Having a ‘major’ wake-up call

A sophomore public health major describes how she found the right academic path.


Since I was a kid, I’ve had a fascination with parasites and the diseases spread by them. I’ve always wanted to study infectious diseases, but I wasn’t sure where to start.

So, when it was time to choose a major and apply to Temple University, I fell into a panicked frenzy. Rushing myself to meet the impending deadline, I chose public health based purely on my intuition and without doing any research into the major. I had no idea if studying at Temple would help me end up in medical school and become a doctor who specializes in infectious disease.

When I went to Experience Temple Day, an opportunity for accepted students and their families to explore academic and residence halls and Temple’s curriculum, the College of Public Health presented about the disciplines I found fascinating. It included epidemiology — the study of disease control — and biostatistics. It felt like a good sign to me.

But I still felt a little apprehensive about my pressured decision to study public health. The daughter of two blue-collar workers, I knew nothing about becoming a doctor, much less going to medical school and what it entails. I was concerned about my choice of major and thought maybe a broader science like biology would better prepare me for the Medical College Admission Test to get into medical school. I wished someone would’ve told me exactly what I needed to do to end up where I wanted to be.

I started evaluating my options over and over again in my head. Should I become a biology major and subject myself to at least four years of medical school to ultimately live out my dream diagnosing and treating people with diseases? Or should I try to find an easier route?

I made a horrible mistake by deciding to switch to a biology major on a pre-med track. 

I had been warned that biology pre-med was a “death sentence” and that the first year is the toughest year because a department might want to weed out students who aren’t ready for what’s ahead. But my pride didn’t let me listen, and I went into it with high hopes. 

I had always been a straight-A student, and I had been accepted into the university’s Honors Program. My first semester went by pretty smoothly. I finished with all As and Bs, and I had a 3.7 GPA — high enough to make the Dean’s List and not bad by biology pre-med standards. I thought maybe I had made the right decision. 

I hadn’t.

In my second semester, despite studying harder than I ever had before and participating in class every day, I couldn’t pass my exams. I tried to stay optimistic during the rough start of the semester, but when I received an email from the university about my unsatisfactory grades, I knew I needed help. My ego took a huge blow, as I realized my workload was just too heavy.

I took it as a wake-up call to study even harder and meeting up with classmates to learn from them. After all-nighters at the TECH Center and going to my professors’ office hours, I was able to get myself passing with one C+ as my lowest grade. But the crippling insomnia and anxiety didn’t feel worth it. I just knew it shouldn’t have to be this hard.

Rather than continuing to force myself to be a pre-med student, I swallowed my pride and switched back to public health. 

I finally feel at peace with my studies. I have just enough free time to socialize and write for The Temple News. And my classes are engineered toward epidemiology — the study of diseases that I am so passionate about.

I felt like a quitter at first, but now I feel like I’m finally on the right track.

My parents even noticed a difference in my mental health, and I’m fortunate to say they’d be proud of any path I chose. Right now, my main goal is to earn my master’s degree, so I can become an epidemiologist working for a government agency. Someday I might even go for a Ph.D.

While I was reluctant to switch my major, I’m glad I tried different things until I knew what I liked and didn’t like. I don’t regret changing my major the first time to biology, because I needed to experience it before knowing it wasn’t for me. As I like to say, better late than never.

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