the “pre-__” track or you’ll follow one yourself. I certainly did: I was pre-med.
Whenever someone advises you that college is a time to grow, they’re not lying. But you have to be ready: growth can be painful. For me, that pain came from finally saying goodbye to the pre-med track — even after completing 3 years worth of coursework.
Becoming a doctor is an arduous process. 4 years of taking rigorous undergraduate science classes with hundreds of students with the same ambition, combined with 4 more years of medical school itself and maybe 3-5 years of residency afterwards (and MCAT and board exams that require immense mental fortitude) is a lot to undertake, let alone consider for an 18-year-old.
I’ll be honest: I joined that bandwagon naively. I aced AP Biology with flying colors, and I was good at high school science classes. I wanted a stable income as an adult. Most of all, I wanted to have a clearly-defined career path. That was, quite honestly, the biggest draw of being pre-med: knowing that there was a “Step 1” and a “Step 2” to obtain a particular profession. As an 18-year-old, I was confused and scared of the nebulous process of job searching, the networking, the internship search with job responsibilities that might not remotely match what I learned in the classroom. I thought that an aptitude in the sciences and a goal of general altruism would make me cut out for this nicely-carved yellow brick road called Medicine.
I reached the end of my junior year without ever feeling that drive to become a doctor. For me, wanting to “help people” and having a knack for science (which Vandy rigorously tests) wasn’t enough to declare a path of doctor-to-be. Learning about organic chemistry or biochemistry never got me excited — and my grades showed it. No matter how much I shadowed, I couldn’t see myself wearing that white coat and stethoscope. But I was scared of stepping out of this road, because that would leave me in this vast, seemingly directionless field of every other career path. I didn’t know where to begin, and searching for a job seemed daunting. Above all, I thought that leaving the road was equivalent to failing.
Now, I’m happy to say that I’m pursuing a master’s in Biostatistics, and I know I want to begin working with big data in healthcare. But saying goodbye to that yellow brick road was tough.
The moral of this story is changing your future plans during college is normal and NOT an indication of failure. This is part of your growth process in college, and for some of you, it will be a tough trial, especially when you’re surrounded by so many brilliant students. College, I would argue, is also the time to seriously start thinking about your future. Maybe not in the beginning, but at ANY point. Many of you are planning to join this yellow brick road, and I say go for it. There will be those who join and stick it out until they reach the end, and I have nothing but respect for you who manage to accomplish that. But if you decide, after long and hard contemplation, that this road isn’t for you and is hurting your feet, feel free to step out. You didn’t fail; you probably just need a different road to take.