Pre-med or English?

Originally Published: October 1, 1993 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: June 18, 2010
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Hi there...

I know this isn't quite a "health" question per se, but as it has a lot to do with my mental health at the moment and I'm hoping you can point me in the right direction. I graduated from college last year with a B.A. in English, and I'm currently working on a Masters. However, now that I'm here and I'm starting to envision life as a grad student, I'm feeling kinda shaky about the career path I'm pursuing.

I started off my undergraduate career as a pre-med/English with the idea of going into public health. Pressure on women being what it is I ended up just studying English. I love literature, and always will, but now that I'm in a two year program doing it I'm starting to realize that, maybe, I made the wrong choice when I gave up the pre-med part of my program.

I guess what I've discovered is that I think I really would like to be a doctor but I'm not sure where to go from here. I don't have any of the pre-med requirements and I've already got $50,000 in loans. However, I really think this is something I would like to do. I've thought long and hard about it for years and I guess you could say I'm ready. I'm not sure of my options for how to fulfill the pre-med requirements, and as I'm currently pursuing a Humanities degree I'd like to finish, I know it will be at least another year before I can start such a program. Is it possible for me to follow this dream and where can I go to find out how to fulfill requirements? Are there summer programs of this sort? I hate feeling like my past will make me lose this. Please give me any advice, encouragement, etc. This is a hard decision and right now I'm feeling a little trapped. I know what I want to do, I just hope it isn't too late.

Signed, K turn

Dear K turn,

It's never too late to make a life change. You may have seen a movie called, "Cousin, Cousine," where one of the protagonists changed careers every three years, on schedule. To some people this idea sounds great!  For your situation it sound like you have many great ideas; however, you may have a lot of research and talking to do.

The General Studies post-bac pre-med program at Columbia is a good place to start. Consider making an appointment with an admissions counselor and with an academic dean. How about talking to some students in the program? Perhaps talk with them regarding your financial options. You can always ask about other programs, and what is the best way for you to achieve your goal. It's probably best to not let one person totally encourage or discourage you; talk to many people and get a cacophony of ideas. Follow through and further investigate all ideas that sound reasonable. You may also want to check out the Public Health school options.

Have you ever taken time off from school? It sounds like you went straight from college to grad school. You might want to think about working, or traveling, or just living in the non-academic world before engaging in the commitment of medical school. As a graduate student, you must still have an academic advisor. If you like her/him, why not discuss this with her/him also? If you don't particularly like the person assigned to you, you can change advisors.  You may also want to consider meeting with a career or personal counselor.  Having someone not tied to the specific situation with whom to talk may help you explore your options and develop some priorities and direction. 

Don't feel stuck! Take charge, ask a lot of questions, and you can make solidly informed decisions. Regardless of the path you choose, good luck and success is sure to follow!

Alice

January 26, 2007

21175
K turn,

There are a lot of different programs out there if you're interested in going to medical school.

Some are for people who, like you, are "career-changers" (read: you didn'...

K turn,

There are a lot of different programs out there if you're interested in going to medical school.

Some are for people who, like you, are "career-changers" (read: you didn't take the premed courses in undergrad, and you want to go to medical school now). Other programs are for people who did complete their premed requirements and might need to enhance their academic record.

A good place to start looking for information on these programs is at the Association of American Medical Colleges website.