This time of year we read a lot of applications. I won’t go into the numbers but suffice to say many of my work hours, most of whatever free time I have and a few additional “squeeze them in whenever I can” hours (like when my infant twins are sleeping and my 2 and a half year old daughter is extremely focused on an elaborate dyed noodle and crayon creation) are spent reviewing them. And you know what? It absolutely amazes me how many candidates will recognize medicine or law as a career aspiration. I certainly understand a desire to help people (no explanation needed there). I also understand having a desire to think loftily about one’s future- the hope that one will attain financial success along with self-defined personal success. That’s just smart, thoughtful and good planning. Then there is the elephant-in-the-room question… Just how influential are the Grey’s Anatomy and Law & Order addictions that run rampant in our DVR focused society? I feel comfortable posing this interrogative because I’m planted firmly (and quite comfortably) in the camp that thoroughly enjoys spending an evening catching up on the drama associated with McDreamy, McSteamy, Grey, Little Grey and yes, even the weird Izzy “haunted by her dead-ex” story line.
But, and this is a big “but”…
I find myself far more intrigued when a student shares that he or she has an interest in pursuing a career as an ichthyologist or a foreign diplomat to the UAE. It’s not that I find it hard to believe that many of you will be capable of pursuing careers in medicine or law (quite the contrary as your intellectual power as a group regularly astound me) but rather that when you get right down to it very few of you will ultimately follow those rocky paths. There are wonderful reasons for changing your mind about an area of interest and college will be the place where the flood gates of opportunity will open to you. Your computer science professor will convince you that Ruby on Rails or C# are the best “languages” since sliced bread. Your English teacher will inspire you to write poetry based on self reflection. Your international relations professor will- wait- does it really matter what he or she does? The fact that you’ll HAVE an international relations professor in and of itself will mean you are exploring new material. There will be books and research and internships to discover… Truly- it will be an amazing time and all sorts of new, different and unexpected career aspirations will jump into your head.
So, don’t cognitively hem yourself in by defining a career aspiration on your application as a result of a Grey’s Anatomy “crush”, because you think being a lawyer will be all glammer and dollar signs, because your parents “expect” you to be one of those two kinds of professionals, or even worse- you feel like you simply cannot think of other options. Being undecided is OK. (In fact I encourage it.) You’ve got lots of time. There are a million things that a sharp and spirited mind can do with enthusiasm, mentorship and education. Be open to those new ideas. Goodness knows that no one spends child hood saying, “I’d like to grow up to be a college admission dean,” but, I simply love what I do. You’ll find your niche, and if it is becoming a world renown physician or prosecutor- excellent. Just know those ichthyologists and foreign diplomats are doing some pretty amazing things too and a bunch of them probably started out wanting to be doctors.
– Jennifer Scott