No, I’m Not Pre-Med

Illustration by Justine Liang.
Illustration by Justine Liang.

Hi, my name is Yaamini Venkataraman. I’m a second year General Biology major. And no, I’m not Pre-Med.

Every time I introduce myself as a biology major here at UCSD, someone always asks if I’m Pre-Med. When I answer no, I get one of two responses.

  1. Oh, good for you! Less competition for me (This person is generally a gung-ho pre-med student who’s aching to become a doctor and go to the best medical school possible)!
  2. So…what do you do? (This response is usually accompanied with the twisting of facial muscles that indicate confusion.)

And so I give them the usual spiel: I’ve been turned off from the medical field for several reasons, including the fact that I don’t know if I could be entirely responsible for someone else’s health. Hospitals scare me – there is no way to make working at a place possibly crawling with MRSA enticing. But most importantly, almost everyone I run into wants to be a doctor, so why do something I’m not completely interested in when a hundred other people would rather do it?

Here’s the confusing part though: the Division of Biological Sciences is one of the largest and most diverse divisions on campus, so why is the fact I’m not Pre-Med so surprising to strangers? Shouldn’t there be more people in my position? Not every professor in our division is involved in the medical field, so there must be students looking to go into alternative lines of work.

My goal is to find them. Not only find them, but also tell their stories (and perhaps mine in the process). I want to explore our division, find what makes it unique and be inspired by everything it represents. Because what’s the point in being a doctor when you could be something else?

  1. I can definitely relate to this! Sometimes I feel pretty depressed that I don’t know what I want to do in life yet… but then again, I feel like a lot of the people who say they’re pre-med are really just saying that because they don’t hate the idea, they want to make a lot of money, and/or they just don’t know what they really want to do and being a “pre-med” is a clear route to follow. So maybe it’s a good thing that we know already that we’re not pre-med. Narrows down the choices a little. Or maybe I’m just telling myself all of this to comfort myself so I don’t pull my hair out over worrying about what I want to do in the future.
    There are so many things you can do with a biology degree. I see announcements about presentations labeled “101 Things You Can Do With A Biology Degree”. Yet it still feels like a dead-end route at times.

    1. I definitely see what you’re saying! I’m still considering going the medical route, but I think there are so many things to understand about picking that path–not least of them changes in healthcare policies and the growing understanding that “modern medicine” largely treats the sick and patches problems, rather than focusing on holistic well-being. It’s a weighty path to choose. Also, not everyone interested in health may be inclined towards being a physician–there’s plenty of other career options to consider, like being a nutritionist or physical therapist or even a writer 🙂

      So I think being completely undecided is freeing in some sense, because you’re not tied down or going through college with tunnel vision. It’s best to take time to pursue your interests & figure out how you operate best and how that might play into a career later on!

    2. Although many people view it as a negative approach, oftentimes knowing what you don’t want is just as good as knowing what you do want. But I definitely agree that not knowing 100% what you want to do with the rest of your life is ominous and overwhelming. Personally, I feel that unless you personally experience some aspect of a potential career, you can’t be sure if you can devote a significant part of your life to it. So while those presentations are helpful to get ideas flowing, that’s all they can really do for me.

      I actually explore a lot of these topics in my latest blog post ( if you want to read more of my thoughts!

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