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My Surprising Path to Finding the Right College Major

I found that college isn’t what I always thought it would be. I’m glad I’ve kept an open mind.

Growing up watching movies and television shows like Grey’s Anatomy made me believe that I had the rest of my life figured out. Anytime anyone ever asked me what I wanted to be, I would quickly respond, “Some sort of doctor. I guess I’ll check my options when I get accepted into medical school.” I really had no idea what it meant to be in college or what courses to take. But I knew that I was passionate about healthcare. I thought choosing my major would be easy.

In the spring of my senior year of high school, I received acceptance and rejection letters from the universities I applied to. I didn’t accept any offers until the day before the deadline because I was so unsure of my capabilities to succeed in any particular scenario. A couple weeks after I accepted my offer at Case Western Reserve University, I began speaking to my assigned mentor, who helped craft my first semester schedule which consisted of required pre-med courses.

Maybe I should’ve realized after the first exams in chemistry and biology, which I bombed, that pre-med was not the right track for me. I made weekly phone calls to my mother during which I cried about my grades throughout first semester. I was worried about my grades.

And, even more worrisome, I was also noticing that I was hating my required courses for pre-med.

Nothing excited me about what I was learning. And I was becoming more unmotivated to study for my exams.

I knew that being in college, I had to take the matter into my own hands. So I scheduled a meeting with my mentor. I told him that I was still interested in health, but that I didn’t think I had it in me to become a doctor. He did some research and put me in touch with the director of Public Health for CWRU.

From the moment I met Dr. Scott Frank, I felt comfortable. I came from a lower-class immigrant family, and I was the first in my family to go to college. Dr. Frank understood what it was like for a person of my background to experience at college. Statistically speaking, it would be more challenging for me to be able to push through the difficult classes. Dr. Frank opened my eyes to options that I didn’t know existed; I could still help society if I decided not to continue pre-med. I could take classes that would interest me and that would be a better fit for the skills I have.

Second semester, I enrolled in Intro to Public Health to get a taste of what I was considering transitioning to. I was scared to drop my biology major and pre-med track. So I told myself to persevere through and do it for a second semester. A month into the semester, I was ready to shift away from pre-med toward business and health courses that put me on a path toward a major in healthcare management.

Here’s my advice for anyone who wants to know how to figure out your major:
  • Don’t expect yourself to know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life at any point during your first year in college.
  • Allow yourself to accept help and advice from individuals who have been in your shoes before.
  • Don’t compare yourself now to the person you were in high school. College is harder and you’re not always going to be #1.

Marilyn Gurrola

Marilyn Gurrola is a rising sophomore at Case Western Reserve University majoring in business management with a focus in healthcare management. She is interested in learning about immigrant injustices and pursuing a career in solving public health issues.

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