Students debate pre-med track

Bethany Cole, who was pre-med but is now an economics and public policy major, felt after taking Chemistry 101 and 102 that the science of medicine wasn’t worth the cost of being a doctor.

“For me, it was not the rigor of classes, it was really that I didn’t enjoy the material at all,” Cole said. “I was really interested in helping others and accessing medicine, but I wasn’t really interested in the actual material that goes behind being a doctor.”

While the perception is that many STEM majors feel the same way as Cole, the statistics prove otherwise. Enrollment statistics from the registrar’s office for juniors and seniors in 2016-2017 showed that 1,248 students were biology majors and 664 were chemistry majors in the Fall 2016 semester. The following semester saw a slight increase for biology majors and chemistry majors — 1,398 and 682, respectively.

Though some may not decide to go to medical school, there are still other options for them to pursue, as natural sciences and mathematics academic advisor Kathleen McNeil said.

“One thing that has really changed is it used to be that a lot of students would start in STEM in general and they were more likely to change into non-STEM majors prior to graduation at various different key points,” McNeil said. “Now, we just recently got some data back showing that students do tend to persist if they start out in STEM being STEM majors. There is lot of people discovering psychology, neurobiology or exercise and sport science who may not have even heard of it.”

Director of University Career Services Gary Miller also echoed said that some pre-med students who think they want to become doctors realize that being a doctor isn’t what it is cut out to be.

“Most students come in and think that med school is the right path and they might have a couple of different experiences that heads them off to a different path,” Miller said. “They might start taking classes they don’t like or they maybe take a job shadowing experience and feel that it may not be the right environment for me.”

But there are pre-med students who overlook the resources that are there to help them cope with the stresses that come with rigorous science courses, McNeil said. She emphasized resources such as peer tutoring, CHEMpossible and the Math Help Center.

Students can pursue STEM majors and careers in science­ — even if they give up their original goal of being a doctor.

“One thing that I think that a lot students, not just who are pre-med or considering pre-med, struggle with is that there are so many career path options that nobody really can really know everything,” Miller said. “One of the challenges that students have that may come in thinking that may want to be a physician, but only because that is a really visible profession and are maybe drawn to it for a stable career path or whatever, but they decide along the way that it might not exist for them.”

Cole said believes she made the right decision in leaving pre-med. She said she is thankful for what both advising and University career services did to help move her toward her current field of study.

“I know a couple of people who were originally pre-med and now they are computer science or statistics and they feel (their new majors) are as challenging as pre-med, but not as stressful,” Cole said.

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