Dashing hopes and dreams
It’s that time of year again, when the grades are shaping up to the point students are panicking if they are going to pass. The drop deadline is looming. What to do…
Many of the incoming students to our classes have aspirations of being doctors. These students have attached some mythical value to the profession and dream of being that person, the one calling the shots, saving lives, etc. I certainly believe doctors are valuable and should be respected for the work they do, but the value students place on the profession is not reasonable.
I can tell stories of students who have never passed a class with me on the first try and still believe they’re going to medical school because they are so convinced that this one career is the only one they value. And because they must take a heavy load of science classes regardless of major to be considered for entry, many of the less prepared students do fail, and have to be told that their dream isn’t going to happen (at least not right away; many students are willing to spend thousands of dollars and extra time to retake classes pursuing that dream). Even the better prepared students fail to meet the high mark needed for most medical schools. Many blame the “weed-out culture” of larger classes with huge lectures and no practical applications, and there may be some significant truth there, but do we really need that many doctors? There are many valuable careers that offer the same kind of satisfaction as being a doctor that these students simply can’t see in their myopia.
I am often in the position (after teaching a course with hands-on learning with small classes!) of being the one to say “you will not be accepted to medical school with grades this low.” I am the dream-wrecker. This article, written by a sophomore, offers a variety of reasons why you should never change your major, and highlights both the good and bad reasons students stick with dreams. Ms. Tran is right that students should be allowed to choose for themselves and that the latest fad or highest paid major news isn’t always the best way to choose a major, but at the same time, Tran buys into the “if you want to, you can do it” mentality that is unfortunately not true. If you can’t pass introductory biology, then becoming a doctor isn’t in the cards. (Tran actually uses pre-med as a counter example in her article in much the same way I do.)
After I have devastated the dreams of these students they are often at a loss of what they should do next. They set so much store into the doctor future that they have no idea what else they might want to do. They have never even thought that they wouldn’t succeed and have no plan B. Pre-med isn’t the only major plagued with this problem, but it often the most pronounced. The “stand-by” majors like psychology, counseling, science communication, and other fields where the pre-reqs overlap shouldn’t be considered second best or failure tracks. These careers should be valued as highly as being a doctor. Many of our students are advised to go into those careers and often are very happy as a result.
How do we change the value settings on career choices?