Listen Up Lemmings: Biology Isn’t for Everyone

    I’m sure you were just as proud of our beloved university as I was back in 2005, when Newsweek named UCSD the “hottest” institution in the country for students studying science. Yes, our dear school is definitely the place to be if organic chemistry molecular model kits and graduated cylinders strike your fancy. But here’s a secret that not many people at UCSD may realize until after graduating: Contrary to popular belief, it is in fact okay to be something other than a biology major at UCSD.

    I know this may come as an unwelcome surprise to some of you students who have mapped out the next 15 years of your lives, and who have long sported those UCSD Medical School sweatshirts that your parents bought for you at the bookstore the moment they heard that you were going to such a sexy science institution. But science is not the subject for everyone, and after years of self-delusion and parental persuasion it is very difficult for some of us to realize that.

    Looking back on my freshman year, I remember how virtually everyone that I hung out with in the Blake dorms at Revelle College was a human biology major hoping to get into a prestigious medical school after graduation in order to please their parents. For a long time, I was part of this massive clique, proudly sporting the goggle prints left on my face from introductory chemistry lab and spending my free time at CLICS late at night studying for Friday physics quizzes.

    Well, freshman year has come and gone, and a great deal has changed since then. After countless nights of stressing myself out over organic chemistry midterms and weekly physics lab assignments, I felt that I had learned a great deal at my renowned science school — such as figuring out that I wasn’t such a big fan of my biology major after all.

    Granted, there are many students well-suited for their science majors at UCSD, but in retrospect, I certainly was majoring in human biology for all the wrong reasons. I thought that it would make my family proud; I thought that all the smart kids were doing it; I thought that being a doctor would make me wealthy and that money would solve all of my problems in life. It comforted me and, at the same time, upset me to know that so many other students were in the same boat.

    The longer I stayed in my major, the more hopeless I felt about changing it. By the end of my second year, I thought I’d resort to finishing up my original four-year plan and getting my degree in biology despite my reservations. Maybe I could force myself to like it. Besides, I didn’t want to have to start over after coming so far, or being the sibling in my family that didn’t finish college in four years.

    But during the beginning of last year, I finally came to my senses and changed my mind. I was enrolled in four upper division biology classes and I pretty much hated life. This may seem like a drastic move, but after talking with my sister about how miserable school seemed to me, I logged on to TritonLink and dropped all of my biology classes. In their place I took courses in political science, human development, philosophy and psychology. In addition, I started working for the Guardian and signed up for a program to study abroad in Italy. My family and friends thought that I was pretty insane for redirecting my entire life, but in all honesty, it was probably the best thing I could have done for myself.

    After experimenting with a wide variety of courses, I’ve settled with my new major in Environmental Systems, which, I suppose, is still technically a science major, but one that I enjoy much more than the one I had before. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I likely won’t graduate in four years as I had originally intended, but I figure that a couple of quarters longer at UCSD with a major that I actually find interesting is not half as bad as going on to graduate school or a career in a subject that clearly wasn’t right for me.

    One thing I’ve noticed at UCSD is that it takes an incredible amount of courage for many of us students to really think for ourselves and make decisions based on how they will affect us. This is pretty ridiculous, seeing as how one of the reasons we go to college is to discover ourselves and the paths for which that we are best suited. Our futures should never be decided by anyone besides ourselves. No matter how prestigious a major may seem or how many of your friends are enrolled in the same classes, or how often your mom and dad have told you that they’d disown you if you didn’t make it into med school, the decision is really up to you in the end, not your friends or your family.

    Besides, UCSD is not solely a science school. We’ve got some pretty amazing psychology, theatre, economics and political science departments too — not to be blown off because UCSD is overwhelmed by science majors.

    So, before you start studying for the MCAT or setting up camp in the science and engineering library to construct tetrahedral molecules with your chemistry kits, just take a few minutes to make sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. If you aren’t — and this means dropping all of your upper division biology classes like I did and spending another year at college — don’t feel bad. Yes, college is expensive, but it’s also fun, and finishing up your classes because you think it’s too late to change your major is ridiculous. It’s never too late, and being trapped on a career path that you’re not sure you’ll enjoy is not the way to spend your life after graduation.

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