Incoming college freshman with serious doubts about my major choice

Jun 18, 2017
18
16
Massachusetts
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Pre-Medical
Hey guys.

I'm an incoming behavioral neuroscience major that starts in about a week but I've been having serious doubts about the major because there seems to be pretty much no room for not getting into medical school/no possibility of a solid career at the BS level. It's a little disheartening when you look at the "where are the alumni now?" page and see a list of people who are lab techs or doing EMT related work that barely pays a livable wage. I confess that I have little interest in doing research/PhD work for a living although I do believe that I would enjoy and learn from the experiences.

I genuinely enjoy the neuroscience subject matter and I understand the amount of work required for it. I also understand that your major doesn't matter at all for adcoms but my primary worry here is having a fallback position. And while I feel fairly confident that I am capable of being a competitive candidate in 4 yrs for med school, there is also a nagging worry of what if I don't and the money that my parents are contributing towards undergrad goes to waste so to speak.

I've been considering CS as a possible major or CS/Cog Psych which is a combined major at my university that teaches 2/3 of each discipline that has an advertised career path in artificial intelligence. Otherwise, I was thinking about Econ/related fields or engineering as one of my parents is a PhD MechE. Honestly, I would be comfortable with anything can provide a stronger fallback than a pure science major.

Does anybody have any experience doing either CS, econ/business, or engineering? Are they feasible to do with the premed curriculum? And if I decide a semester to a year into neuroscience that perhaps the major, not premed, isn't for me, is graduating in 4 yrs still generally possible for these options were I to switch majors? Is a double major possible? I will absolutely consult with my advisers when college begins in earnest soon as well.
 
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Siromas

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At my school, students majoring in chemical engineering + completing pre med requirements wasn't particularly uncommon since there is a lot of overlap. It's difficult, but doable. Chemical engineering isn't the worst major to "fall back on" either.

Honestly, the best major is whatever you enjoy studying/doing most.
 
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CS is not a good major if med school is your goal. It will tank your GPA.
I don't think this is generally true. It also depends on someone's personal interests. Someone who is tech savvy and is interested in medicine can do well in computer science major.
 

aaronrodgers

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Three things pre meds should look at when picking a major
1.) do I enjoy it?
2.) can I excel in it?
3.) can it lead to a career I would enjoy if I don't make it in medicine?

Basically this. Arguably 2 is a higher priority than 1 but that is up to one's own personal discretion.
 
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ciestar

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Your major itself has no real bearing on whether or not you get into med school, so don't worry about that. You just have to do well in whatever you do choose.

If you want a fall back option, select something you LIKE and can do well in. Do some shadowing, too, a lot of people end up changing their minds about medicine.
 

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Hey guys.

I'm an incoming behavioral neuroscience major that starts in about a week but I've been having serious doubts about the major because there seems to be pretty much no room for not getting into medical school/no possibility of a solid career at the BS level. It's a little disheartening when you look at the "where are the alumni now?" page and see a list of people who are lab techs or doing EMT related work that barely pays a livable wage. I confess that I have little interest in doing research/PhD work for a living although I do believe that I would enjoy and learn from the experiences.

I genuinely enjoy the neuroscience subject matter and I understand the amount of work required for it. I also understand that your major doesn't matter at all for adcoms but my primary worry here is having a fallback position. And while I feel fairly confident that I am capable of being a competitive candidate in 4 yrs for med school, there is also a nagging worry of what if I don't and the money that my parents are contributing towards undergrad goes to waste so to speak.

I've been considering CS as a possible major or CS/Cog Psych which is a combined major at my university that teaches 2/3 of each discipline that has an advertised career path in artificial intelligence. Otherwise, I was thinking about Econ/related fields or engineering as one of my parents is a PhD MechE. Honestly, I would be comfortable with anything can provide a stronger fallback than a pure science major.

Does anybody have any experience doing either CS, econ/business, or engineering? Are they feasible to do with the premed curriculum? And if I decide a semester to a year into neuroscience that perhaps the major, not premed, isn't for me, is graduating in 4 yrs still generally possible for these options were I to switch majors? Is a double major possible? I will absolutely consult with my advisers when college begins in earnest soon as well.
For a lot of people, CS and engineering are really, really hard to get a high GPA in. Not saying there's no engineering premeds, just that those fields take a particular skill to do well in and are not for everyone.
There's a reason many people major in science-related fields, because it is the easiest to get your pre-reqs taken care of. If you are concerned about fallback options, I recommend taking an engineering, CS, and/or econ class in your first semester or two to see if you like those, because you can't tell without experiencing those classes.
 
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rxrd
Jun 18, 2017
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Massachusetts
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Thanks everyone for the awesome responses! I think I'm going to try out CS fundies 1 next semester and see what I think of it and take it from there.
 
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Kpw101

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To be honest it'll be a little disheartening to look at any alumni page and see that the majority didn't go to medical and are stuck with barely livable paying jobs but it'll be also disheartening to look at admission statistics to medical school at any undergraduate school: they're pretty bad. If you believe you will enjoy the subject matter and believe that you can excel, you've already qualified for the only two requirements I think you need when choosing a pre-medical major.

As for the nagging worry that you're wasting your time and your/your parent's money: you'll always have that worry. I have that worry now mid application season and I'm sure I'll worry about wasting my money during medical school.
 
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rxrd
Jun 18, 2017
18
16
Massachusetts
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Pre-Medical
To be honest it'll be a little disheartening to look at any alumni page and see that the majority didn't go to medical and are stuck with barely livable paying jobs but it'll be also disheartening to look at admission statistics to medical school at any undergraduate school: they're pretty bad. If you believe you will enjoy the subject matter and believe that you can excel, you've already qualified for the only two requirements I think you need when choosing a pre-medical major.

As for the nagging worry that you're wasting your time and your/your parent's money: you'll always have that worry. I have that worry now mid application season and I'm sure I'll worry about wasting my money during medical school.

Thank you. I hope your app season goes wonderfully!
 
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Flying Penguin

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Seconding this.

I am a second year CS pre med with no regrets. Feel free to ask me questions
CS major with 6.00 GPA, 600 mcat, 40 years of both clinical and nonclinical volunteering, founder of MSF, front page of Nature, son of Surgeon General, sole surviving member of a native American tribe?

Good work man. Keep it up. ;)
 

Tenk

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Not necessarily true
Nothing is 100%. But if you compare the difficulty of getting a high near 4.0 GPA in cs it is ridiculously harder than many other majors for the majority of schools. Had plenty of friends in undergrad in cs who were smart lads. None of them had anything close to that. I made an assumption the OP is at a decent school with a major like behavioral neuroscience. Decent schools generally have cutthroat CS programs. Obviously they need to look at the average GPA for their school before rushing off for a cs major assuming med school is the end game.
 

Tenk

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Many other reasons why cs is a bad pre-med major that have nothing to do with GPA:
1) Little overlap in required courses for medical school. CS majors and typical med school requirements do not have as much overlap as a general "pre-med" degree. This means you will have to work extra hard on requirements.
2) CS courses require a huge amount of time. This will take away from your time to do ECs and will also make point #1 that much harder. Which brings up the next point...
3) You still have to do all the regular pre-med volunteering and ECs. You don't get a free pass on this just because you are different.
4) CS contributes virtually nothing to the MCAT and probably makes it harder due to point #2.

Ultimately anyone can get into med school with pretty much any major so long as they check all the boxes. Some majors are easier to do this in than others. You can do it in CS but you will have to work extra extra extra hard and in the end that extra extra extra hard work could have been spent improving your application with an easier major. That's reality. Is it fair? No. Is it the truth. Yup.
 

MareNostrummm

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Many other reasons why cs is a bad pre-med major that have nothing to do with GPA:
1) Little overlap in required courses for medical school. CS majors and typical med school requirements do not have as much overlap as a general "pre-med" degree. This means you will have to work extra hard on requirements.
2) CS courses require a huge amount of time. This will take away from your time to do ECs and will also make point #1 that much harder. Which brings up the next point...
3) You still have to do all the regular pre-med volunteering and ECs. You don't get a free pass on this just because you are different.
4) CS contributes virtually nothing to the MCAT and probably makes it harder due to point #2.

Ultimately anyone can get into med school with pretty much any major so long as they check all the boxes. Some majors are easier to do this in than others. You can do it in CS but you will have to work extra extra extra hard and in the end that extra extra extra hard work could have been spent improving your application with an easier major. That's reality. Is it fair? No. Is it the truth. Yup.
Also, CS can be pretty frustrating. Prepare to stay up late trying to meet deadlines and get your programs to work. You'll be the only premed in your entire CS class.
 
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@rxrd The issue with computer science and engineering is that they are output driven fields. In our computer science classes, the code that we programmed in java was graded by automated algorithm checkers for homework and for quiz grade assignments. This meant that roughly 60% of the grade in CS 101 was determined by fizzbuzz questions which students either got entirely right or entirely wrong. There was no partial credit like in our Organic Chemistry class where if you wrote out the reaction correctly, but got the stereochemistry wrong then you still got points. That or if you mixed up reagents.

In addition, there are plenty of assignments in life science majors which equate to being give-me assignments for points. Arguably these assignments guarantees credit if the student puts in the effort or at least awards some points. In computer science, I felt like the weekly assignments to write a program that performs x, y, and z function was a huge undertaking with the guarantee of getting any one assignment perfect being a tenuous outcome. Every school has a different goal with their computer science department, so it's hard to argue whether all programs are as rigorous as mine with the intent to weed out those who are able to program from those who aren't from the very first class. I notice now that there are a lot more introduction friendly variants like a class in true basic and majors about networking and website designing rather than being centered around programming.

A friend of mine who tried to get into P.A. school decided to do a one month crash course in basic programming as a biology major and is now working as a statical programmer which indeed.com lists has an introduction pay of around $55,000 and can scale up to six figures if you decide to stick in the field. The fact that she is no longer pursuing P.A. school probably means that she has found intrinsic enjoyment in her current career path. Although the listings say that they want to see a B.S. in computer science for such an occupation, it's not set in stone as a requirement. There are stories of computer science graduates who graduated at the end of four years without being able to code in an interview setting when they are pimped for questions.
 

mellie0

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All of those majors are doable on the premed track. As others have pointed out, make sure it doesn't negatively affect your GPA because then that dimishes your chances at med school admission.
 
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[USER=863168]@Pina Colada Thank you for that information. Do you (or anyone else) think that having a minor in CS instead would be a happy medium?[/USER]
I was a terrible computer science student. I only did marginally better in data structures. I am not a mathematical person, however I loved fooling around with BLAST sequence analysis and went for a bioinformatics concentration when the field was hot. I recommend that you do the research and figure out in the first place whether you would actually enjoy computer science or what career options you see within the field. I also disagree with your perspective on EMT/lab technicians, both of which I think are wonderful professions especially for new graduates.

As someone who was in a field of study that tried to hamstring in computer science and engineering classes into a life science degree, I believe that my degree was inadequate by its own standards. It attempted to allocate the basics for bioinformatics to the computer science department and the life science requirements to the biochemistry department. And only attempted to claim responsibility in the very last year, when there were only 2-5 students remaining in the major.

Your CS/Cog Psych joint degree may have a better underlying concept from start to finish. In retrospect, I have come to the understanding that my major was a poor Frankenstein-like creation stitching together various classes in order to appear like a unique STEM opportunity to get federal funding from NIH/NSF.

That being said you choose what you want to study based on your own projections. I have no right to tell you what you to do because I'm not paying your tuition or giving you a job after 4 years. If this decision doesn't work out, then that's on you. No one else here can take responsibility for your life decisions regardless of how aggressive they seem to be or how in the know they might come across. I don't know how capable you are... for all I know you could be the next Bill Gates.
 
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aymar

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I was a business administration major and am a huge proponent of business-related disciplines. There is arguably no better fall back plan at the bachelor's level. Plus I thought it was interesting, so I did well. (GPA is king, not your major... never forget that!)
 
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DokterMom

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Fist off, Id just like to say GOOD JOB! for looking into BS-degree career prospects now. You'd be shocked and disgusted by how many others don't do that until much too late... (I remember presenting a job offer once to a young man with a brand new master's degree and he was shocked at "how low" it was. I knew for a fact that our offer was among the highest in the field and told him so. He admitted that he hadn't looked, which made me want to rescind the offer.) You're looking and thinking about it, and that shows good judgement.

Three things pre meds should look at when picking a major
1.) do I enjoy it?
2.) can I excel in it?
3.) can it lead to a career I would enjoy if I don't make it in medicine?
The above simply nails it -- The simple fact that so many pre-meds eventually don't go on to become physicians (for a variety of reasons) suggests that early on (you're still very early on), "Plan B" should probably be weighted more heavily than "Plan A" because it's the more likely outcome. Once you've got a strong 3 semesters of GPA and pre-req coursework under your belt, you can 'shift more of your eggs' into the pre-med basket. Before then, it's borderline foolish.
 
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rxrd
Jun 18, 2017
18
16
Massachusetts
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Pre-Medical
Fist off, Id just like to say GOOD JOB! for looking into BS-degree career prospects now. You'd be shocked and disgusted by how many others don't do that until much too late... (I remember presenting a job offer once to a young man with a brand new master's degree and he was shocked at "how low" it was. I knew for a fact that our offer was among the highest in the field and told him so. He admitted that he hadn't looked, which made me want to rescind the offer.) You're looking and thinking about it, and that shows good judgement.



The above simply nails it -- The simple fact that so many pre-meds eventually don't go on to become physicians (for a variety of reasons) suggests that early on (you're still very early on), "Plan B" should probably be weighted more heavily than "Plan A" because it's the more likely outcome. Once you've got a strong 3 semesters of GPA and pre-req coursework under your belt, you can 'shift more of your eggs' into the pre-med basket. Before then, it's borderline foolish.
Thank you I think I'll keep the 3 semester mark in mind and probably shoot for at least some CS or business credits until I reach that point to ensure that a major change can be easier.

I appreciate all of yours' help very much!
 

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Nothing is 100%. But if you compare the difficulty of getting a high near 4.0 GPA in cs it is ridiculously harder than many other majors for the majority of schools. Had plenty of friends in undergrad in cs who were smart lads. None of them had anything close to that. I made an assumption the OP is at a decent school with a major like behavioral neuroscience. Decent schools generally have cutthroat CS programs. Obviously they need to look at the average GPA for their school before rushing off for a cs major assuming med school is the end game.
Many other reasons why cs is a bad pre-med major that have nothing to do with GPA:
1) Little overlap in required courses for medical school. CS majors and typical med school requirements do not have as much overlap as a general "pre-med" degree. This means you will have to work extra hard on requirements.
2) CS courses require a huge amount of time. This will take away from your time to do ECs and will also make point #1 that much harder. Which brings up the next point...
3) You still have to do all the regular pre-med volunteering and ECs. You don't get a free pass on this just because you are different.
4) CS contributes virtually nothing to the MCAT and probably makes it harder due to point #2.

Ultimately anyone can get into med school with pretty much any major so long as they check all the boxes. Some majors are easier to do this in than others. You can do it in CS but you will have to work extra extra extra hard and in the end that extra extra extra hard work could have been spent improving your application with an easier major. That's reality. Is it fair? No. Is it the truth. Yup.
If the goal is to get into med school no matter what, I definitely support taking the easiest courses and easiest majors possible. Rigor is an overrated concept on SDN, and adcoms/schools are unable to define rigor objectively. The MCAT is the objective test of rigor and doing well on the exam basically is a convincing enough evidence that applicants have a good academic aptitude.

However, if the goal is to consider medicine but have solid backup options, it is fine to major in engineering and computer science. And it is possible to do well and get a solid GPA, while also having valuable skills that people with biology degrees lack.
 
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kopftonmd

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To add my two cents:

As a non-science (read: music) major, I can definitely attest to how big a pain in the ass it is to fit in all the pre-reqs when there is absolutely zero overlap. It sucks. I'm aiming to go straight through (my first mistake, I know), and to fit everything in, I finished my junior year with 140 credits, where there are 128 required to graduate at my school. So like it's a ton of work to major in something with no overlap.

That being said, those above posters who said to major in what you like/are good at really are right. For me, music is both fun and easy. Not to toot my horn, but my music major has bumped up my cGPA a lot (because I have >4.0 / 4.0) and the classes have never been much work. So do what you're good at! It helps your GPA (unless it's designed to be really hard) and would be easier than taking a lot of classes in fields you're less good at/inspired by.

And lastly, in terms of job market... I'm going to go against the grain a little bit and say don't worry so much about it. Most entry-level jobs (besides high-powered fields like finance or consulting) pay peanuts (I know running a parish music program, for example, doesn't pay very well, but oh well...), and most people bounce around fields a lot. And keep in mind that most people wash out early, while there's still time to switch without big issues.

That was probably more than $0.02, but I'm bored.
 

MareNostrummm

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Im gonna put on my dissent collar here and will encourage OP to do comp sci. Sorry to say but a bachelors in biology is useless if you arent planning on getting a masters or a PhD. You are future proofing yourself by majoring in comp sci.
Or he could major in Bioinformatics, if his university offers it.
 
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ChymeofPassion

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Unfortunately my university, Northeastern, does not.
Behavioral neuroscience has very little faculty support/funding at neu. Think of it as the neglected love child of biology and psych. Would do comp sci.
 

hamstergang

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I got a BS in CS a decade ago and am now an attending physician. I don't know if it's actually a more difficult major as I didn't have any others, but it certainly seems to take a certain type of thinking to do well in this field. The only other downsides I found were that all my elective time was devoted to the pre-med prereqs as there really is next to no overlap, and now when anyone reads my CV they think there's some interesting story of how I went from a life in CS to a life in medicine. I disappoint them every time. But, I do know more about computers, math, and algorithms than any other doctor I work with.
 
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rxrd
Jun 18, 2017
18
16
Massachusetts
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Pre-Medical
Behavioral neuroscience has very little faculty support/funding at neu. Think of it as the neglected love child of biology and psych. Would do comp sci.
Yea I'm aware of that particular shortcoming I actually was accepted as a psych major and switched to BNS a week after I was accepted because I felt the increase of focus on bio would've been nice.

I got a BS in CS a decade ago and am now an attending physician. I don't know if it's actually a more difficult major as I didn't have any others, but it certainly seems to take a certain type of thinking to do well in this field. The only other downsides I found were that all my elective time was devoted to the pre-med prereqs as there really is next to no overlap, and now when anyone reads my CV they think there's some interesting story of how I went from a life in CS to a life in medicine. I disappoint them every time. But, I do know more about computers, math, and algorithms than any other doctor I work with.
Thank you, and again everyone else, very much for that information.

I went back to my major list and when I looked at the program of study comparison between BNS and the CS/Bio major, it seems like all of the first semester classes that I have currently for BNS can satisfy requirements in the CS/Bio major besides an intro to psych class which satisfies a med school prereq anyways (I think!).

When I move in in a few days, I'll talk in more detail with my prehealth adviser and academic adviser to see what I can do. Although I'm not exactly set yet, I think that I am leaning towards switching to the CS/Bio major for the spring semester. Overall, I think that I would feel more comfortable/less stressed if I had a solid backup plan while shooting for med school.
 

Welshman

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@Tenk I attend a school in Boston, MA

@Pina Colada Thank you for that information. Do you (or anyone else) think that having a minor in CS instead would be a happy medium?
I also attended school in Boston, at my school CS will tank your GPA. They grade on the philosophy that "only perfect programs get As, and no program is perfect."


That said if I wasn't planning on medicine I would undoubtedly do CS or CE, but the question is do jeopardize your main goal to have a fallback?

Edit:
Sorry, didn't read the post saying you went to neu. Feel free to ignore my anecdote about CS
 
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rxrd
Jun 18, 2017
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I also attended school in Boston, at my school CS will tank your GPA. They grade on the philosophy that "only perfect programs get As, and no program is perfect."


That said if I wasn't planning on medicine I would undoubtedly do CS or CE, but the question is do jeopardize your main goal to have a fallback?

Edit:
Sorry, didn't read the post saying you went to neu. Feel free to ignore my anecdote about CS
Thank you. How helpful is a minor in CS then?

And in general, would majoring in CS jeopardize research opportunities?
 

Welshman

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Thank you. How helpful is a minor in CS then?

And in general, would majoring in CS jeopardize research opportunities?
I'm sure a bioinformatics lab or one that does a lot of genomic sequencing would find your skills very useful and would be doing interesting stuff too.

I'm not sure about the usefulness of a minor, it's just not my field of expertise. I guess it would depend on how much practical info they taught you
 
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