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#HonorsProblems: Closing Doors

The following blog post was written by Peer Advisor Ellie, a MISPH sophomore studying public health and philosophy. 

Since middle school, I have known that I wanted to study public health. I felt lucky to have chosen a major before entering college. Public health is a wide field, however, and I always thought that I would be able to narrow down what I wanted focus on within the field while in college. For some time, I wanted to be a doctor with a broader community health focus.

When I came to GW, I started taking classes on the public health & pre-med tracks. Instead of narrowing my focus, my classes opened my eyes more. I widened the scope of what I could see myself doing after college. After three semesters here, I started to become anxious. I still didn’t know what I wanted to pursue after graduation. I had been continuing pre-med to keep the possibility of being a doctor open, even though I was no longer confident I wanted to be a doctor. I realized that my challenging pre-med courses were taking up so much time and energy, and would only be worthwhile to me if I wanted to pursue medicine. I knew I wanted to work in public health. I didn’t feel passionate about medicine specifically, but I had no idea what else I would do if I didn’t become a doctor. I had a mid-sophomore crisis: should I continue pre-med just to keep the option of medical school open?

To deal with my dilemma, I reached out to a variety of professors and advisors to seek some guidance. One of my public health professors took the time to meet with me and help me sort through my interests. She had me write down what skills I possess, what skills I like using, and what topics interest me in public health. After examining my lists, it was clear to me that I wasn’t just feeling “eh” about medicine, I actively did not want to pursue it. I was still scared to close that door, however, as I didn’t know what else I would do with my life. She reminded me that closing certain doors opens others, that the field of public health is vast, and that I still have time to narrow down my search.

My professor was absolutely right. Since dropping pre-med, I have had so much more time to explore other academic interests, like philosophy, law, and statistics. I’ve had more time to spend with friends, and I’m much happier. I haven’t regretted the decision once. In retrospect, I think the anxiety I felt was not because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but because I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor and was scared to say it aloud. In the end, it was scary to close that door, but I’m no longer scared of the unknown. I’m taking advantage of it!