Temple or Penn State for Confused Future Doctor?

Question: I’m currently stuck between a rock and hard place I feel like my life is falling apart. I made a decision to go to Penn state but my parents are totally against it and wanted me to go a much more adorable school like Temple. Penn state is a well know degree and I don’t mind being a debt. I feel like almost anybody that wants to get an education is going to be in debt for the most part. I don’t want to make a wrong decision. I also want to go to medical school after so I’m putting a lot of this into consideration. Please help also I don’t want to major in biology because of the heavy math that comes with it so I was thinking computer science because that way after grad school I’ll have some sort of good income. I know I’m all over the place I just need some professional guidance right now .

It’s irresponsible of me to advise you on such an important choice since I know nothing about you. But I can provide a few thoughts:

  1. Because it is now after May 1, if you have already committed to Penn State you’ve probably lost your place at Temple along with any merit scholarship or need-based financial aid that was offered to you by that university. So before you continue arguing with your parents about your plans, you should contact Temple to see if they still have a place for you as well as any money that you have already been offered.
  1. Penn State and Temple are pretty equal when it comes to prestige, so I don’t recommend spending extra money to attend Penn State if your main reason for doing so is reputation.
  1. If your goal is to go to medical school, then it makes sense to avoid as much debt as possible during your undergraduate years because medical school is very expensive. Also, Temple is in a much better location than Penn State is when it comes to finding medical-related internships or jobs that will help to enhance your med school applications down the road.

So if you’d come to me with this question a couple weeks ago, I may have tried to gently push you toward Temple, in spite of my claim that it’s not responsible to advise you. But the BEST advice I can give you right now is to contact Temple immediately to see if you can still enroll there. Otherwise, the decision is already final unless you were to consider a “gap year.” Then you could reapply to Temple for fall 2018.

Note also that, as a pre-med student, you are not obligated to major in biology or in any other science, but you WILL have to take a very science-intensive curriculum and there will be heavy math as well. You can certainly major in any other field and still fulfill the pre-med requirements, but you’ll need to expect to take a lot of science and math.

But try not to feel as if your life is falling apart. The fact that you’ve been admitted to both Penn State and Temple shows me that you did a good job in high school and you have a bright future. There will be many tough choices ahead … just like your current one … but you don’t have to make them all now. Most college students change their major–and/or their career path—at least once (and often several times) between high school and college graduation. And if you’re feeling VERY uncertain about all of your choices, go for that gap year. It will give you some time to reflect on your plans.  During your time away from school, you can get a paying job to help defray future college expenses or even opt for a gap-year program that will pay you a stipend for doing good deeds, such as AmeriCorps. See https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-nccc

Hope that helps and good luck, wherever you land.

(posted 5/19/2017)