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A Survival Guide for Dropping Out of Medical School

Recently a reader left me a nice long note on my post about dropping out of medical school. His questions resulted in a week-long e-mail conversation about the experience. I’m afraid to say that these issues could easily turn into a series of posts, however I want to be careful to keep this part of my life compartmentalized. It’s not going to be the only topic that I blog about. You have to realize that some of my darkest, most painful memories come from this time in my life. Reliving them is quite depressing. That being said, I would love to offer hope and encouragement to anyone going through a similar struggle. I’m so glad that the pain is just a memory and not a close companion anymore.

The Questions

I am really surprised that your blog is one of the only ones I have found, considering that every year hundreds of people are faced with the same decision.

What does one do about the financial burden incurred during your time in medical school?  If you are anything like the 75% of medical students out there you must have accumulated a good amount of debt in your 1st two years (the average for four years of medical school is now ~140k, but the reality is closer to 25%= 0-50k and 75%= 100-240k).  How have you handled that?

You mention that you felt confused as to whether you could find something that would satisfy your career goals etc. Where did you begin?  What sorts of things did you consider?  Was this a job you had previous experience in?  Did you look into other advanced programs? I am sure plenty of people could be found to submit their experiences on pursuing a different profession once the groundwork is laid out, be it blue collar, white collar, something else academic.

I am hopeful that this discussion will allow others to share their own experiences as well. Maybe your blog can become a resource for others in this situation.

My Answers

1. Request a One Year Leave of Absence – Rather than dropping out of school completely, I first requested a leave of absence due to my depression. My standing with the school remained very positive. I had a one year window to return to the school with no questions asked. Then I could have picked up with Step 1 before completing my education.

The details for this procedure vary from school to school. It helps if you have medical documentation of a disease (like depression or cancer) or if you have a concrete definable problem that the administration can understand (such as a sick relative that you intend to care for or a recent death in your immediate family). Failing Step 1 also works. If you request a leave of absence without a definable reason, your school may get a little squirrelly. My e-mail buddy had trouble with his leave of absence request, as you can see.

Something I had the most trouble with was the reaction of my school’s administration.  This is definitely not the same everywhere.  My school views time off with GREAT DISDAIN, unless it is used to obtain another advanced degree.  My request was met with scrutiny, questions about drug and alcohol abuse (which I suppose could be pertinent in some cases for students), as well as a basic statement of “We’re not sure why you feel like you need this….How do you think it will further your education? Why should we let you resume studies?”  Because our medical school terms do not operate on the same schedule as the college’s billing cycle they took the liberty of erasing that I had been enrolled that term ‘for my own sake’ and permanent records (even though billing-wise it was halfway over. i.e. I should not have to pay back anything).  So I basically was left with a sour feeling towards the administration, as well as a bill for financial aid that had already been put towards tuition (that was not refunded) and living that had to be paid back before I could resume school.  Fortunately our financial aid adviser really busts his butt for students, and we found ways to make that as painless as possible.  Additionally they gave me a date I had to take step I by or else I would not be able to re-enroll for 3rd year…which is strange in my head because essentially I finished Med 2, and should just have to take the exam by the time current Med 2s should have to right?  All in all my leave of absence was fraught with punishment, despite being one I took by choice.

2. Actively Pursue Other Careers- During your leave of absence, make it your mission to find a new career path. Start by analyzing your current situation. What did you love about your medical career? What did you hate? What things are essential for job satisfaction? How much money do you need to earn in order to stay afloat? Make a list of possible jobs and start researching.

I loved the fact that I could make a difference in people’s lives with medicine. I liked feeling smart. I loved the science and the studying. But I wanted more time with my husband. I wanted to start a family. And I wanted to feel like a good mother even though I wanted a career. My essentials for job satisfaction were – impacting lives for the better, family-friendliness and plenty of time off. I fell in love with teaching.

Be open to the likelihood of continuing education. You will probably have to be a student again before you will be qualified for the job of your choice. You might even want to consider getting certified to be a medical assistant. Try not to burn any bridges with the administration from your medical school, because they can help you with transferring credits. It would be a shame to waste all of that expensive education.

Divide up your leave of absence into stages. There should be a research stage, a trial stage and a deciding stage. After you’ve researched your options, spend time in the fields that you’re considering. I spent a week shadowing various teachers at a local high school. That week gave me a good feel for the modern classroom. It gave me enough encouragement to sign a one semester contract to teach. I knew that if I hated my job, I would still have three months left to decide if I wanted to return to medical school.

Consider obtaining your MD and using it towards another career. Plenty of doctors leave medicine to teach at the college level or to pursue a number of careers. However, you may find yourself overqualified for some jobs with an MD.

3. Get Financial Counseling – The decision to leave medical school will leave you with a lot of debt and most likely a lifestyle adjustment. You’re going to give up a lot of material stuff. It will probably sting a little when you visit friends who have nicer homes than you, or when you realize that your “new” car is a decade old.

The long and the short of it just comes down to making do with what you have. Hubs and I decided that it was better to be poor and happy, than rich and miserable. We made the decision together. His job as a cop and my job as a teacher leave us with enough income to pay all of our bills. On good months we even have a little extra left over. We don’t use credit cards. We don’t buy name-brand designer items. We don’t live in a big house. We don’t have expensive furniture.

I highly recommend that you use Crown Financial Ministries and/or Dave Ramsey. Design a budget that you can live with and try to stick to it before your leave of absence expires. Look into consolidating your school loan(s). There’s no way we could have afforded to pay back our original ten year loan. We had to consolidate.

There are many aspects to this decision. I’ve tried to hit the highlights. If you have any further questions, I’d love to hear from you. This discussion is open to anyone who has an opinion on the topic. I hope my experiences and advice have been somewhat helpful to you. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

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99 Responses

  1. This had to have been such a hard decision. Your experience can help others, I’m sure. I would think it would be better to be happy and in a place in life where you want to be, regardless of the financial cost.

    • Hi there,

      I just fumbled on this blog and want to thank all of you for your sincere and honest contributions. I cried, and cried and cried. I dropped out of med school 7 years ago at the end of my third year following the break up of my marriage. It was traumatic and I spent two years wandering around grieving from the loss of my two loves. I struggled through the first half of first year with depression, but bounced back to earning high passes all through the last half and through second year Then third year hit and I hated it, and then my 3 month old marriage began to crumble right before my eyes. I realized that apart from being depressed because of my impending divorce, i was really very dissapointed with the whole medical system, the doctors and nurses and essentially medicine itself- i lean more towards a holistic organic approach to healing. I hated the fact that even veteran doctors hated their work and were bitter and mostly hypocritical in their patient relations. I moved on since, earning a Masters in Public Health, but still , there isnt a day that goes by when I don’t feel like a failure. I recently remarried, but still feel that I have a problem living for others- my parents, who were overjoyed that their precious daughter was no longer a “divorcee” are now praying that by some miracle, I would go back to med school. I havent had a stable job in the past 7 years, mainly because i still carry the baggage and loose ends of my past. I have no closure. I need it though, hating to wake up everyday for the rest of my life thinking “what could have” or “should have”. Thank you for being there and being strong.

      Anna G.

      • Anna — I can really relate to what you said. 10 years ago I dropped out of medical school due to anxiety and depression. I still have not discovered what I want to be when “I grow up”, and now I see my classmates who have made it through the system living in huge houses and driving expensive cars living the good life. Maybe they are miserable? It sure does not look like it. If they are miserable, at least they are miserable and successful. I look back at “what could have” been and it kills me. My mom still hopes that maybe I will come to my senses and try to get back into medicine. God, she won’t let go, and I guess, neither can I.

        Brian

      • Hi Anna..I too can empathize and I cried reading your post.I stumbled onto this blog because I am about to graduate with a double major in Marketing and Psychology in December and the happiness I should feel is tainted with a sense of failure that has dogged my every waking moment since I dropped out of Medical school in 2008 due to being diagnosed with clinical depression. Logically I know that the med school environment was just not a good fit with me and I should and can be a better functioning, healthy,happy individual removed from it. But sometimes I feel an overwhelming sense of having squandered so much by dropping out. I just feel so lost and broken sometimes. I remember myself at 18 marching toward a medical career and I feel that I will never be that hopeful or optimistic ever again. It was not an easy decision to make and I am trying to re-build my life and look at alternative career paths but I do question my decision and feel so afraid of failing yet again.God knows I tried to make med school work, it just didn’t due to my own inadequacies and I have to accept that, but I don’t know if I can ever move past it. I feel so lost. I feel so haunted by it.

      • Dear Anna G.,
        Thank you for your honesty. I think that in your case, if at all possible, one would have to consider going back, because it seems like you wanted it (just not the way doctors usually practice it, but hey there are institutes like the one at Univ. of Arizona that focuses on Alternative medicine within their med school – point being, once you’re done with med school you can strive and make your practice the way you want it to be)… Did you pass USMLE step 1? If not, could you do a review course now and ask your old program to go back or at the very least “transfer” to an off-shore school which would anyway allow you to do clinical rotations in the U.S…. In other words, given that this is something that continues to bug you I think it is worth exploring any option that would allow you to finish it, and then once you’re don you can decide what to do with it, if anything… Don’t know… Only clinicals left… tempting…

  2. The thing that really strikes me as being crazy is how unsupportive medical schools are. They HAVE to know that rates of depression are almost *double* in medical school and suicidal thoughts occur in 10% of medical students. But the counselors, at my school at least, act as though it is somehow the student’s FAULT… as though they are just being stubborn and noncompliant. Its absolutely nuts. And to get a year off is amazingly difficult … to get one without being seen as a problem-student is even harder. Its as though they believe that once you start being a med student, you stop being a person.

    In fact *any* year-off program — research, clinical, translational, international — is a GREAT way to buy yourself 1-2 years to think and recuperate. Depression wont keep you from winning some very prestigious fellowships AND you can even delay taking your boards until the end of your research year if you play your cards right. Year-off programs are one of the few reasons for time-off that your school will not only tolerate but applaude. You get paid. You often get to leave your home med school. AND you get to explore another career (in any PhD program or programs in public health/sociology/law/ etc) Plus, if the student DOES go back to medical school, the only thing a residency program would see is a prestigious year-off program (not how the student was depressed or struggling). You can even get publications and better Letters of Recommendation.

    A second option: In fact, if you KNOW what field you want to go in to, there is a second option — apply for a dual degree and never finish the MD. The advantage is that your medical student loans are still deferred through your second degree (though the unsubsidized loans might accumulate a little interest on the bulk amount — but you can often pay a LITTLE out of your grad student stipend to keep that under control). You could get anything from a masters to a JD to a PhD without having your med school loans come due while you are an impoverished grad student!

    Whenever I run across a med student who is miserable but not totally sure if leaving is the right thing to do, I strongly encourage finding a year-off program that sounds fun and applying. I think some time to decompress can either (1) let the student realize that they are not suited to medicine and move on to something they DO like or (2) sort out whatever other issues may exist allowing them to be better more committed doctors! Its good no matter how you slice it.

    • Im considering taking a LOA, do you know of any good year-off programs? I don’t really have a plan yet on what exactly im going to be doing during my year off. please hep, any advice will be greatly appreciated! :)

  3. Damn, to put all that effort into your undergrad and then drop out. Hard decision indeed!

    Luckily I made my decision to drop premed my Freshman year of college, I just didn’t feel like it was the right path for me.

    Not to mention the hypercompetivity was a putoff. :p

  4. I am grateful to have found your story, thank you for writing it. I have just recently requested a 1 year leave of absence for my own long list of reasons, many of which I have not shared with very many people. I would say that my depression began in my first year as well, but I ignored it until it demanded attention. Like you, I want more time. Time for my relationship, which was 1600 miles away at a dangerous job, and time to pursue other passionate interests outside of my education or career.

    So I left. It took me about a week to pack up my life and drive the 1600 miles to be close to my best friend and the only person who can understand why I might not want to be a doctor anymore. I am so sad and feel so lost and still cannot believe that medicine has threatened to take so much away from me. I am left with no idea what my next move should be, scared of my debt and afraid that it’s going to push me in the wrong direction.

    I am very seriously considering an accelerated second degree program to get my BSN, but have decided on this too late to apply for the spring of 2010. I guess the good news is that I have more time to explore the different programs and to think about nursing as a career, but I’m so upset about what to do for money in the meantime. Can financial counseling be helpful when I have no income? My head is spinning.

    Continuing education is always an option, I could go to school forever, but I don’t want to waste anymore time or money. Everything sounds great to me though, when compared to the life I was headed toward in medical school, and I don’t know how to decide. Your suggestions have been very helpful and I will take the time to make a list and explore as many career choices as I can.

    I am struggling with the decision now of whether to look for work with my BS or to enroll this fall and start working on the few prerequisites I am missing for nursing. I feel so rushed because my payments will begin in 5 months if I’m not in school. And I guess I am also in a hurry to fall in love with something else and let go of medical school. I want to know that I’m making the right choice more than anything. I want to move forward because I feel as though I’ve just taken 10 steps back. It was not a terribly difficult decision for me to make because I have not dropped out, but I am afraid it has so much potential to be a terribly difficult decision to live with if it means that I will not return- although the idea of going back right now seems unbearable.

    • I’m in the same position, and curious as to what you finally decided on? The biggest obstacle I’m facing right now is finding a satisfying career(s) where I can use my Bio degree and 3 years of med school training, withOUT having to continue my education. As you stated, the debt makes it very difficult to begin a new educational path at this point.

      • 3 years of med school? Finish it! My life in med school became a mess when my fiancee died and I became pitifully depressed. Picking up and I do not care about what people will think of my time off. Life is big.

    • Hi, I was wondering what many of you who dropped out ended up doing? If you went into another program like a nursing program or a PA program or even pharmacy so as to not “waste” you education; also, as another said, the thought of staring something else now with all the costs is sort of unthinkable; yet, did any of you go into a field completely different than health care? Those who did go back to school how did you go about getting new LOR’s as all programs as for, from the med school professors, back to your old’ undergrad professors, how would you explain it again, or would you have to wait a few years to get new ones (most of us don’t have a few years). Please any input of this would be great. I’m about to start on my own journey, after 1 year from withdrawing, I’m thinking of applying to a pharmacy program as I’ve become pretty excited about the career. Yet, I’m so worried as to how the school’s committee’s will view my dropping out, should I even mention I went to medical school at all, or lie? I have to start contacting the schools directly, but anyone with any advice on this would be great to talk. Thank You. !!!

      • Hello Monica,

        I worked at a hospital, graduated from an Ivy League school and thought seriously about medicine but ran into the same issues that you did in terms of depression, questioning my abilities and just not wanting to work 100 plus hours/week forever because that’s what medicine really is and there is not time to do anything else when patient care is your main focus in life. I just bit the bullet and bagged the whole idea, which had me lost for a time but I’ve learned that everyone has patches in life where they feel lost whether they are doctors, lawyers or janitors. Just keep plugging away and I admire you courage to move in another direction.

        PM

  5. Good to see that this page is generating some discussion.

    I posted on the other page about a year ago, as I was preparing to take step I during a one year LOA.

    Here are my thoughts having resumed school after a LOA…

    First…I think everyone should have a year off during med school. PERIOD. I know that idea isn’t going to ever take flight, but if it was in place and schools did a good job of arranging projects and opportunities for students I am sure most people would graduate happier. Be it for research, MPH’s, to work, do international projects, to spend time with family, etc. It is amazing how much one can appreciate that time having been really busy for the last two years. And don’t get things mixed up…I worked full time through undergrad, did all kinds of extracurricular stuff, entered medical school with several major research publications, and did plenty of good old hanging out and partying, so I was never “not busy”. Med school is just a different kind of busy. I can say that med school at the very least has given me a totally different perspective on downtime and how much I enjoy my hobbies, family, and friends more than ever. As well as subjects I miss studying.

    Although I was never officially in bad standing with my school, I did not pursue another degree during my absence. I think the advice to do so is REALLY SOLID. Anyone reading this, and toying with the idea of a LOA or just leaving med school all together should examine that as an option. At the very least, if you do decide not to resume med school you will have a qualification at hand which may help you land a job. In my case, I did construction, which although really let me take a huge step back and decide about my path, will probably hurt me some come time for the match process and interviewing. I accept this. For me it was the right thing. The physical labor and endless fresh air really helped me rid myself of a lot depressive symptoms I was experiencing, develop clear thoughts on what I wanted to get out of school, and reorganize my values a little.

    Step I…..I wish I could say my year off made all the difference in the world, but I don’t think it did. I worked, saved up, took time off (~month) to study, did just that, and took the test. I was getting 230s on my question bank and practice exams, and did not score near that. I passed, but my glass ceiling is definitely visible. I am ok with it. For anyone disappointed with their step I score, there are tons of us out there. For those that have failed (as I have had several friends fail and have to make the decision to retake/leave), it is most certainly not the end of the world. You can retake it, and will already have at least some sort of a system going (plus one thing that is irreplaceable, exerience). If you get a failing score, and replace it with a 220+, it is quite easy to just say come residency interiview time “I don’t know what happened, I probably had a bad day”, and they will most likely believe you, whereas if you pass but do poorly you will not get that chance. Step II is still there to do better as well, which is something I am banking on.

    I started back up into 3rd year quite happily this past summer. So far I have been doing well. I wish I could say my depression from before was totally solved, but despite coming strong into 3rd year I can still feel it lingering. I have just given myself breaks when I need them, spent time with friends sometimes instead of studying every single evening, and tried to be as physically active as I have time to be. This seems to be working for the most part. I have received stellar evaluations from faculty, residents, and a lot of good advice on choosing a path. And although I am not blowing the shelf exams out of the water, I am satisfied, and I am learning about 10 fold what I did during med I/II. Sure, occasionally I have had to work with people that seemed like robots, had terrible senses of humor, or were just plain mean…but lets face it not everyone is awesome, no matter what field you are in.

    I can also say this. I think med I/II are conducive to depression because…

    A) it can be hard to set new goals during that time since the majority of your energy is spent just trying to learn the material, not choose a definite career path. even though on some level you are supposed to be doing this.

    B) there is a lot to learn, and unfortunately i think med school is almost too concise for its own good. the material is really not presented in a very intellectual manner, and really just shows how good you are at blatantly memorizing facts that are marginally related. this makes sense, because to present each subject in its entirety would add years onto med school. for those of us who learn by truly understanding this can be a really frustrating time.

    If you find yourself hating 3rd year (which is tough because you are probably knee deep in debt) my main advice, and this is opinion of course, is to stick it out and finish. Maybe the patient care setting isn’t what you thought it would be. Maybe having to live everyday in what some treat as a rat race (gunners are THE WORST) is hell’ish…well yeah it can be. But I can offer this piece of advice. If you are trying (not a blatant screw-up), and are a fun person, not knowing the tiniest details about this or that disease is not going to submarine your evals, but being a backstabbing gunner that doesn’t know team dynamics most certainly will. Believe it or not, but there are lots of jobs out there that will pay enough to stay a float with loan payments where having an MD will not hurt you. You can always go into research (which I am still considering despite really liking patient care) and make REAL medical ADVANCEMENTS as opposed to just exercising other people’s discoveries. There are endless biomed engineering firms that NEED your knowledge and help finding applications for their products. Law, business, insurance, government, the list goes on and on. Most likely you came to med school because you found the subject interesting. Well, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and there’s more than one way to use a degree.

    Lastly….

    I find it unfortunate that “job” (residency) placement uses Step I scores so heavily…but that is life. So far I have found that the best people to work with, who can put in long hours next to you without eating your soul, and seem to have good interaction with nurses, clerks, etc. are not people who all blew the Step exams out of the water (some of them are, some aren’t). But rather, people who are just interested in doing a good job, having fun at work (without making mistakes), and helping the team as a whole get everything done.

    I hope to be starting a blog of my own soon talking about med school issues that I have encountered, advice on working through problems, funny experiences, and jsut some general chit chat. This is of course dependent on time. not much there now, but check back another time.

    grahamsandcoffee.blogspot.com

  6. Today, I took a LOA. I am only a first year, but I just spent the last three days in an ICU after overdosing on pills and alcohol in the library.

    Honestly, I am more scared now than I was Monday night getting my stomach pumped in the ER. I have no idea what my options are or what I want to do, whether it be medicine or not.

    All I can say is I’m thankful to find this site.

    • I took a LOA only a week before you did. I’m going through the exact same thing as you–can we please get in touch?

  7. Hi Rachel, just wanted to say that I’m also on a LOA which I started during my first year last year. The fear makes complete sense and is something all us not-sure-about-medicine people share. Medical school – entry, participation, what it leads to – is made out to be such a big deal that it’s only natural that it creates so much anxiety in its students. With great hype comes great fallout unfortunately.

    I hope the LOA gives you time to take care of yourself and do whatever it is makes you feel like you.

  8. Hey

    I have recently dropped out of medical school, despite still wanting to be a doctor, and am hoping someone can give me some advice.

    I’m not sure where everyone is from, but in my country entry to medicine has an undergraduate option (5, 6 or 7 years), requiring a test made up of empathy, verbal reasoning and pattern matching questions or a postgraduate option (4 years), which requires a test that is very similar to the MCAT exam

    Since I knew medicine was very difficult to get into and practice, I spent weeks trying to find a different career that I would like to do

    Having graduated from school in the top 3% of the country, I lacked the marks needed for entry into medicine by even the most lenient uni, so I did one year of health science, took a year off after that to study for the entry test, and finally got a place in an interstate university.

    Since I was desperate to study medicine I left my city with a population of millions for a city of barely 100,000. I left my boyfriend of 4 years, my friends, my favorite sport, the job that I loved and my close knit, yet dysfunctional, family.

    Despite loathing my new city, I really enjoyed what I was learning, and it seemed that medicine had everything I wanted in a career, however after only 2 months, I started experiencing severe depression, where I cried every day and deteriorated until I was unable to attend college and had mostly stopped eating. Since I couldn’t study like this, I reluctantly took the equivalent of a LOA for the rest of the year.

    Since coming home I have resumed eating, stopped crying and have been seeing my boyfriend but am now unsure of what to do.

    Believing that a 19 year old woman should not live alone in a different state, and that that caused my depression, my brother is encouraging me to finish health science and sit the MCAT equivalent and the undergraduate test after I finish in order go gain a place in the very competitive universities in my home city.

    I am not confident about this as the MCAT seems impossible and I know people who have sat it 4x without getting in. In addition the health science degree is purely a feeding degree and has few job prospects.

    I could also sit the undergrad test again this year but am unlikely to obtain the results I’d need for any other university.

    Unfortunately no other career seems to interest me and I really want to be a doctor for the right reasons, but am worried that I will not get the change to study medicine again. In addition I wonder if I am too emotionally weak to be a doctor.

    Does anybody have any idea of what option is the best one? Know of anyone who dropped out of medicine and got back in?

    Pretty much any constructive input would be appreciated.

    Thanks

    Nathalie

    • I just came to this blog yesterday so–sorry for the later post. I worked in hospitals for 7 years as a patient care tech, anesthesia aide and transporter and felt like a ‘loser’ not becoming a doctor for a time. Until I woke up from that haze and made the decision not to become one I do not regret that decision for a minute. Also, I don’t have the diagnostic aptitude and would hate dealing with disease all day and got over the guilt of that also. The world doesn’t need millions of doctors who don’t want to be there and there are other places for you to go. You are NOT emotionally weak but STRONG in making this decision. Also, you alienated your whole support system by leaving and that may have contributed to your problems. Good luck and you are smart–obviously–and strong.

  9. I’m in the pre-LOA stage myself. I’m a month away from finishing first year at a US med school. I know that I am severely depressed and this environment has a lot to do with that depression. But it is hard to know that to do about it. From my first day here, my experience has been overwhelming. The academic structure of my M1 medical program is incredibly ill-suited to my personality. The pace is grueling and the testing is so dependent on route memorization that I feel I must study separately for my own understanding and for the exams. And frankly, there just isn’t time for that. Even though I have not failed any courses, I feel constantly like I am failing. I think this feeling is connected closely to the fact that I don’t seem to be able to achieve the level of understanding that made learning worthwhile for me in undergrad. My attacks of depression and crying started during my first month here. They are better when I sleep and avoid caffeine (but what M1 can do that?).
    My classmates, for the most part, do not seem to be feeling the emotional drain of this place. However, I know that med students often lie to make themselves seem smarter and better adjusted than they are. I worry that this inhuman pace and constant elevated anxiety is something that I should expect to continue, not only throughout my training, but for the extent of my professional career. I feel certain a life like that will eventually destroy any passion I have for either the intellectual or human aspects of medicine.
    I have thought repeatedly about dropping out. But I’ve worked so hard and given so much, emotionally, financially and physically, to get where I am. It would be stupid to give up just because I feel sad and scared, especially if the feeling is something that comes from me and can easily follow me into any career I choose.
    I don’t want to give up on medicine. There are things about it that, theoretically, I really love. But, I don’t know how long I can do this.

    • If you have not taken a LOA by now, I would highly recommend doing so. I quit medical school 2 weeks ago following a 6 month LOA. I was half way through my 3rd year. My struggles during school began early during my first year and I ignored them because I felt like I should be strong enough to overcome the stress, depression (which I denied), and anxiety. They caught up with me big time and I could no longer ignore them. My advice is to take care of yourself right now, or it may be too late. If you take a LOA now and deal with your emotional health, it will make it easier for you in the long run. If you really want to finish medical school, you have to take care of yourself because the stress gets worse and it makes an already hard path seem impossible. I am happy with my decision to quit school, but I still wonder if things would have gone differently if I would have stopped earlier to evaluate things and take care of myself.

      • Hello Kim,

        I saw your reply on my email. Just wanted to say that you are courageous for doing this and deciding not to become a physician. There are so many other things out there and personally, I worked in a hospital for 7 years as a patient care technician and an anesthesia tech, so I was around medical students/residents/attendings all of the time and seriously contemplated medical school after graduating from a top tier university. I’m glad I found this blog and wished it was around in ’93 when I was thinking about this and feeling like everyone else is smarter, has more energy and can just take it!

        Good luck with your future.

      • Jayla-
        I know this response is quite late, but I wanted to agree 100% with Kim on your situation. Speaking from the same experience (Left medical school after 3 and 1/2 years), I wonder if my outcome would have been different had someone else advised me to take some time to evaluate the depression that, too, consumed me by third year. I felt the exact same way you felt, had outstanding grades, did well on my rotations, but cried every single day for nearly 2 years straight, leaving medical school at 95lbs (I’m normally 125). Please let us know what you decided, and I hope the very best for you.

  10. Hi everyone!
    I just read through all of the postings and I am glad to see I am not alone. My story is different but I think by sharing my story someone else will find a light as I have.
    I graduated from a top midwest university with a 3.8 and a 31 on the MCAT in 2001. I enrolled in medical school in 2003. I took time off because I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. Both my parents are Physicans and specialists in their field. My brother and sister are also physicians. It is safe to say that I went to medical school because my family is medicine.
    Well, I failed out of medical school in 2006 after 3 attempts on step 1. First try 183, 2nd 172 and 3rd 184..passing is 185. I studied a year for step 1. I passed every practice exam and did well on the practice tests. After being kicked out I enrolled in a Caribbean medical school where I had to redo my second year a then failed the step again and took it a fifth time and passed with a 220. I started my rotations in January of 2008 and liked it. I did well and impressed the residents and attendings. When step 2 came around I failed it – twice, passed on the third time. Today I have finished medical school graduating in May, not going into medicine, not doing residency.

    Thats my story….all through these seven years I lost friendships because I was focused on a dream that wasn’t my. I lost relationships because I was unhappy. I will finally get an M.D but at what cost. I am not mentioning the $$$ because that is just a given. I fought, cried, struggled more than I thought was possible and all I have is a piece of paper. I wish I would have been stronger and realized what I wanted earlier in life, I am 31 years old…..lacking a passion for medicine.

    • WOW! I’m speechless! May I ask what you’re doing now? I’m 32 as well, left medical school after 3 and 1/2 years, and am still trying to figure out which way to turn! I realize more education is inevitable, but not sure what suits me best (all things considered). Just curious…

      • I’m 33 and on the same boat es you guys!!

      • Joseph- I would love to speak with you, hear your story! Please feel free to contact me: melinda@usa.net
        Be sure to let me know in the subject line, in case I need to go fishing in my spam box.
        I look forward to it!

      • Check your inbox, I wrote you today, take care!

      • Same here, 32 now. Was dismissed from Med School for failing Step 1. I am considering the path that Steve took, but it seems to be a waste of a large amount of money for a piece of paper.

        Definitely feels like time is ticking, but don’t know which way to go.

    • Hi Joseph, I can relate. But, I got out after I failed Physiology also by one point. I just knew it wasn’t right to continue. I thought of returning but my heart wasn’t in it. I’m 33 now. I also have a family in medicine, and till this day sometimes, from my brother, who is a major asshole, get hell. But, then he’s always been an asshole. It’s not easy. I went back to school and I’m getting an MSW, Master’s in Social Work. I am so much happier in school. I’ve made good friends with classmates. I feel like I’m in the right place now in terms of my career path. I often get down on myself about my choice of going to medical school in the first place which was put into my head by my sister, who is now a pathology resident. Well, at the time I didn’t really know what I wanted, and I always loved studying, so I loved learning, until I realized what medicine was all about. I was very young when I did it too, 25-26, around that quarter life crisis. Anyways, it’s not easy having to move back with my parents again while I finish school, especially since my asshole, bully of a brother is studying for his steps and thinks he’s god’s gift to earth. He has called me a piece of shit, and verbally abused me. I currently do not speak with him and often life in this house is a living hell. But, I know career wise, school, wise I’m doing something that I am naturally good at, in a place where I can excel. I got a 4.0 my first semester, if that’s not a sign that I’m in the right place, I don’t know what is. But, living again, under my parents roof, in a load of debt, thinking I might not have the same lifestyle I thought I would, is hard. I have a good friend I met in this MSW program who dropped out of law school, and we are sort of in the same boat. I think that you will find your path. Everything happens for a reason. I’m glad for the experience and opportunity I got to go to medical school in the first place.

      You were trying to do what you thought was right, what you saw around you, what you learned. Trust me when you come from a house full of doctors, it’s like you’re brainwashed into believing it’s the best thing you could ever do. Doctor’s think this way, mostly, I think other professionals aren’t so much like this. My mom thinks the world of someone just if I tell them they are a physician. It’s so annoying. It’s like that person could be the scum of the earth, and you’re impressed just by a stupid job title. So, don’t feel bad about it. Tune out your family and figure out who you are, even if they are not in agreement. You have to do something you want to do, something you will excell in. Hey it’s not so bad do have that degree. it will always be something. At least it’s better than nothing. This time around look inside for yourself. Every thing happens for a reason. Wishing you the very best!

      • It is unreal that your own brother calls you a piece of shit. What the F? There are other things out there beside medicine. I personally
        worked in a hospital and decided then and there that medicine would NEVER be for me. I’ve met MANY docs who regret the path and this includes a leading Gyno at a major medical center in Chicago, a very
        successful 3M buck a year neurosurgeon who actually owns part of 2 major teams (baseball;football). They BOTH said they would not have done it again. Your brother–or whatever the frick that thing is bullying you–sounds like he’s still a freaking med student and has NO clue. He can’t ever have a clue until he’s finished with his residency and then after he’s nearly ruined a patient’s life–a lot do because of inexperienced–and the douche is forced to be humbled actual real life
        and DEATH mind you in an urban setting, then he’ll keep his yapper shut!! Other docs have taken their own lives or just gotten out.

        Hope this helps, sorry to insult family but that’s bullshit!

      • Well. He’s just a verbal abuser. He’s one of those people that I think feels good keeping others down. He’s always been abusive in some way or other towards me. And, my parents have mostly let him get away with it. They had to kick him out once when we were both younger because he used to trip me and throw fruit at me. It really messes with you self-esteem when you have an older brother, who in his case is very big, and I am a pretty small skinny girl. Who picks on you, tries to make fights with you. It’s horrible. I don’t know why he hates me so much and always has, I’ve never done anything to him. But, like I said, unfortunately it’s one of those things I’m dealing with at the moment, I have to live in the house with him because I can’t afford to move out while in graduate school. I finish in a year, but it’s hell, and is really depressing me. I’ve had to do to see someone about it, and I think I’m going to have to go again because things like these really bring me down. People commit suicide over bullying nowadays. Now that we are not on speaking terms, he hasn’t gotten a chance to say anything hurtful. But, his presence alone makes me completely miserable. I hate feeling like this and being like this, but it’s just something I have to tough out till either he’s gone or I graduate, get a job, and move out. Thanks for listening.

      • Thank God that you’ll be able to move out. Not everyone has to be
        a doctor. I wonder how he’s going to get along when he has to deal with nurses and other physicians. The medical field is highly professional and one day he’ll do that to a patient.

        Good luck

      • Winter,

        What your in med school is he?

    • Steve, you have the proof that you can handle something immensely difficult. You have evidence of a spirit that doesn\’t give up. I just think that\’s so admirable…not something I take lightly in anyone. I think you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. I wish I\’d had your focus and strength to fight through unhappiness because those qualities are so necessary in life that\’s unpredictable and not always rosy. Wherever you are now, whatever you\’ve chosen, I hope you see the positives in your decision to finish medical school even though you may not be practicing.

  11. Thanks for your stories. It’s good to know that I am not the only screw-up out there who is no longer in Med School. In my first year I experienced some real problems that led me to drop out. My very serious girlfriend of 2 years bailed on me in the first week. I couldn’t get my rhythm. I felt like the atmosphere did not make me want to study. I burnt out. There have been other times that I got into a good rhythm, but at medical school I couldn’t get into the swing of things. Ya know, the messed up thing is that I have always been very competitive and confident and probably would have looked down on someone else if this had happened to them. I guess, this whole experience has given me compassion. Unfortunately, I am worrying whether I will be able to apply this newly found compassion to the field it’s most needed.

  12. I was accepted to med school and started having major doubts and a nervous breakdown right before (undergrad) graduation. I didn’t know if I would like the clinical years and the physical/mental stress requried for those years +residency. I was worried that I would want to quit half way in and owe thousands of dollars with no way to pay back.

    Deciding whether to move for a deferral. Please contact me if you can offer advice.

  13. Thanks for leaving your story because I am going through a decision whether or not to leave medical school and it is tough. I am not sure what to do and it is one of the hardest things that I have gone through in my life. I am very depressed and that played a role in the fact that I failed one class. My school dismissed me after I failed one class and I have to appeal if I want to stay in that school and that is draining me. I feel so guilty and embarrassed and that makes it all much worst. Your story made me feel better about the whole situation and gave me inspiration.

  14. ooohhh…I feel for you I dropped out of dental school and it hurts like hell like everyday. I wish I had never gone.

  15. i feel for you i dropped out of dental school and it hurts like hell everyday. i wonder what I did to deserve such a thing, but i feel for you too.

    • hey sam,
      I took a medical leavel of absence from dental school as well starting this last july. It’s been a really hard thing for me to deal with and I’m debating whether or not I should suck it up and go back. I was wondering if you had any advice. So far I’ve been too scared to do anything besides feel horrible

  16. Hi, I was wondering what many of you who dropped out ended up doing? If you went into another program like a nursing program or a PA program or even pharmacy so as to not “waste” you education; also, as another said, the thought of staring something else now with all the costs is sort of unthinkable; yet, did any of you go into a field completely different than health care? Those who did go back to school how did you go about getting new LOR’s as all programs as for, from the med school professors, back to your old’ undergrad professors, how would you explain it again, or would you have to wait a few years to get new ones (most of us don’t have a few years). Please any input of this would be great. I’m about to start on my own journey, after 1 year from withdrawing, I’m thinking of applying to a pharmacy program as I’ve become pretty excited about the career. Yet, I’m so worried as to how the school’s committee’s will view my dropping out, should I even mention I went to medical school at all, or lie? I have to start contacting the schools directly, but anyone with any advice on this would be great to talk. Thank You. !!!

    • Yes, please…I have all the same questions!

    • I know I am replying a little late to this particular blog post, but I hope some people will find this helpful.

      After I was dismissed from medical school, due to academic reasons, when I was struggling with depression and anxiety. I was extremely devastated! I have already gone through 2 and 1/2 years of medical school, spent so much time learning the material and accruing a substantial amount of debt at the same time as well.

      I was extremely lost, but I agree with most readers that have replied to this particular thread. Spend that time to really reflect and decide if medicine if really where you want to be. Last thing you want to do is try to remain in this career path that you will not put forth your best.

      After much contemplation, I came to the conclusion that I do love medicine and I do want have a positive impact in any community I plan to serve in the future. I went and pursued a Masters in Public Health to get my new plan into gear. I was determined to get back into medical school and become a clinician. However, during that year while I was getting my MPH, I discovered that I can still have a positive impact on my communities even if I was not a physician. I began to develop an interest in biomedical research and found the years I was in medical extremely helpful.

      As I worked on my masters, I took a job in a research lab as a technician to gain experience. As I finished my masters, I applied to a Ph.D. program that fitted my passion and interest. As I was accepted into a Ph.D. program, I was shocked by the fact that tuition was waived and I would also be receiving a stipend as well. As I continued my Ph.D., I found careers in industry that would still allowed me to be in the forefront of patient care, even if it was not is the direct manner as a physician.

      I found that leaving medical school and getting a Ph.D. is just as rewarding. I am also relieved by the fact that as a Ph.D., I choose my own career path and where I wanted to go. I am not bounded to what I can practice based on simple test scores, i.e. Step 1, but pursuing my most absolute interest, pathogenic virology. I was able to work in this field right away, and the knowledge base I received from medical school certainly help extend into my current career. Some of my colleagues who have never seen the clinical side appreciate my outlook on the research given my extensive time as a medical student.

      I am certainly enjoying where leaving medical school has led me and a career where I am honestly happy. My salary is very comparable to many of my past classmates but my hours are not as a long as theirs.

      I hope this post helps with individuals who feel that to not “waste” their education in medical school is to attempt apply to other clinical based programs like Physician Assistant or Nurse Practitioner. If that is what you wish, than go forth, but please know that there are numerous other possibilities available to you.

    • I apologize to mention about the letters of recommendations as well. If you had made some wonderful contacts while you were in medical school, keep those contacts up to date.

      It may sound unreal in a large medical school class, professors do know their students and do they care. All you need to do is make that connection with them.

      I was very fortunate that many of my professors were supportive of my decisions, whether it was to apply for readmissions into medical school or just being a bum. Luckily it was not the latter.

      When I applied for the MPH program, my previous Dean of Students from the medical school recommended and supported my admissions into the program. This was a great stepping stone to get into the program as I dreaded having to take another standardized exam, like the GRE to be even considered for an MPH. I was allowed to forgo that particular requirement given the fact, previously, I was a medical student.

      As I worked on my MPH, I continue to have contact with many professors I met during medical school. I would update them on my progress and where I stood. I even help T.A. for one of the anatomy professors and help with dissection with the medical students during my MPH. I also mentioned that I began working for a research lab. How did I get that research lab position? One of my old medical school professor applied for a grant and was successful and offered me a position in their lab.

      So I implore you to make those connections with those professors, it is never too late. I would suggest you contact professors in topics that you were highly successful during your time in medical school.

      As I applied for a Ph.D. program, it was once again those professors that came to my rescue and wrote my outstanding letters of recommendations. In my personal statement, I in pin pointed my downfall during medical school, what I had done to rectify the issue, and how am I now dedicated to my chosen career path. It is important to not just be honest with yourself, but also be honest to any admissions’ committee. Do not try to hide anything from your past (unless I guess you murdered someone) because it would make it seem like whatever made you unsuccessful at the time is still present.

      Remember as George Santayana said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

  17. I am currently debating going to medical school. I deferred because I was feeling hesitant with the amount of work that would be placed on me. I know that it is difficult, but I have suffered from depression and anxiety for quite some time and feel that it is catching up with me. It doesn’t seem to be getting better and I had to defer my first week for fear of this path. Any advice? I am a strong student with a strong mcat. I even instructed an mcat course so I don’t feel like I am incapable of understanding the material. I just am having serious doubts about the future because I’m considering having a family and I want to have a life outside my profession. I am desperate. Please any help at all. I am already seeing someone about my depression/anxiety, and I work as a research assistant in the hospital. (People keep asking me how school is going…i say ok…it is all just so stressful and embarassing). Thank you. :)

    • Michelle-
      You sound like you are doing all of the right things: seeking help, taking time to work on things, working with your anxiety and depression. My advice to you is try it for a given amount of time-6 mos, a year…. with the way you describe your situation, it seems that will be ample time to figure out if medical school will or will not be the best option for you. It IS tough, but give it a chance before letting fear take over. I hope all goes well for you. Keep us posted!

  18. In my experience DOUBT means DONT! You should be happy and excited about starting something new! If you feel this way now it will only vet worse and it’s a sign of what’s to come. This path is probably not right for you. Don’t be afraid to FOLLOW YOUR HEART not your brain !

  19. My situation is more crazy than any of yours. At least you are at a US or Canadian medical school that is fair. Medical schools in other countries are criminal.

    I finished 3 years of medical school somewhere else, had already passed the USMLE Step 1 with a high score, and when I reported another medical student for violently bullying me, I was expelled, but the bullies were kept in the school. The bullying was so severe, that I had to go to a psychiatrist for 3 years. The other student(s) physically, verbally, sexually, and emotionally assaulted me. The medical school claimed I made false allegations of bullying. By the way, they knew the entire time I was being bullied, so they know they’re in the wrong. They then withheld my transcript, claiming I owe the school thousands of dollars in damages. When I asked for an invoice, they refused to give me one, so these are just bogus charges.

    I got accepted to another medical school and was able to start 4th year right away. Now the former school is withholding my transcript so that I cannot register for the USMLE Step 2 and Step 3 exams, can’t get a residency, and are still threatening me with the bogus charges. Also the dean of my former school is friends with the majority of the residency programs I applied to, so he can make up all kinds of lies about me. What the hell?

    I’m not the only one this happened to. Other students have complained about this school. Now there are about 150+ lawyers going after this school in a class action lawsuit. Both the US, Canadian, and Foreign medical boards are all investigating this school and are very angry as to how I and other students were treated. It will be shut down soon I’m sure.

    Unfortunately, foreign med schools often times get away with this. US med schools can’t.

  20. I have been having difficulties with the medical profession as well. About five months ago I had completed the final written exam but still had to sit for the oral exam in a medical school in Western Europe and I broke down. I couldn’t stop crying for weeks, couldn’t read more than a couple of sentences in a textbook, and had lots of very dark thoughts. It was a nightmare and scared the heck out of my boyfriend. I really believe it stemmed from the fact that I didn’t want to start a residency. I had come to detest the hospital climate, wanted desperately to start a family and actually have time to be there for my kids, and was dealing with a new diagnosis of a chronic medical condition that necessitated a slew of lifestyle changes that I viewed as largely incompatible with a residency.

    Fast forward to 5 months later- I managed to complete medical school here in Western Europe (where we are staying) but am seriously considering staying home. My boyfriend is currently a resident and I am keeping house and have not begun to apply for a position. Luckily he is very supportive in whatever I choose. We plan to marry late this summer and start a family shortly thereafter. I am finding peace with myself but am struggling to announce my new plans to my family in the States for fear of being labelled lazy. If I lived in the States I could work a part-time job for now, but here I do have the advantage of affordable health insurance and no student loans, because tuition is free in this particular country.

    Looking back I definitely pushed myself in my studies, to the point of completing medical school in a foreign language. I feel what I learned is that just because I am capable of something doesn’t mean it is the right fit for me. When I think back to periods in my life and what I remember making me happy the results are surprising. In high school I participated in tons of extra-curricular activites, was an excellent student, high level honors courses, community college work while in high school, etc., etc. But what I remember making me the most happy was babysitting!! Weird. Later I attended a four year college and participated in all sorts of activities and high-level coursework again, but looking back my favorite part was hiking on the weekend with friends! For me I believe I have to pay attention to what makes me happy and make decisions based on this, and not try to achieve just for the sake of achieving. Sure I finished, but what is my degree worth if I never want to work as a resident?

  21. Today I received my letter of dismissal from my top tier medical school. I had been on a LOA, and apparently my school decided I was out of time. I had been granted a full tuition scholarship (they don’t even give those out anymore) so it is possible the school felt my education was no longer a good investment.

    So now I am lost. I took the LOA because I had been in an abusive marriage that was crumbling. I also have a young son to worry about. I don’t know what sort of job I am qualified for with a BS in physiology and 2 years of medical school. I would go into a graduate program, but I’m afraid my med school debacle will prevent admission. What jobs are out there? I need to support myself, my child, and pay back student loans…

    Thanks for any advice you can offer.

  22. Melissa, I wish you best of luck on deciding where to go from here with your marriage. I want to tell you that if you apply for other grad programs, you don’t have to give them details on what happened at med school. You are clearly a highly competitive applicant for any program. You can re-adjust your student loan payments based on your new income.

  23. I decided not to go to medical school 2 days before I was supposed to move across the country to start my first year. I do not think it was a rash decision, as my life had been plagued with never-ending anxiety and depression related to academics. I resented being a little fish in a big pond.

    Although I was instantly elated at the freedom I had found, this was short lived. I now must cope with the fact that I let go of something that til this day defined me. I am attempting to look at this as a blessed turning point but can’t seem to avoid the, “so what are you going to do now?”

    Truth of the matter- for the first time in my life I do not know what the next step is. This is extremely scary and exciting.

  24. Brian- I have actually thought of going back many times, thinking I can handle it because am older and wiser….wishful thinking maybe, but just like you when I see my mates and others who have made it and then look at my shapeless, unstructured existance living paycheck to paycheck, i wonder if to just bite the bullet and return. Losing self respect and identity is a major problem because many of us are/were wrapped up in that image of being a doctor. “What will I be when I grow up?” Only God knows…..

  25. So this is my story. I had worked in many different fields prior to going to med school despite having considered the possibility several times before in my life. I am not one of those people that always wanted to be a doctor, in fact far from it, my passions are philosophy and mathematics, both of which I studied as an undergrad. After college I joined the peace corps and served in West Africa as an agriculture volunteer. It was in the remote village setting that I became most interested in medicine, not as an intellectual pursuit but as a practical one. The people I lived with needed a doctor in the kind of way that one rarely if ever experiences in the US. While there I saw more people born and more people die than I had ever before. I wanted to be able to offer medical care, something which I knew very little about but realized I had the capacity to learn as well as the opportunity. Leaping ahead about five years, as many jobs, and having completed my premed courses it was time to take the MCAT. Having returned to the US for quite some time, my enthusiasm for medicine was again waning. I just wasn’t very interested in medicine as an intellectual pursuit. Without ill or dying patients in front of me, I had almost no motivation to pick up a medical text book and start learning. This was very different from math and philosophy which I would actively pursue on my free time as well for my studies. At first I though I would probably do poorly in my premed courses (such as cell bio and organic chem) due to my complete lack of interest in the material. However, much to my surprise I ended up getting pretty much straight A’s. Having finished the courses it was time to take the MCAT. I had been simultaneously taking upper level math courses in order to remain a full time student as well as to maintain my sanity. I was deeply torn as to whether I should apply to med school or go into teaching math, which I was very excited to do but somehow thought wouldn’t be challenging enough. I decided to take the MCAT and see what I got. Maybe I would get a bad score and that would be that. Having almost no motivation I ended up only studying for the test the week before. Again, totally to my surprise I got a 33. It started to seem like I was destined to go to med school whether I wanted to or not. I couldn’t stomach the idea of studying in a school in the US so I started looking abroad hoping that I could find a place where I would be able to rediscover my motivation for medicine. I ended up discovering a school that by description perfectly fit that bill. They even offered a half tuition scholarship to one student per year. I decided to only apply to that school and if I got in AND got the scholarship I would go. AGAIN it happened! Wracked by indecision and a sense of foreboding that none of this was meant to be and that it would all catch up to me once I was deeply in debt and depressed…I decided to at least give it a try. I figured that the debt wouldn’t be so bad since I had the partial scholarship.

    As soon as the first year began I felt completely lost. I didn’t even know what kind of courses one would study in medical school. No one in my family had ever gone in to medicine and neither had any of my close friends. I felt totally lost in classes and stopped going to most of them. Come finals time I failed the first one, biochemistry. I thought about dropping out right then and there, but people kept telling me that “no one enjoys the first 2 years of medical school”, and that “medicine really starts in the 3rd year when you are on the wards”. I took that advice figuring I couldn’t dismiss medicine without giving it its fair shake. I passed biochem on the retake and never failed another exam again until…Step 1. I just found out that I failed yesterday. I am about begin my internal rotation in 2 days and I feel almost surreal. The thought of having to retake Step 1 seems horrible and unlike other people, I don’t feel like I really want it. The whole time I have been studying here I have felt that I have been working twice as hard as I should be. It is as though I were pulling the plow and pushing the mule. Memorizing facts has never been appealing to me and I still feel as though I would not even be able to tutor someone in a high school biology class. The only thing that makes any sense to me is physiology and the math based courses such as biostats and epi (which sadly for me feature minimally in medical school). Despite having the scholarship I am still massively in debt mostly due to living expenses and am unsure whether going in to teaching at this point would be feasible financially. I feel as though this has been the most expensive mistake I have made and probably will ever make. I am in my 30’s and single and the thought of returning to the US with my tail between my legs at this point is daunting. I am considering retaking my Step 1 in a month or so, but that won’t change the fact that I still don’t feel right here. I don’t identify with most of the people that I go to school with, nor with the faculty or staff in the hospital. Generally the only things that I look forwards to are my extracurricular activities like surfing, rock climbing, and mountain biking, which I probably do to much of given my current academic struggles. If I left school now I would definitely pursue a teaching job in mathematics. Still I am torn. I know I could retake the Step 1 and pass, but a part of me just doesn’t want to. I feel like I am too stubborn to quite, but that could very well be my undoing. I woke up this morning feeling very depressed about the whole thing and have been unable to sleep since finding out that I failed. As expected the school is offering little support, when I told the academic advisor what was going on he just asked when I wanted to retake the test and then rushed out to do something else.

    I am worried about trudging through reluctantly only to get a residency that I am unenthused about, or dropping out, becoming saddled with debt and being unable to enjoy what I might otherwise have enjoyed if I were debt free. The most attractive field of medicine to me is rural family practice, which also happens not to be extremely competitive, however, even those residencies often require you to pass the Step 1 on the first try.

    I would greatly appreciate any advice you could offer me.

    Thanks.

  26. fuck med school. i hate it so much. i dont even have time for proper grammar

  27. Wow, I’m so glad I found this blog…I’m in my first year of medical school, and earlier today I just got back my Physiology final. I scored a 58%. :( The Anatomy final I took the day before was about the same score. I don’t understand it; about 2 months ago I was pulling B’s in my classes. Now, I’m failing…

    This is my second shot at med school. My first try was through the Rice/Baylor 8-year med program. I dropped out, went to Harvard to pursue a liberal arts degree, and went on to obtain a Master’s in Political Science. But my career ambition in government didn’t pan out, and I applied to med school for the second time, and got in. You would think I would be so excited and determined to finish medical school this time around…but I’m not. I don’t have the drive and motivation to study the 9-12 hour days that med school requires of you. For my Physiology final, I studied for 2 hours (I slept and skyped with my boyfriend). Part of me knows I am doing it for my parents, and part of me is scared because I don’t know what other options I have.

    I know I’m smart, but unfortunately my grades don’t reflect that. I want to drop out, but I don’t know what else I would do. I’m scared to take a risk, but even more scared of not trying. If money were no object, I would work for an international foundation in ecumenical relations or pediatric AIDS. But I still have expensive college loans to pay off, and I have to admit, I like having luxuries in life.

    I thought about doing Psychiatry…I’m a good talker and a better listener…but I really just want to find my “dharma” or my life’s purpose. In the end, I would like God to help me find the perfect career, and I would wholeheartedly pursue it. I don’t want to have any regrets.

    Like many of you in this thread, I too suffer from mental illness, and I feel I probably do suffer from depression, although it is being handled with medication and love therapy from my boyfriend. I just wish I knew what to do with myself. If anyone can help me answer these questions: How do you know if being a physician is the career for you? How do you motivate yourself to make it through med school? And how do you keep your sanity through it all?

    • I am currently applying to medical school as a “second shot,” although I was dimissed from my first institution – I didn’t technically drop out. I did, however, let myself fail out because I wasn’t sure my heart was in it and becuse I was dealing with bipolar depression. Now that my health issues have been sorted out and I have had time to reflect, I am sure that I want to go back. How did you pull off getting into another medical school in the US? Did you have to put in any extra leg-work outside of reapplying?

      • I too am curious about LuLu’s question. For any of you who have left medical school, have you been able to reapply and restart at another US institution, and if so, how? Thanks for any advice.

    • I read through all these post and thought I’d give my two cents. I’m 33 and withdrew from med school after 6 weeks. Spent 2 months in denial, and I am currently in month 3 after leaving school. Half denial and half trying to figure out what to do next.

      I related to what everyone else has said above. Depression/Anxiety …..I think that its all code for “your going the wrong way”.

      Also, I find it interesting that so many people referenced/implied/or stated something about mental illness. When I was younger (13-25) I used to bottle things up and tried to pretend that I didn’t have feelings. I dislike the term mental illness as it relates to anxiety/depression (not trying to invalidate anyone who has been clinically diagnosed).

      But I think that its worth talking about when it comes to medical school. There is soooooo much pressure. Doing well in all the pre-reqs, doing all the “right” activities, applying/interviewing, and all the societal/family shinanigans that goes along with “becoming a doctor”.

      For me going to medical school was supposed to be about starting a life of meaning, helping people, providing for my family, making them proud, all the other typical reasons. But I got a 60 on my first exam and was basically told if you fail another one you have to sit out a year (which felt like I was being labeled “not smart”). 2 weeks later I got a 56 on the next exam. I could have taken a LOA but decided that the program I was in didn’t fit me personally.

      To anyone reading this I started this post with rant about mental illness because I really felt like I was having a break down the night before that second test. I tried like hell to get my stuff together the night before the test. In between crying (and I hadn’t cried in years) and panic sweating, I did my best to study. I left a 5 year career at a corporate job to pursue medicine. I spent 4 years doing the pre-reqs, shadowing, taking the mcat (twice), and somehow it was as if the pressure built up over those 4 years just trying to get into medical school crushed me that night. It was like my whole life depended on that test (IE with that kind of messed up thinking no wonder I had couldn’t study).

      So I guess my point is, we all got into medical school, (which as cheesy as it sounds IS an accomplishment), and just because it didn’t work out, doesn’t mean that we need to feel branded “medical school dropout”. Although if I am being honest, I am only 3 months out and feel like I want to run away and hide from anyone who knows that I was in medical school. This is especially hard for my wife, who is the nicest person in the world, but I am sooooo detached at the moment, too busy having my own pity party.

      Well, thought I would add my two cents, hope it helps someone.
      I am currently looking into graduate school programs (most likely physical therapy), but haven’t made any commitments yet. I also might re-apply to a different medical school, but who knows how that will play out.

      Anyone thinking about dropping out of med school, I don’t know if I should have taken a LOA. So many people pleaded with me to do that instead of withdrawing, but I think it was part bruised ego and part just plain intuition that made me withdraw, it just didn’t “feel” right being at that medical school. My advise would be, your guess is as good as mine. I still don’t know what the “right” decision would have been, I just hope I didn’t withdraw because I was embarrassed and didn’t want to have to go back to the same school were I basically felt like I was labeled “not smart” (yes, I realize that label is my head) Best of luck everyone, and thanks for sharing your stories.

  28. Hi Panda.
    I think it is great that you have reflected on your career path many times. That is a maturity I wish more people had before entering med school. Looks like you took some time to try something else (polysci) and that did not work out. The fact that you returned to medicine I think says something! Would it help to just focus on completing each week, each month, each year just one step at a time? Forget about what specialty you should do. Just focus on passing…Some times we can worry ourselves out of a future because we are all such type As and want to be in control of everything! Even an unknown future. That is the gift and the curse of those who want to become doctors.
    I thought that way for a long time and couldnt deal with not knowing if med was the right fit for me…so I quit…before I even started. You have already started and have passed.

    • Hi Andy,

      Thank you for your wise and sincere response. It came at a perfect time, when I am really struggling with what to do and still sorting out my options. You are right…I should take things step by step, day by day, week by week. I do hope to get my MD…and when I do, I know I will owe so much of it to your uncannily-timed reply.

      I wish you all the happiness and joy. May your journey be rich and fulfilling, and may you receive all the best this world has to offer!

  29. The irony of hind-sight …

    I regret attending medical school, I regret not quitting after the first year when my gut told me I should, and, finally, I most regret quitting after my third year when I was so close to finishing.

    I went to an excellent university for my undergrad education where I also garnered a decent art following. I was accepted into medical school right out of college. Everything seemed like it was going according to plan.

    Then I went to medical school …

    My social life went to shambles. The long distance relationship I naively thought would work crumbled after only 2 months of my being away even though the relationship was built on a 4 year foundation.

    At this point I became indescribably depressed. Having never been depressed before, I had no idea. I meandered about until my school offered me a split semester opportunity in hopes that I wouldn’t fail out. Ultimately, the split semester lightened the load enough that I was able to keep up with the work load.

    When the split semester ended the following year, I was slung into MS-2 not knowing just how difficult digesting that amount of information in one year was. I was never one to memorize, and the split semester offered me the luxury of being able to learn the material. To be honest, most of what I learned during my two years of MS-1 I still remember 3 years later, but I honestly remember nothing of MS-2.

    During MS-2 I also met my current girlfriend. She is smart and beautiful … and because of it she didn’t understand that I couldn’t handle the volume. She would tell me I was making excusing or that I flat out wasn’t trying, when in reality I was never a good memorizer. Her disappointment in me coupled with my mother’s disappointment further coupled by my own sense of failure lead me to drop out just before taking Step 1.

    After quitting I felt a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I thought I knew that I made the right decision. Then two years of inconsistent work as a teacher/tutor, and the workforce showing me how worthless my partial medical education is along with my girlfriends continued disappointment in me and my family basically nixing me from their lives has made me quite depressed again.

    I feel so lost. After reading this blog I realize just how hopeless my situation is. I have an insane amount of debt that I can’t pay down because I can’t get a good job. I find myself wishing I would have stayed in medical school and toughed it out.

    My only hope is that my girlfriend keeps rooting for me while quietly being disappointed in me … lord knows, she is the only one that is trying to be positive.

    …and I don’t know how many more times I can wake up hating myself. The last two years out of medical school have felt like an eternity.

    My advice, once your are in, decide if you are staying after one year. Once that one year mark passes, it is in your best academic and financial interest to stay.

    Hopefully someone reads this and learns from my three greatest mistakes. I strung together 22 years of good decisions only to let 3 bad decisions be my undoing.

    If anyone can offer some advice, that would be great.

    Good luck to everyone on here. Be strong.

    • S: i have the same issue as you…..could we talk…..honestly…i need some help..im from north america….

      my stomach gets really tight when i have to study and bc of that I have bowel and acid reflux issues….could we talk….please

      thanks,

  30. wow, thank you april 19th 2012. it’s so hard man. my school is keeping me out of my rotations and away in another state for an alcohol monitoring program they have me in. I’ve been sober quite a while (over a year), have passed all my classes, have passed a couple rotations, and my step 1, and have been negative on all UA’s. I feel alone, and no one understands what I am going thru. I’m so ready to just say, you know what, I don’t feel like putting up with you people (my school) anymore. I don’t know if I should hire a lawyer or what to do now. For the next 2 months, I have to be out of my rotations to do my monitoring program (one UA/wk, 2AA meetings/wk, counseling, psych docs) at the city where my school is, which is away from my family and culture.

  31. I am also really glad I found this blog, and where was it before??? My situation is that I graduated from college at 20 with honors and passionate and enthusiastic about medicine. I had a low MCAT score and did not want to wait a extra year so I went to a caribbean school, boy that was difficult. I did poorly and failed my semester with just 1 point and could not return. After taking a year off from that, I went back to school and took advanced science class and researched in the mean time. I found that I really do love medicine but the passion and energy wasnt as high as it once was. Somewhat half heartedly, I went back to the Caribbean because I thought this was my only option as I didnt think Us med schools would accept me ever. From the moment I stepped on that island, I had hated it, didnt have proper food, place, have a long distance relationship, and since it was my second time around, I didnt make many friends and kept to myself. I did well 1st sem but come 2nd sem I dont know if I thought I was in the clear or was it just the professors. But I couldnt follow the profs in class, they were all foreign and had their own way of teaching which I couldnt follow, all I wanted to do was skip class and sit in the library to study on my own but even that wasnt allowed due to attendance, and if you miss 7 class, you automatically fail. So I was kept in class till 5. I couldn’t learn a thing in class and felt like I was missing out on some secret because I wasnt able to make connections in class. In addition, even though I felt as though I had a handle on the material, the tests proved otherwise. Needless to say, I thought it would be best if I withdrew. I am now back in the states, I found faith in God and this is helping me not to go into depression. Right now, Im applying to PA school and podiatry after shadowing. I still love medicine, and I wish I didn’t, but I really do and I dont know what else I would do if not. My predicament is if I should tell the us schools about the med school I attended abroad. It would be hard for them to find out, except in one of the school, I took out a 10K federal loan to help pay. If they would find out, it would be through this. I really want to go to school but I fear that due to my poor academic performance previously, I might not gain admission. Please help what should I do??

    • First and foremost, I congratulate you on your persistence. Your story embodies a deep passion- something that any admissions committee should want in an applicant.

      I think that after all your hard work (i.e. MCATs, science classes, etc.), you should definitely continue your education. Both PA and podiatric medicine are great fields that would allow you to further your passion for medicine. In response to the fact that you might not gain admissions, as cliche as it sounds, not applying is like an automatic rejection.

  32. Thank you for your response. I just submitted my application and I was honest about my past and now Im sitting here like a scared duck. I hope I dont get punished for telling the truth. I asked a few other students and learned that they lied in their admission application. And now, Im wondering if I should have done the same because I dont know if this will cost my entrance. All I know is that those people who lied and got in could make it through and without geting caught. I wish schools have a surefire way and do look into each applicant because this is not fair to those of us who want to be truthful.

  33. Hey Ambitious still,
    My story is so much similar to yours. I went to Caribbean Med school and could not understand prof’s way of teaching and it impacted my step1 score and I could not believe that I failed… and it took me forever to get back to track.. I had to drop out and i tried to pursue another career……but I have had no luck(since past 3 yrs)..My husband told me to go back to Med school in US… But I really doubt I can even be considered as I have already failed step1. I am totally lost as, what to do next…sitting at home is just making me crazy…I feel like I am becoming dumb and useless everyday.

    Can someone provide, different career paths we can take…educationally or professionally to get back to Science/Medical Field. Also, I read lot of you doing MPH..what type of jobs can we expect from such a degree.. Please advise…

    • Hi Kanya! I know it seems like you are in a dark tunnel but there is hope, for the moment just set everything aside. The reason I say this is because, I realized there are still many options. Going into PA is not a bad idea. Also you could go into Physical therapy or if your heart is set on becoming a doctor(Which Im think I am stuck on) then there are other ways. Shadow an optometrist or podiatry and see if you can see yourself doing that. Personally, I wish I didnt go the MD route the first time and had a little more patience but then again, I know most of my friends who went to the Carib are all practicing now. Its a gamble!! We might have lost this round but this doesn’t mean we lost in life. It has taken more than myself to find courage everyday and not to doubt myself. Even today, I was trying to figure out where I went wrong. I personally dont think Im dumb, though not always the best test taker which is probably what got to me. However, I cannot determine if this is it, because I do believe there is something fundamentally wrong. It cant all be the systems fault, because every year, there are many who are graduating from a carib school. we did not know how to play the game.

      Nevertheless, dont loose hope. Life is much bigger than just a job and I cant believe Im saying that because this has been the only thing on for as long as I can remember. I know I havent completely done this yet, but I think in order to move forward, its becoming detached with whatever just happened and really analyzing what went wrong, because no matter what you go into, you could come across the same problem. After that, its really about forgiving yourself. What really helped was when my mom told me that its ok to change my field or profession, so what if this did not work out, dont hang your head in shame, for the only time you should be shameful is if you lost your self dignity.

  34. Thanks Ambitious still. I totally agree with what you said. One failure can’t control your life. You have to get a courage to move on… Just make sure not to take too much time getting out of it. That is my problem. It took me forever to come out to my senses that I actually can not finish my medical school. I am just trying to get my career life back on track. Thanks for all the help. Great Post!!!

  35. My story is very different from yours. i always knew i wanted to study medicine. where i come from straight away from high school you go into medicine proper. we don’t have premed programmes. Unfortunaly for me in my final high school chemistry exam i total got confused and got a C, Biology and Mathemetics whic are all pre-requisites i got a C. One year later, my University gave me physitherapy which i had never had of. I was shocked but quickly got over it. i decided to research about the field 2 months before lectures started. everyone i asked ha nasty things to say about the career. I was young then and all i cared about was the prestige associated with an MD. my siblings didn’t help either. i smetimes think they were happy ididnt get into medicine.

    My self esteem hit bottom. All i knew and cared about was medicine. so i enrolled int physiotherapy. the lecturers did not help either. they were actually encouraging us to quit saying all bad things. I guess part of me wanted to hear what they were saying. I stumbled upon the ACCA qualification. In my third year i quit even thoug i was doing very well in my class. i nboth years i was in the top 3 of my class. so i started the ACCA 3 years ago and just wrore my fina exam. To be onest i have been depressed fo the past 8 months. i have no clue what i am doing in accounting. i feel useless and i doupt if i will make it. i have no self esteem to talk about and feel like a complete failure. i have no one to talk to so i thought this forum could help me.

    • Hi Humphrey,

      Try getting into a U.S. medical school or a Caribbean school. There
      are also the D.O. route in the U..S. That is Doctor of Osteopathy and
      is a bit easier to get into but they end up doing residencies like in the U.K (House Officer) and then going on to being attending physicians (Consultants).

      Some ideas.

  36. Hey everyone- Thanks all of you for posting on this difficult topic and sharing and being honest. Med school is tough and I think deciding to or thinking about leaving is even tougher. But it’s so nice to know that I am not alone.

    Here is my situation:
    I did very well in Undergrad and got great grades, scholarships, did research, extracurriculars, etc., etc.. I also did well on the MCATs and got a 3.0 my first year of med school. However, after first year, I developed pretty bad anxiety and depression and was put on a bunch of medication and took the next year off. It’s a long story, but basically, I ended up returning after my first LOA only to fail the first exam again and take a second LOA.
    This is all well and good, but during the last year I developed a drug habit and was arrested a couple of times for simple misdemeanors and was never convicted. All of my charges ended up dropped by the state. I also entered into inpatient treatment and completed it, followed by completion of outpatient treatment. I have been in recovery just over 4 months and I am abstaining from all drugs and alcohol and plan to do so for the rest of my life.

    I am just not sure what to do as I am supposed to start school again very soon. I am ready to return and do as well as I can, but I do not want to have to be worried all year about just being kicked out when/if my school finds this stuff out (which I am pretty sure they will as I need to do a Fitness for Duty Evaluation before I go back next month and my school does fingerprinting and the VA does a background check- which only asks for convictions from what I can tell-before you can start rotations).

    Anyways, thank you for reading and PLEASE please if anyone has any similar experience, advice, or knows of anyone who had anything remotely similar happen with them, PLEASE RESPOND!!! Thank you, it would be greatly appreciated.

  37. P.S. I have a plan that involves just working and eventually finding a lab job and probably going back for M.S. or PhD in a few years and just paying off the loans as I can.

    Do PhD/grad school programs usually pay for their grad students’ tuition, etc.? Also, I’m assuming if I just withdrew from med school and all this other baggage was a few years behind me it wouldn’t much hinder my chances with admission to grad school, any thoughts??

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for reading and PLEASE RESPOND!!

    Good luck to everyone here- remember- NO ONE else cares if you are in med school or a doctor or not, and if they really do, they are not someone worth devoting any attention to anyways!

    • Hi A.R.,

      First of all, I want to commend you for your strength to persevere from your hardships and congrats on returning. Do not worry about being kicked out, because what you have gone through has only made you stronger.

      In response to PhD programs, there are many programs that give their grad students a stipend while in school. Maybe withdrawing now, applying to a M.S. program that may lead to a PhD program and ultimately being less stressed and anxiety-ridden is a better idea.

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  40. I read this book about a medical school dropout. I thought it was a nice read: http://amzn.com/1470185881

    I found it on amazon.

  41. Hey I just stumbled upon your blog amd I figured this might help me a little. I am in my first year of BDS ( bachelors in dentistry). The studies are extremely stressful tests and exams all the time. I went through a really bad phase of depression and anxiety in between and faced extreme panic attacks it was really hard for me to come out if that phase and it gets triggered when I am under a lot of stress
    .i
    always wanted to do dentistry but after suffering ao much

  42. Hey I just stumbled upon your blog amd I figured this might help me a little. I am in my first year of BDS ( bachelors in dentistry). The studies are extremely stressful tests and exams all the time. I went through a really bad phase of depression and anxiety in between and faced extreme panic attacks it was really hard for me to come out if that phase and it gets triggered when I am under a lot of stress
    I always wanted to do dentistry and thought that it would be easier than mbbs but its a lot harder and I realized that there is no point in being a doctor by compromising my health and mental peace. I have decided to quit it and opt for nutrition. I hope I make thw right decision and find happiness and conte
    ntment in it.

  43. Hi! Thank you for your blog. I failed medical school twice in a row (from different schools). I can’t help but feel depressed after realizing i was 4 points short of still being a medical student. Right now, I am looking for work and I just can’t stop thinking about what a failure I am. I wish I could somehow move on a little quicker. Thank you for making me realize I am not alone.

  44. So I know this is an old and long thread but anyway here goes:
    I am 23 and currently at my 5th year of medical School, yes 5th, so next year would be my last and then to residency and so on…
    My problem is for the past few years I have been thinking I have made a mistake, but stuck to the “oh you´ll see you´ll like it just stick to it” atittude.

    So by the 2nd year of med school I thought I should think about if medicine was what I wanted, “should I drop med school?” (Dont take me wrong but it never was the hard working type truth be told, I am quite a lazy guy and never actually tried to be top of the class nor anything like that, but always got through with around average grades without that much effort, while simultaniously not being able to stay foot studying, or without suddently realize I had been day dreaming for 45 min in the library. No matter how little I had studied, no concentration what so ever, either that or plain lazy or just studying something that doesnt really interest me, this still happens) So no problems with others think and so on that oh I am dum or anything not at all or that Oh if I fail its such a shame in that area I really dont give a damn about other people opinion about my abilities or intelegence as I think people should but often do a mind a lot in med schools.

    Anyway back to point by 2nd year I thought “just stick to it dont be so lazy” and “the first years are very different from the clinical years” so “You´ll see you will possibly like it” anyway so I thought about quitting again on the 3rd year and thought the exact same ” at least get to the clinical years dude”.

    By the end of the 4th year nothing really changed still studying enough to get by and above all thinking even if you dont continue medicine until the end, dont waste this year, do the classes you have to and the exams you have to. And here is were I should have realized, which I kind of think I did, I should have talked to someone some friends or my parents, anyway didnt, chickened out, was afraid of the reaction because I was so far along and still am afraid actually (some of my closest friends would definitly say are you stupid or what, and be completely unsupportive which really hurts me cause everytime I even started to try and scratch the surface of this problem not directly, this was how they reacted) so i just went on, its easier to keep doing the same old same old, same routine and avoid making changes than to change. I managed to allure my self to keep on by doing a semester abroad which was very childish I realize I should have adressed the issues instead of getting distractions.

    So by now I am finishing the 5th year and I just feel more lost than ever because I still drag my self to study what I have to, just enough to get by as usual, find very little or no pleasure in that study, I keep finding my self day dreaming about doing something other than medicine and just pretending that all is fine, I am a pretty happy guy but I feel that If by now I dont feel any passion for medicine and cant picture my self anymore spending my entire day inside of an hospital for the rest of my life (and its not like I didnt know that that was most of the job, my mother is a doctor, so I cant say I didnt know) then probably never will,

    Medicine Is not the worst thing in the world, it aint, but Its just not what I would say I want to do with my life, if anyone asked me if I won the lottery tomorrow what would I do, the first answer would be quit medicine… and maybe doing journalism (I dont think its such na extravagante wish), this is also the part I am not sure either but I believe that journalism might be something I might have a passion for. I really do like helping people thats why I think I though that medicine would be it, even though even when I applied for med school I wasnt sure If I wanted journalism, medicine, acting or zoology, (Yeah I know they have nothing in common but thats why I like them). the problem is I think I was very Imature and probably still am to realise that there is more than one way to help people you dont have to be a doctor to help people

    So long story short, and I apologize for the extent but its year of keeping it in, anyone has any kind of advice?. If I quit should I quit now or finish the 6th year and the quit? Honestly I am quite scared even if I quit because by the time I would end the journalism degree I would be at least 26/27 I this as idiotic as if someone suddently at 30 decided “Oh I want to be an olympic athlete” or Is it just me being afraid of failure in another area?
    Thanks for any help
    cheers

  45. p.s. sorry there are so many mistakes but my computer was constantly trying to auto correct in another language which even managed to make some sentences more or less illogical by changing, cutting, erasing, lots of words.

  46. I dont know what to do either. My first year of med school starts in 1 month and im supposed to move in one week but I am having serious doubts about if this is the life I want to live. I dont know if got into med school for the best reasons, and now that I have, I would feel like a dispshit if I just quit before even experiencing it. I think im having a mix of cold feet with some legitimate doubts as well. Im afraid to get into school, get buried in debt and be unable to return once I realize I hate it. That said, what are my other options? I have a BS in Biology…..you cannot find a job for a recent grad with no field experience in Biology. It just doesnt happen. Can you guys give me any advice here? I dont really know what to do. Im terrified to let my family down after I’ve made them so proud just getting accepted. I’ve told myself that after the first semester/1 year mark I will assess if this is the field for me and I will make my decision then. Do you guys agree with this plan?

    • I stuck with that plan. The benefit of it was that when I did quit it was on my own terms. I knew I could handle the profession but that I just didn’t enjoy it. The downside was that I did walk away with a lot of debt. If I could do it over again I wouldn’t have used loans to pay for my schooling. I wish I’d been smart enough to work for a few years first and then pay my own way. You can be a high school teacher with a Biology degree in most states. Science is a critical need and they will train you on the job. You can also work as a laboratory assistant at a university or you could choose another field to pursue.

  47. I dropped out of dental school and it was the worst time ever.I missed all my friends in dental school and suffered depression quietly. I ask myself why did it happen to me. Why could I not be happy and healthy like everyone else. I still cannot answer that question. Sometimes life is strange and even cruel. Dental schools are no place for sympathy either. If you fail or defer your professors will notice. Anyway, on the good side I don;t have to pull out people teeth anymore or do root canals.lol… Took me ages to reconcile with dropping out.Also there is nothing worse than repeating a year with a different cohort. All the friendships re made in first year so it plays with your mind forever.Anyway the experience has made me wiser and more prepared for new studies. ok take care my fellow friends

    • steven, i’ve had the exact similar experience. what are you doing now? how do you deal with the massive debt? please contact me as i would love to share my story with someone who knows how it feels as I haven’t discussed my experience with anyone. truely.blessed.001@gmail.com

  48. I just recently took a leave of absence from Physical Therapy School and then decided not to continue. I was in the clinical stage and had finished the academic work so I was able to take an academic Masters degree for the work I had done. Unfortunately it doesn’t really lead to any careers. I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to do now. I’m rather burned out on science. My other interests are with writing and kids; things that I have no preparation for. I’ve thought about going back for elementary teaching or trying to work my way into being an writer and or editor for children’s books. From where I am now though everything seems so unlikely to pan out and I’m scared of taking a risk (especially the financial aspects) only to fail again. I appreciate your post on this type of situation. It’s hard to talk about, but it’s comforting to know you’re not alone.

    • Elizabeth,

      I’m currently on a LOA and at a loss for what to do too. Message back if you get this. I would love to hear how you are doing now. Right now I just feel completely lost and overwhelmed.

      • Lost –
        I’m still job searching. With my medical background and writing interest I’ve been pursuing medical writing positions. It’s hard to get into but I joined AMWA and am working on their certificates to boost my resume. Nothing has really panned out so far but I am actively pursuing something with potential and choosing to continue improving myself and my options and that feels good at least. I’m also praying and trusting God to provide, and remembering how much he has blessed me already. I hope you are able to sort things out for yourself. Remember, if you made it into the school (PT? Medical?) then you are smart and capable. If it is the right fit for you, then you can go back and conquer it, if it’s not then you can succeed in whatever comes next. Don’t be afraid to get some counseling to help you sort out your options if you need it.
        Blessings,
        Elizabeth

  49. So I need URGENT advice:
    I have finished 3 out of 5 years of medical school, it’s an MBBS degree so I got into it right after high school. I was never sure about what I wanted to become, except that I wanted to study Psychology and Literature in college. My parents pressured me into studying medicine, as I did not have an alternative career in mind and they thought I could combine my interest in Psychology with medicine and become a Psychiatrist….anyway worst decision of my life. I have spent the last 3 years crying and hating every minute of every day, cursing internal medicine and histology and generally finding the subject matter completely boring. Furthermore, I resented medical school for the countless hours I spent standing in clinic or on call doing something I absolutely hated. Because of this I progressed into a very depressed state, despite successfully keeping up with my studies. When my Psych elective rolled around I enjoyed it thoroughly and developed a love for Child Psychiatry, but after some time in it began feeling sad/depressed by the patient’s stories, and found they were affecting me too much. I cannot discern whether this sadness was due to the field itself or because of my own depressed state. Anyway, after much research into psych residencies I realized that pursuing psychiatry still, for the most part, involves endless hours of medicine/neurology etc. and because of how depressed and anxious I have become in medical school I no longer feel cut out for listening to other people talk to me about their sadness either. I don’t know if it’s a phase or I should just genuinely cut my losses and run now. I won’t be in debt so the financial aspect isn’t a huge problem, but if I leave now I have the option of starting an undergrad in Canada and completing it in 3 years. My worry comes from the fact that I have NO idea what career to pursue instead, as my interests still only include Autism, Psychology, Literature etc. and I don’t want to be living paycheck to paycheck after giving up med school. In fact, the undergrad degree I plan to pursue would be far more costly that med school.
    The problem with continuing on this track is that I am so depressed I am finding it difficult to carry on, and even if I do manage to stick it out for the next 2 years, if Psychiatry truly isn’t for me then my career options outside healthcare are severely limited…so that’s a huge risk too, on top of risking my sanity of course. I am just so tormented because one does not simply leave med school after 3 years with NO idea of what they will pursue instead at their new college. PLEASE help me guys if you have any advice…I need to make a decision by tomorrow and I have no idea what to do….
    Thanks

    • Hey Guys. Sorry to hear about all your struggles. I was just yesterday dismissed in my first year of Medical school. My dean and school were not very understanding. I failed to pass 3 courses 1st semester due to depression and constant pain in my calves and abdomen which I now know was caused by then undiagnosed ulcerative colitis. In January I had to write a letter to the board explaining my situation to ask for a 2nd attempt at 1st year by switching to the 5 year program. The board never responded and when I asked them they basically told me they couldn’t comment until the dean made a decision. Well now its March and yesterday j received my dismissal notice. It was dated early February and not sent till mid March. I had been attending classes for 3 months while the comitee voted in early January to dismiss me. For a profession that should be about compassion, I was not shown very much. Now to figure out this life thing.

    • Dear Troubled,
      I am in the exact same situation as you were a year ago, with the same interest in psychology that got me to medical school…became overly hopeful that child psychiatry would be my reward but after doing it realized that I am too depressed and anxious to listen to my patients enough to help them anymore. I’m considering taking a leave of absence from my 4th year of medical school but don’t know where to turn. I have to decide very soon. Please reach out and let me know where you are today.
      Thank you.

  50. Dear reader,
    I dropped out from PA program one week ago because I was too hard on myself; I was the only international student in the class. I burned out, my depression and anxiety got really bad, but when my professors started questioning my “language abilities” I lost it…. I don’t know what is waiting for me at this point; loans, F’s, life long regret, facing peoples laughters….. At the end of the day, I did this for myself and I truly believe that people who love me for me will understand my decision. I am planning to take a year off and take some classes that would benefit my second try…. “The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts” A. Einstein

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