Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 19, 2021

Freshmen: Please explore non-pre-med options

By JESSICA KASAMOTO | October 3, 2019


Dear Freshmen, 

You are now familiar enough with Hopkins to realize that we are literally in the land of pre-meds. You know what I’m talking about. They’re not rare; they live among us — they’re in our classes, they live in our buildings and they surround us at office hours. In fact, many of you reading this probably are one or thought about becoming one — those brave souls who are choosing to take the road less taken — to spend nearly a decade of early adulthood in school and take on one of the most admired professions out there.

There are many reasons why one would have decided to take the plunge. Some have dreamed of becoming a doctor for as long as they could remember. Others declared pre-med simply to make mom and dad happy. Some think that medical school guarantees you stability for the rest of your adult life. Others just really like Grey’s Anatomy.

Regardless, if you’re a Biology major here (or anything else “science-y” for that matter) it’s super super duper important that you freshmen stick to being pre-med, right? Cause, like, what else could one with a Hopkins degree possibly do with their lives besides doctoring? 

Wrong. Very wrong.  

Despite what your Great Aunt Marion, your old English teacher and your dad’s coworkers told you when you got into Hopkins, remember that one, Hopkins is known for more than just med school and two, you don’t have to go to med school to live long and successful lives.

There’s plenty of options out there. I know it can be hard to see when 98 percent of your friends are dead-set on going to Harvard Medical School, but there are a lot of other things that you can do with yourself post-graduation with your STEM degree. 

For starters:


You’re a freshman Biology major, and you decide to join a lab as soon as you stepped foot on campus this fall — after all, you can’t miss a beat if you want Hopkins Med to even consider you, right? You choose a lab that studies cancer stem cells because “cancer stem cells” sounds doctory. It takes a while, but you finally learn what a cancer stem cell is, and you are somewhat independent in the lab. You begin to enjoy your research, and you begin to forget that these stem cells were merely just a stepping stone to your permanent place on the med campus. If only there was a way you could just do pure research in the future....

Well. There is. Literally, look at your PI. If you really do enjoy doing research, especially in an academic setting, look into getting your PhD in your field of interest. With that, you could not only get a job in academia as a research professor, but PhDs in STEM fields are also qualified for some higher-level positions in the industry. 

Master’s degree

You chose Public Health because that one upperclassman told you that it’s the “easy” pre-med major (and really, any major with the word “health” has to give you pre-med brownie points, right?) Your Public Health classes are enjoyable, way more enjoyable than your Intro Bio lab that you thought your pre-med self would love. You enjoy the well-rounded nature of public health — how it incorporates STEM fields, like biology, chemistry, statistics and environmental science, with policy development and communications to improve the health of different communities.

A master’s in public health would be a good route to go. It will give you further insight into your field of study and prepare you to either apply for a PhD program later or better prepare you for a higher-level job in research or industry. If you’re interested in your field of study and aren’t sure about a PhD, a master’s degree may be a good place to start.

Law school

Yes. You heard me right. Law school. No, you don’t have to be a Political Science major to go to law school. If you begin to realize halfway through your time here that maybe you’d enjoy a career in law or politics, you didn’t close all your doors by picking a STEM degree. In fact, you may have opened some — patent attorneys are expected to be experts in not only law but also any scientific, engineering or technical field in which they would want to concentrate their practice on, so any degree in a STEM field you are interested in is a plus!

Actually getting a job and choosing to not go to grad school 

School after undergrad isn’t for everyone, and you know what? That is okay. Not going onto the 17th grade is perfectly fine. Honestly. Going to graduate school has pros and cons — if you decide it isn’t for you, there are jobs out there for you non-pre-med STEM majors — genetic counselor, pharmacists, nursing, food scientist, environmental scientists, scientific journalism, laboratory technician — the list goes on and on. 

And that was just naming a few — there are other options outside of medical school. Now, I’m not saying that every single pre-med student should reevaluate their decision to become pre-med; if you are really truly passionate about medical school, then by all means — go for it. But if you feel like you are one of those who may have just jumped on the Grey’s Anatomy bandwagon, just know it’s not too late for you to jump off. You don’t have to have it all mapped out right now. Just know that you have doors open. Feel around, test the waters for other post-grad options these next couple years. Just don’t get trampled by the herd of pre-meds on the way. You’re young; you’ll figure it out. I believe in you.



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