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PhD a mistake? Post Bacc to Med school??

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I'm a first year psychology graduate student (specializing in cognitive neuroscience) at a pretty good grad school. I'm only a couple months in and I'm panicking- I wasn't 100% sure about grad school when I entered and now I feel even worse. I don't feel motivated/interested in the research I'm doing and now I'm thinking I should pursue a post-bacc to be pre med. But my friends and family say I should give it a little time to figure out what I want to research, etc. 

 I'm 22, and people say that I just need time to figure it out, but I'm worried that after 5 years of a PhD program, I'm not going to be happy with a job in academia (if I get one.. and that's a big if). 
I've been thinking about applying to post bacc programs -- which would be roughly 2 years plus 4 years of med school (plus residency, etc). Or, I could wait until I get my master's, which would delay it another year. Would this be worth it?? Or should I just forget about this and stay in my program?

In short, I have NO idea what to do. Help!

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You're 22. You're young. Don't rush big decisions in life! I'm 25 and applying for a PhD now. Most of my classmates in my Master's were around 28 - 29. You're fine.

Realize that a PhD does not necessarily need to lead to a job in academics - explore other opportunities! As a social psych grad, I worked in consultancy last spring, although I wasn't happy in consultancy itself, their R&D departments are something I could see myself work (PhD would be helpful in landing a job there). I'm sure there must be things outside academics that you can do with a PhD in cognitive neuro. 

I'd take the one more year rather than rush into something else. What type of research would you be interested in doing? Or don't you like research in itself? I've had a love-hate relationship with it, also depending on whom I was working with (one amazing supervisor, one shit supervisor who I was never able to reach). Also - did you maybe have too high expectations for the PhD? Or was there something else you expected? And what does attract you to med school?


Honestly it took me a long time to come to the conclusion research is what I wanted to do. I've lived abroad for a year, I've taken a bunch of applied classes, it took me a good 5 years to really figure out my true research interests. 

Edited by Psygeek

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Thank you so much for your reply! I've been thinking about what I would do other than academia, and I'm not sure the skills lend itself to anything but data analysis/statistical analysis for businesses which I'm not sure I would be into. 

Maybe I had too high expectations- I think I didn't really think it through, I just thought I would figure it out as soon as I got here. Now that I'm here, there are people who feel similarly but also many people know exactly what they want to do and what they're passionate about (like you!).  Maybe it has to do with my advisor-- but I'm not sure how much I can move around in my program. I guess what draws me to a medical career is how applied it is, and how it seems directly valuable to people's lives (I'm getting kind of discouraged by the research people are doing here for months that no one will read, and no one will be impacted by it).


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What projects are you currently working on? And is there any other people in your department you may work with? Is it possible to do any 'side' projects with other staff members, maybe even from other departments? In this case, all I could advise is talk with your cohort, talk with someone in your program what is possible, and try to think of ways that you can fit your topics to some sort of 'valuable' direction. However, theoretical research is also extremely valuable, although the direct link may not always be obvious.

Cog neuropscy folks (at least what I know from my friends) sometimes also end up in the medical sector if they go more in the clinical cog neuropsych direction. One of my friends is currently developing tests related to brain diseases, another one is doing something with fMRI research and Alzheimer I believe, and yet my close friend is doing something related to sleep research and trauma's. 

I think this is why it is important that you only apply to projects and schools you have a direct fit or feeling with. I'm applying to schools where I can work on topics as social class/social mobility/inequality/multiculturality from an institutional approach (kinda blend between sociology/psychology/anthropology). It means I only apply to 7 schools, but so be it. 

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