The Truth About Dropping Pre-Med

The best Christmas gift I ever received was a child’s doctor set, complete with a stethoscope, tongue compressors, faux pill bottles, a prescription pad, and even a personalized set of scrubs with a white lab coat. Ever since I was little, I knew that I was destined to become a doctor. And it all made sense. Throughout elementary and middle school I not only enjoyed my math and science courses the most, but I continually excelled at them. As I continued to grow older and my passion for service work and helping people began to develop, a career in medicine seemed to be even more promising. It not only combined my love of science but also allowed me to do work that I was truly passionate about.​In high school, I spent my junior and senior year taking athletic training courses and shadowing physicians on a regular basis. I kept my grades high, and I was excited to become a pre-med student. I knew that it would be hard, and I also knew that out of the multitude of students who enter college on the pre-med track, many end up elsewhere by the time they leave, but I was so ready to take on the challenge. I would never have guessed that I would end up becoming one of the many students who dropped pre-med before the end of my sophomore year. ​I think that there were always small signs that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a doctor, such as going into shock when my brother broke his arm, having a bizarre fear of IVs, or the fact that I have panic attacks when I’m in crowded, overwhelming situations. I think that the reason why I chose not to look at these as major deal breakers was because they always seemed like obstacles that I could overcome with a bit of willpower and hard work. Typically the hardest thing for a pre-med student is just getting through all of the required courses. Everything else is easy when compared to your first Organic Chemistry class. And, I entered college with that mindset: that if I could succeed in my classes and get into a good medical school, then I could do anything. And what’s more, I naively assumed that the reason most students drop pre-med is because they can’t keep up with the work. Needless to say, I was wrong.

The first sign occured when I began my second semester of Freshman year. I was taking a bunch of random courses that I needed for medical school as well as my first semester of organic chemistry and my second semester of introductory biology. Within the first month, I found that although the content in my biology class was far easier, I enjoyed my chemistry course exponentially more. It wasn’t that I was doing poorly in the class or that it was a bad class; I just realized that I don’t like biology. I began to question how I was going to get through three more years of classes if I didn’t even enjoy half of them.

Then came the first weekend of spring break. It was the first morning I was home, and I was woken up suddenly by my panicked mother: my brother had just broken his arm. He was playing in a soccer match at the time, so my mom and I jumped in the car to meet up with him and my dad at the hospital. I was genuinely excited because I love hospitals and all of the action that comes along with being in an emergency room. As soon as we walked in, though, I realized that the break was just as bad as the one that had made me go into shock years earlier. I tried so hard to stay calm. I’d seen a broken arm before (one exactly like it), and I knew that everything would be okay. I knew all the steps that the doctors would take to help him, and I wasn’t worried for him. But, seeing the deformity and the look of pain on my brother’s face, it wasn’t long before I was pale, clammy, and throwing up in the bathroom. I didn’t understand how I could have such an adverse reaction to something that I knew so much about and felt so comfortable with in the abstract. It was then that things started to click. There were parts of the medical field that made me really uncomfy. Things that I realized I may never be able to change. And as I began to think more, I started to think about what other parts of my pre-med routine I wasn’t so fond of. I didn’t like biology, and I didn’t want to take a bunch of courses just because they would be good for the MCAT. I didn’t want my life to be so planned and controlled, especially since I wasn’t even sure if medicine was right for me.

It took me until the fall of my sophomore year to finally decide to drop the pre-med track. I think that a lot of it came from not wanting to seem weak. I had put so much effort into preparing for medical school, and I didn’t want people to think that I wasn’t smart enough or that I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be a failure. But, there came a point when I realized that I had to stop thinking about how other people would perceive my decision. The facts were all right in front of me, and the truth was that I just wasn’t passionate about medicine in the way that I once was. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.When I dropped the pre-med track, it changed a lot of things for me. I was able to have more freedom when it came to the classes I took, and now I take classes just because I’m interested in them. I have the freedom to get more involved with organizations on campus, and I’ve started doing research in a chemistry lab, which has been completely life changing. I don’t know what my plans for the future are now, but I have the time and the space to figure that out. And I’m excited. Dropping the pre-med path was one of the hardest decisions that I’ve ever had to make, but it has also been one of the bests decisions that I’ve made so far. It can be scary to give up on a dream that has been important for so long, but sometimes you have to let go so you can explore elsewhere. And sometimes you’ll find that the opportunities you find elsewhere are even better than the things you left behind.


Image Credit: The Bouquot Family, 1, 2, 3, 4