Getting off the Pre-med Track


‘Are you pre-med?’ For most freshman taking first year biology and chemistry courses the answer is ‘yes’. However, by the time sophomore year rolls around, students aren’t answering this question as eagerly as before. After a year of all-nighters, never-ending labs, caffeine crashes, social constraints, and sleep deprivation, the ‘premeds’ begin to reconsider.

The decision to pursue a Pre-Medical undergraduate program is popular among incoming freshmen. For some, this is the realization of a life-long goal- something they’ve wanted to do since childhood. Many of these students go on to pursue successful careers as doctors. Tåhen, there are other students who make the decision to chase after a new dream.

The prospect of abandoning the road to medical school can seem like a failure. But let’s be honest – most of us had no idea what we were doing when we first enrolled in college. What little we knew about the medical profession, we learned from watching television shows like Greys Anatomy and House. Pre-Med? Sure, being a doctor sounds fun (and profitable), so why not?

Medical school is not for everyone. And it’s no secret that not everyone can go. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, some 40,000 students apply to medical school each year, but only 17,000 matriculate. That’s less than half of all who apply!

When I first began to consider that medical school might not be happening, I felt inadequate. I no longer knew what I wanted to do in life. I’d been on the premed treadmill for so long I felt that it was too late to abandon it. The only thing that felt more disheartening than the idea of a failed dream was the possibility of unemployment and wasted tuition dollars.

I began to look around. Freshman year, we were all on the same treadmill. I watched friends abandon the sciences all together and switch into majors such as psychology, business, and computer science after our first semester. For some, the ultimate decision to leave the premed track behind was the result of a few bad grades. Other students simply disliked their shadowing experience, and decided that they would like to keep their science degree, but just did not want to become physicians.

In an interview with Dr. Gaines, the director of pre-health advising, he recommended that, “When you leave the pre-med treadmill, see what you’re pursuing not as a back-up, but as an alternative.” If your plan A was medical school, and it isn’t happening, it’s okay. Flippant experimentation is probably not your best bet – it is important to give careful consideration as to what you could genuinely see yourself doing.

If you’ve wanted to be a doctor since kindergarten, you likely haven’t given yourself a chance to explore. Maybe it’s time to do it now.

There are a variety of options available to pre-med students who want to do something other than medical school. For students who are still interested in continuing with their science education, the pre-pharmacy track is a very viable option. Students can choose to enter a career in research, education, the health care business, and even explore the environmental science field. In addition, if you still want to become a doctor you can – by getting your PhD.

Don’t feel discouraged. We weren’t all meant to wear scrubs. College is a time for self-exploration, and there are many equally meaningful and profitable careers outside of medical school.

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