First off, phew. It is been a ride these last five years! Part of me can’t believe it’s over and can’t stop thinking “where did the time go?” but the other part of me is feeling extremely relieved.
I will never forget the day I registered for classes in July of 2014. I had just graduated high school (with a great amount of senioritis), and was itching to get out in the “real world.” I’ve had a dream that came with a plan since I was in early high school and I was going to do anything I needed to in order to achieve that lofty goal. I was going to become a physician. I could feel it in my bones. I pictured myself in my white coat and hospital-owned scrubs with my stethoscope around my neck. In my mind, I was so close to this opportunity.
The month before this freshman orientation, I got a call from the tennis coach at my school where I’d be starting in August, with a request for me to join the tennis team. Now, this is a bit of side story, but it’s important, just trust me.
After having said “YES” a bit reluctantly at first, I realized that being on a sports team in college was going to shift mindset a little, I mean, I had played high school tennis for 5 years so I was used to this. But not in the way that I had imagined. I was excited and nervous to be offered this opportunity, so I took it!
Let’s fast forward to the July day when I registered for my first college classes. I got my student ID photo taken, my mom attended the “parents in college” orientation, and I met with an academic advisor. I will never forget the words, “you will NEVER accomplish all of this in 5 years” at my academic advising meeting. I was heartbroken. How dare someone tell me what I can/cannot accomplish! Little did I know, this was a defining moment for me. And a wake up call at best!
I told this man that I would be on the tennis team, taking honors courses, would be a dietetics major (with two semesters of clinicals), and taking pre-medical courses. I thought I could take it all on, and boy was I wrong.
After leaving orientation, I cried in the car with my mom. I just wanted so badly to go through college and start medical school. Why did I feel a compelling need to move on with my life? My mom reassured me that it would be alright (duh, Maddie, DUH), and that we would come up with something. I remember her saying, “so you have to go another year, what’s the big deal?” She was right. And little did I know, going that extra year would be one of the better decisions I’ve made in my life.
Flash forward to now. What have I gotten out of spending this “extra year” in college? Let me tell you.
I spread out my credits.
I didn’t have to take HUGE credit loads each semester. The pre-medical coursework is tough and dense in science. These courses are all on you. You can’t rely on any extra points given for “participation” or “worksheets.” It’s YOU. You’re the one determining how much studying you’ll be doing and how prepared you’ll be for those exams. I was able to spread some of the courses out while taking more sociology courses. It gave me a great balance between the courses and I believe contributed to my success.
I was able to “balance” school and playing tennis, and then later school & work.
Because I took on a smaller course load (credit-wise) per semester, I was able to focus well on a few courses and also participate on the tennis team. As a side note, being a collegiate athlete is far more time-consuming than a high school one. I volunteered, practiced around 20 hours a week, and attending team events. Having this structure actually helped me prioritize my needs and I believed helped me even beyond my athletic years.
I minored in two fields I am also passionate about.
When I started college, I intended on becoming a dietitian and then a doctor. I felt ambitious and ready to take on the world as I previously mentioned. Instead of taking on this extremely clinical-based path, I changed my major from dietetics to nutrition. My degree was focused on public health and government-program based nutrition rather than clinical nutrition. Because of this, I was required to take several sociology courses and as a consequence, I fell in love with that field. The MCAT (or Medical College Admissions Test) now has a “behavioral science” section with plenty of sociology.
With anything, I have learned there is no need to rush good things. In my last year of college, I felt the same feeling of “senioritis” I felt during my senior year of high school that I hadn’t felt in my fourth year. Though my year was tough both emotionally and academically, I learned plenty about myself and what I want to become. I don’t think that the extra year can ever harm a person; it just gives you more of a shot at developing and experiencing more and more valuable things. I was able to extend my college experience and prolong these amazing years of my life by just one more. In that amount of time, I lived with friends, and wrapped up my favorite (but difficult) course! And now, I am a college graduate.
So no, I wasn’t able to go straight to medical school like my 18-year-old self had imagined, but my life experiences along the way were invaluable and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. If someone tells you you might have to go to school a little longer than you initially thought, trust in the process!
Thanks for reading!