Choosing My Degree For Me

As corny as the title sounds, this post is about how I ended up choosing to study BHSc and then adding a conjoint at the end of my first year.

I was lucky enough to make this decision pretty much on my own (I know for some people they aren’t as fortunate), and I’m glad I had mostly support from my parents and those I care about along the way. Hopefully this helps you understand what my decision process was like when it came to choosing what I was going to study. However, remember that everyone is on their own journey, and your path may not be the same as mine! :)

High School

From around Year 12, I knew that I wanted to do something health-related, but I wasn’t exactly sure what. I didn’t know whether I wanted it to be clinical or non-clinical, experimental-based or theoretical, or if I wanted to combine these interests with something else. At this time, I thought my only pathway into a health-related career was doing Biomed (BSc specialising in Biomedical Sciences) at the University of Auckland (equivalent to FYHS at Otago), but I wasn’t really satisfied with this. My boyfriend’s brother was going through first year Biomed at the time, and it just sounded like absolute torture that I wasn’t ready to commit to for a couple of reasons.

  1. ONLY science and nothing else? No thanks. — My best subjects in high school was actually History and English because I liked to write, and I was definitely not ready to give these up
  2. I hated physics with a passion — Even though I look back and think “it was only ONE paper in first year Biomed’, I swear the fact that I could not stand mechanics, waves or anything adjacent
  3. I didn’t like the careers that I would end up doing if I didn’t make it into a clinical programme — Even from then I couldn’t see myself working in a research lab all day and not really ‘interacting’ with others.

This was around the time I was thinking about doing psychology and becoming a clinical psychologist. I had discussed this with a friend of mine that was currently at the University of Otago (doing something he hated — more on this another time) who was so intrigued by this that he got me a book all about psychology that I was fascinated in. However, when I talked to my sister who had similar aspirations when she was about my age at the time, she said that it takes almost forever to become a registered clinical psychologist. When I heard this, I was instantly discouraged. I couldn’t see myself not earning a lot money before the age of 24 (very wishful aspirations) and putting my life off just to study. My parents also at first tried to discourage me from psychology as they didn’t really know much about it. However, they said that the decision about what I do was ‘totally up to me’, which I am thankful for.

Year 13 came around and it was around the time to start applying for universities. Because of COVID, I already knew the only University I wanted to go to was UoA. But what was I going to study?

Career Guidance

In one of our ‘Life Skill’ seminars during our study periods, we had to fill out a form about where we were heading after the year had ended so that we could talk to our careers advisor about it. One section for where you wanted to go, one section for information you would like, and a final section on the top three things you wanted to study in order of preference. Unsure of what to put and looking at my friends who were jotting down endless notes, I decided to put the following:

  1. Something medical (descriptive, I know)
  2. BSc majoring in psychology conjoint with BMus majoring in jazz performance (classy)
  3. Music at Berklee/Julliard (totally took the piss here)

I plopped it on the career advisor’s desk that afternoon and didn’t bother researching further into what I wanted to talk about. And surely enough, the next day, I got a call to go to her office to talk about my options.

It was a Friday during my study period where I usually have my Netflix/Disney+ break. I went into her office where the windows were wide open so everyone could hear about how completely different my choices were from one another. But my career advisor took a different approach.

“So *insert incorrect pronunciation of my name here*, you want to be a doctor?”

“Uh… sure, something in health would be good”

And from then she went on and on and on about Biomed. I tuned out a bit, but then she talked about BHSc.

“Yeah from what I can see, you take mostly science subjects so you probably won’t be interested in this pathway”.

I asked her meekly to carry on just so I knew what my options were. She didn’t really say much about BHSc, so I guess I was left to my own devices to figure out what the degree was about.

During my chemistry class, I spent the whole period researching the different degrees UoA had to offer that sparked my interests one way or another. Health science, pharmacy, medicinal chemistry, law conjoint with BHSc… However, it just kept going back to Health Science

Applying For University Degrees — All. Of. Them.

During the first COVID lockdown I got incredibly bored and basically drove myself to insanity by applying for any degree that sounded remotely interesting.

All the degrees I applied for :p

Funnily enough, I applied for all of these degrees on a Tuesday in the first week of May, and ended up getting Fast Track offers for all of them by the following week. Totally made my decision easier (not).

So why did I choose Health Science in the end without a conjoint? Was it because I was set on becoming a doctor or pharmacist? Was it because doing a conjoint would take even longer to complete? Well, the main reason for it was because I didn’t actually know what careers any of these degrees led to besides Health Science. In my mind it was either:

  1. Become a doctor
  2. Become a pharmacist
  3. Work in the government advising Ashley Bloomfield (*heart eyes*) on health issues

And any of these options sounded good to me at the time.

So Why Did You Go Back to BHSc/BSc?

Many people are going to think it’s because I ‘failed’ premed (click here to hear my story!). But to be honest, even if my first year went perfectly, I’m not entirely sure I would’ve been happy knowing what I could be missing out on. My favourite papers ended up being the non-cores — not because they were easier, but because I just found them more interesting. And I think when it comes to studying, if you’re really passionate about something, you’ll make a career out of it one way or another.

One of my favourite papers from Semester 2 ended up being HLTHPSYC 122 and my favourite module from MEDSCI 142 was the Nervous System/Brain. The psychology bells in my head were ringing to give it another thought. So I did.

I spent one entire afternoon after my Gen Ed lecture looking at the potential psychology pathways I could get into. Did they look easy? Hell no, two postgraduate degrees in the space of 4 years did not sound fun. But did they sound interesting? Hell yeah.

So who do I call when I need life advice to make a big decision? My parents. I’m so glad my mum and dad are just a phone call away, it definitely saves me from losing my mind. I basically told them everything — about how I wasn’t enjoying premed, how I had always liked psychology, and that even though the journey to possibly doing clinical psychology (or even in the end, postgraduate entry to MBChB) was not easy, I was willing to make it work. While my dad was a bit more apprehensive, my mum totally understood where I was coming from, and she was actually proud of me for taking the time to assess my options. In her words she would’ve “hated it” if I did get into med, but didn’t enjoy it and felt bad for wasting money after 6 years. She also reminded me that the age difference between getting into medicine now, doing clinical psychology or doing postgrad med was not even that much (24 vs. 26 vs. 27, respectively). Once I took the time to thoroughly explain it again to my dad, he was understanding too. I think that’s the thing with parents. If you sort of relate your reasoning to their own experiences and have the time to hear them out, you can have a better dialogue with them. After all, they just want what’s best for you.

I had the choice of just doing BSc majoring in Psychology, but like I mentioned previously, I actually liked almost all of the non-core health science papers. I was also quite good at them, and felt that if any of my potential clinical pathways did not pan out, doing a career on a policy level (+ psychology experience) would make me stand out in the workforce.

Once that happened, I did not hesitate sending in my application for BHSc/BSc. And a big weight was lifted off my shoulders. Time to forge ahead (as Elsa says) into the unknown…

Anyways this was a pretty long post (oops), but I hope this has brought some insight as to how I picked my degree!

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay happy!

Going Psycho(logy) ^.^

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