Switching Majors: It’s not the end of the world

It was fall 2008. I was a wide-eyed freshman filled with hope and excitement to become a future engineer. I was good at math and science, engineers made good money, and my parents totally supported me. I did decently my freshman year and even had an internship. Everything was coming together perfectly!

Then my internship came. I was given tasks and duties, a few projects to work on, some decent experience. Throughout this whole process I was waiting for that ahah! moment, that moment where I would sit in my cubicle and envision my future self doing this for decades to come. However, that moment never came. I even tried picturing myself as my manager, going to meetings, working in his office, coming up with big project ideas. That didn’t seem to click either. I started to realize that this environment, this type of work, wasn’t for me.

I’m grateful for being given early exposure to the field. I was able to find out quickly that the path I was headed down was the wrong one. In response, I started to explore other opportunities, trying to figure out what it was that I wanted to do. Looking into different engineering careers, computer science, economics, business, design, politics, nothing seemed to fit. Then I stumbled on to a few medicine blogs. It was the first time that something sounded right for me; patient interaction, a growing field of science with new discoveries every day, new cases every day, health policy, etc. After nearly 200 hours shadowing and 100+ hours volunteering I had finally found the right path for me.

However, studying as an engineer wasn’t working out. Having little to no motivation for studying, say,  continuum mechanics, I decided I should switch majors. This was not as easy of a decision as it might seem. Getting into medical school is not a guarantee. An engineering degree gives you job security, financial security. My parents didn’t want me to change majors and weren’t even that excited that I wanted to be a doctor. So I decided to try to endure and graduate as an engineer. However, after a year of mediocre grades, I knew I had to change majors if I wanted to go to medical school.

I decided to switch to Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB). It’s what helped to initially get me interested in medicine, it included all my med school pre-requisites, and all of the advanced classes sounded awesome (I’ve loved every one I’ve taken). After a few semesters with the best grades of my college years and with a couple med school interviews in my pocket, I can say that switching majors was the best decision I’ve made.

My point is that if you realize that the current major you’re in isn’t helping you, if you don’t find it interesting, can’t see yourself in the career it leads to, don’t be afraid of changing majors. By choosing a major that you love you will do infinitely better in school regardless of the difficulty. Not sure what career interests you? Get some exposure. Shadow, intern, volunteer. All of these things can be done for any major. Find out sooner rather than later what careers interest you. The worst thing that can happen is you don’t enjoy it and can cross it off the list.

Danny Gonzalez
Vice President – Latinos in Pre-Health
Senior – Molecular and Cellular Biology – UIUC

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