How I almost made the biggest mistake of my life (Part 1) - Macleans.ca

How I almost made the biggest mistake of my life (Part 1)

I didn’t want to make teeny robots for doctors. I wanted to be the doctor

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During my last couple years of high school, I started thinking about possible undergraduate degrees. Something that could work towards my dream of one day attending medical school. Maybe microbiology? Health studies? Biology?

I definitely had some decisions to make. But then I learned about some of the harsh realities of getting into med school. Out of the thousands and thousands of qualified hopefuls with high GPAs and diverse extracurricular activities who apply each year, only a handful make it in.

It’s not that these rejected applicants wouldn’t make good doctors. It’s strictly a numbers game. In Canada, government funding of med school spots means restrictions on how many doctors we can graduate each year.

Meaning, most people who apply to medical school in Canada won’t ever get in. No matter how smart, determined, or dedicated they are.

I knew the stats were working against me. In grade 12, I decided it was time to start thinking about Plan B.

Engineering?

It instantly clicked with me. Engineers solve problems using math and science. They apply their knowledge to a system, with a specific goal in mind.

Okay: so what type of engineering, and where?

Choosing a program comes before choosing a university. Once I had decided that, the University of Waterloo, renowned for its school of engineering, went straight to the top of my list.

UW was also a great fit because I lived in Kitchener and knew I couldn’t afford to go too far from home. U of T, York, Guelph, McMaster, Brock, and Western were also added to the list since all were within a doable commuting distance. I had a lot of great schools to choose from.

I looked through the different engineering programs each school offered. Mechanical, electrical, civil… then I saw it: Nanotechnology.

It sounded absolutely perfect to me. A program being offered for the first time in Canada, and best of all, at the University of Waterloo. The school’s website boasts, “you’ll apply mathematics, science, and engineering to model, design, and fabricate nanoengineered structures for sensors, electronics, biosystems, or advanced materials.”

An engineering program with biological applications in which “you’ll design nanostructures that may interact with cells.” Math and biology. Together. I was thrilled. It was like the program was speaking to me directly.

I had dreams of making tiny robots for doctors to use to kill cancer cells.

But two days before my university applications were due, I suddenly had a moment of, “What the hell am I thinking?!”

Engineering? Me? Why?

Overnight, I totally revamped everything I was about to do after realizing I was making a huge mistake. You can’t start compromising a dream before you’ve even taken a first step. Hell, of course I’d never get into med school. If I didn’t even try.

I didn’t want to make teeny robots for doctors. I wanted to be the doctor.