Picture this: it's spring 2019, the end of my sophomore year of college
It's Friday morning, I'm exhausted, worn out, but eager to get my last chemistry exam back before the final. My lab group and I walked up to the exam pile half-asleep from a week of studying for 15 hours just for this one class, on top of all our other difficult science courses. There's finally a break in the crowd of anxious students and we frantically flip through the names "A…B..C… K. finally, there's mine!" We had all prepared together and expected to get similar (thus, decent) grades. I grab my packet and lift it up to see a big fat letter "F" written on the top. And just like that, all hope I had of ending the class with a good grade crumbled. I turned to see the expressions on the other girls' faces to gauge how they did. Judging by the astounding looks they had, I knew we all failed.
That was the last thread I held on to before switching out of my biology pre-physician assistant major
After that grade, my cumulative score had dropped too low, meaning I would have to retake chemistry for the second time in college in order to move on to dreaded organic chemistry, which I had no interest in doing. And so, begins the story of what led me to change my major to Communication Sciences and Disorders.
Let's backtrack and think about this: at age 17-18, you're handed a college application and told to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life
If you're one of the lucky ones who has always known their path, great. But that was not my case. I went to a small high school in a tiny town that didn't have much to offer. They had the standard STEM and fine arts programs with three foreign languages and that was about it. I took a bunch of classes across different disciplines and after I took the standard physics, chemistry, biology, and math courses, I narrowed it down to a science. Therefore, when senior year rolled around and I applied to colleges, I knew I'd be a science major. Other areas of the study didn't click with me, and while I loved music, literature, and foreign languages, they weren't what I wanted to have a career in. Biology, anatomy, and chemistry were always what I was interested in, so it made sense to declare a bio pre-med major. I wanted to work in the medical field, was good at science, and thought this was the right track. After all, I took as many STEM courses as I could and graduated with a 3.7 GPA, so that's saying something, right?
When I started my college education, I was dead set on becoming a doctor.
But, by the end of my freshman year, I had struggled immensely with math and chemistry two semesters in a row and had mediocre grades. Part of it was because of the struggle of transitioning to college with such a hard major, but in reality, it wasn't for me. There were several different aspects that made me unsatisfied as a pre-med turned pre-PA student. To start off, I struggled with more complicated chemistry topics back in chem II honors in high school. Junior year, I failed our test on basic organic chemistry concepts because I, for the life of me, could not even understand my homework. Then, I retook general chem my freshman year because I got a D+ in it and the following semester, I got a C. It really should have ended then and there, but I didn't know what to do with myself besides bio. In September of my sophomore year, I joined a pre-med club. There, I attended weekly meetings featuring various medical school talks about admission requirements, MCAT prep, coursework, and residencies. After a month of this, I understood that the stress of pre-med and trying to get into medical school was a no-go. There was no way I could handle that kind of pressure, nonstop work, and lengthy residencies without cracking. At that point, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do next, but switching to a completely different major seemed too daunting. I was still really indecisive and wasn't sure if I wanted to leave biology behind entirely. I enjoyed my biology classes, but chemistry, physics, and math were almost impossible for me to do well in.
In October, after consulting with my advisor about this, I changed my major to a bio
We had discussed the requirements for the program and admission into graduate school, the change in coursework, and decided this career path suited me much better. I was so relieved to get the heck out of pre-med and not have to worry about starting over completely. Now, better times are ahead (boy, was I wrong).
Sophomore year was only slightly less of a mess than freshman year (to be honest, junior year wasn't that great either, but that's beside the point). It turned out, even after taking those classes again, I didn't get a high enough grade to continue into the next level of math and chemistry I needed for my major. The next semester, I moved on to upper-level classes and realized I was in over my head. I had two leadership positions, membership in five student orgs, and took 19 credit hours because of my double major. I was sitting in my early morning lectures bored to sleep and absolutely miserable in every single of them. It did not matter how much I studied, how often I went to office hours, supplemental instruction sessions, or how many hours my lab group spent taking practice exams before our midterms; I did not understand anything.
In turn, that reflected in my grades, especially when I would have the exams sitting in front of me and completely drew a blank, resulting in a whole lot of C's and D's. They say the definition of insanity is when you do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. I think that about sums up spring 2019 for me. It was like figuratively banging my head against a wall, trying to make a dent and get somewhere on this arduous road, but getting nowhere. Come May, I was crying outside of the library at night and saying "I can't do this anymore. I don't want to do it." to myself between sobs. Staying in bio pre-PA was physically and mentally harming my health. I was very unhealthy. I never had time to rest, take breaks, or look after myself. I was tired of watching my hair fall out and the bags under my eyes grow darker with each day, so I called it quits.
After my sob fest, I walked into my advisor's office on the last day of classes and said, "This is not working out for me and I don't know what to do, but it just can't be this."
I told her that I would always compare my bio major to other people's majors and was very disappointed in the fact that I never had any hands-on experiences related to my future career. I was sitting in classes learning about DNA replication and thermodynamics, taking three-hour chemistry and physics labs that had to fail grade averages for their exams (yes, lab exams were, unfortunately, a thing), and not understanding how I needed that information to be a physician assistant. Yet, I saw other majors who were getting real patient care hours and practice by their junior year because fieldwork is a graduation requirement for them. But I was nearing the end of my sophomore year, feeling like I was getting nowhere. I didn't like what I was studying either. When I got to the upper-level courses, I found them impossibly difficult, boring, and way too complicated to understand. So, those were big factors in finding something new for me. A couple of weeks earlier, I started browsing the CSD major instead of paying attention in chem lecture and told my best friend, "I'm thinking about changing my major but I'm not sure yet."
During our appointment, I said I had dropped one of my science courses for next semester and replaced it with the intro CSD course to test it out for fall 2019. So, we browsed through every single major in the College of Health Sciences and Professions to narrow down what would be feasible and what wouldn't, gauging my interests and abilities. Literally, nothing clicked until we looked at Communication Sciences and Disorders. The coursework interested me, I could still graduate in the same year as planned, just a semester later, and speech pathology seemed like the perfect fit. So, after spending an hour and fifteen minutes searching through different programs, it was obvious that I finally found my path. From then on, it has been smooth sailing. I started my new major in the fall and knew instantly that this was where I was supposed to be all along. In CSD, everything I learn in my current major directly correlates to the practices I will use as a Speech-Language Pathologist. My professors tell us exactly how we are going to use each and every technique or piece of information they give us as SLPs or Audiologists one day. That was a huge factor in my success as a CSD major. And it makes sense. Think about it: when you don't understand how your courses will help you in the future, you study hard only to get C's consistently and have a hard time understanding what's going on in class, chances are, you're not motivated and your grades are going to drop because of it. That was definitely my case.
Thankfully, things changed junior year. I know Communication Sciences and Disorders means something different to just about everyone I talk to. It's a mouthful, I get it. But it's really just a fancy way of saying speech and hearing science. I study language, speech, and hearing science along with their disorders. I also got to learn my 4th language, ASL, which I will declare a certificate in once the program is solidified. I never knew how to intertwine my two passions, science, and languages, together until I came across Speech-Language Pathology. It's such an underrated field, honestly. Speech therapists can work just about anywhere and in different specializations, which is great. We can be medical or school SLPs, and in our 2nd year of grad school, we get placed in both a medical and school facility to gain experience on where and with whom we want to work. There is no limit to what range of patients we can see and what kinds of disorders we treat. For example, I could be a dialect coach in a theatre to work with actors on correct articulation and pronunciation in foreign languages if I wanted; how cool is that? I can also work with children who are on the autism spectrum in schools. The possibilities are endless in this field.
The mindset and capabilities I have in this discipline are 360 from my old one
It became easy to concentrate in class, everything I learn is interconnected to my other courses because they're all in the same department, and I learn the same concepts but from different angles and for different practices. For example, I recently studied the anatomy and physiology of respiration in both my anatomy and speech science classes. In anatomy, we studied all the structures involved in breathing, then in speech science, we did a lab correlated with the topic. It is so helpful when you can make the connection between concepts and understand how you're going to use this knowledge to treat patients one day. I didn't have to spend 15 hours a week in the library anymore, I only needed to study for a couple of hours a day to ace my exams, and I have way better professors too. I watched my semester GPA go from a 3.0 to a 3.7 in one semester and made it onto the Dean's List because I finally understood the material and found it interesting. I became super involved in my major, my classes, and got to know my instructors on a personal level.
Now, in my 3rd semester as a CSD student, I have As in 5/6 of my classes. It's a lot of work, but I don't fear the future like I used to and dread my courses, wondering how I would make it through to graduation. I have trouble picking out what upper-level electives to take next semester because they're all super important, but I can't fit each one in (and that makes me sad!) I'm not the least bit annoyed that I'm taking an extra semester either because I know success is possible in this field. And you can bet I'm going to compete for a spot in some of the top SLP graduate programs in the nation next year because I have the grades for it.
I know that completely changing your career path, your major, and being uncertain about what you want to do for the rest of your life is a daunting process. But if you look around, most college students end up changing their majors, adding minors or certificates, go an extra semester or 5th year, and choose a different job or graduate degree than they originally planned. College isn't meant to be a time for you to remain static and never change. It's the opposite: these four to five years are where you can try everything you've never done before, take a wide variety of courses from different disciplines, live somewhere new, and more. It's totally okay to switch things up; that's the point of your education. And I don't regret my previous choices at all. They all led me to where I am and the people I met along the way each made an impact on my time at OU. So, if you're reading this and are in the same situation as I was back then, I have a message: do it. Embrace change. Change your major three times if that's what it takes for you to achieve your dreams. Study abroad, declare a double major, add a minor, whatever it may be. Don't be afraid of the unknown, there's so much good to come.
So, here's to a brighter future.
Speech Path isn't ready for me.