Y U No Premed?!

I’ve had many, many long discussions with myself and my fellow friends about this, and I’ve had a lot of overwhelming support from an innumerable amount of people for switching away from being premed. So many people liked my status when I said it was the best decision that I had ever made that it almost made tears come to my eyes. And people also asked me what changed my mind. I think this post sums it up pretty well.

It’s crazy because I’m starting my senior year, and by this point, if I followed the med school route properly, I should have already applied to med schools and taken the MCATs forever ago. Right now, I should be awaiting interviews. And secondary applications.

But I’m not.

I’m not doing any of that. Instead, I’ve joined a zumba class. And perhaps a pilates class. I’ve taken on a role as movie reviewer for the The Targum (and I’ll soon be reviewing Sausage Party so look out for it!) I’ve applied to be Event Coordinator for Hall Government for Livingston Apartments. I’ve gone to all of my classes (many of them science) and actually enjoyed myself. I bought myself a Polaroid camera. I’ve started scrapbooking. I’ve started writing more. I’ve started waking up in the morning without dreading the rest of the day.

Basically, I have done everything that I refused to allow myself to do while I was on the premed path.

Being premed comes with so many pressures and structures that don’t exist in other professions. There’s collecting letters of recommendation and being on your best behavior 24/7 (which you should do anyway, but it’s just another pressure). There’s filling up your resume so you look balanced but accomplished. That means having lab work, clinical work (whether volunteer or paid), and high involvement in student activities. There’s shadowing doctors. There’s making sure you do well in all your classes (for the high GPA — a 3.5 is just barely competitive) and learn the material thoroughly so reviewing it later for MCATs won’t be difficult. There’s studying for MCATs, and researching which are the best books to prepare for it. There’s actually taking the MCATs, which is about seven hours long. There’s writing a personal statement for med schools. There’s filling out the rest of the application for med schools. There’s taking all the courses required (they added sociology, psychology, and statistics). And then, if you’re accepted, med schools will send you a secondary application to fill out. Oh, and let’s not forget the extreme competition.

The last picture was literally me:

These are all just checkpoints in college. IN COLLEGE. Then, when you apply, only about 50% of students actually make it into med school. Even if you’re well-qualified.

This route, obviously, is not for the faint of heart. It’s also not for those who have no heart for it. And I did have heart for it, for a long time. I enjoyed the community that came with premed. Everyone was suffering, and everyone joked about it. I also wanted to change things, and I assumed that the best way to do so was what came after med school and residency. But it’s not the best way; it just IS a way.

It took me years to learn that.

And I realized that it wasn’t making me happy, or content. There were red flags everywhere: I didn’t enjoy volunteering clinically after a while. Shadowing was helpful, but a lot of doctors I saw didn’t look content with themselves, or, unfortunately, were very pompous. My science classes were stressful because of all the pressure, even though I knew I could excel.

I followed this path for a combination of reasons. The main one I mentioned above. The other reason was a a faint, gentle push from my parents, who gave me free reign to do whatever I wanted, but also wanted me to be truly successful. Immigrant parents often want the best for their children. It’s a dialogue that needs to be discussed, that we first-generationers are pushed toward a few options more than others because those are the only fields our parents have learned as truly successful: medicine, engineering, and computer science. And it takes a toll on us, even if nudging us there was done–in our parents’ eyes–with our best interests in mind. But success has numerous different meanings.

No matter how you got to the premed path, you have to think carefully about how much time you want to put in this profession. It’s a lot of work, and it takes a toll. It can burn you out. I’ve seen some of the best people get scrubbed away by this profession. I’ve seen people shine the more they get into this profession.

This post isn’t to discourage you. It’s to truly show you the reality of what it is you signed up for. You want to change the world through becoming a doctor? Or physician’s assistant? Or nurse? Great. Make sure you’ve got the time and energy for it. And make sure that you’re doing this path for YOU, not for your parents, not just for the income, and not just for the prestige. There are other ways to gain all of that.

Because in the end, it’s your life you’re living. Not your parents’, not your friends’, not your relatives’.

So I encourage all of you to sit down and truly think. Bring all those red flags to mind about whatever profession you’re seeking. Is this profession something you like to do, even with the red flags? Will it make you content? And if not, what will?

If anyone has any of their stories to share, comment below! I’d love to hear everyone else’s thoughts!

(Cross-posted from the School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program Honors Blog).