College junior majoring in biology but I have many other interests as well. Possible polymath?

Bit of a warning, this might be a long read.

Hey everybody I'm a junior in college right now, and I'm majoring in biology with a nutrition minor. Currently this year I'm getting ready to start prepping for the MCATs in the spring so I could get ready to apply for medical school. Currently I have a 3.1 GPA (deep slump as a freshman due to adjustment so I started with 2.8, but I had a 3.85 in HS) and I am treasurer of our rugby club and president of a school social club (our version of a fraternity). I feel my grades aren't as up to snuff for medical school as I had hoped they would be, and now being in my junior year, if I can't make the grades, I feel like I'll be caught in a tough spot.  I've been planning on going into medicine pretty much since middle school, as it's always interested me, and I love science, learning about diseases, keep people healthy in general, and physical fitness. But, if I'm not able to make it into medical school, I feel like I've just paid all this money to fall short of my previous goal. To make things a little more complicated, besides my interest in becoming a doctor. over the past couple of years from high school to now I've been getting very much into politics and history and things of that nature. I've always been a history nut, as I would often flip through my high school history book and read it just for fun, watch the History Channel for ages, or lose myself online researching historical information. However, politics had alluded me until I graduated high school and was a freshman in college. Nowadays, I'm the one in my circle of friends that won't shut up about it and I argue or discuss it constantly with others as well. Coupled with that, and, I think this is the right word, I think may want to be a polymath, I'm not sure of where to go from here.

My problem is, I go to a private Christian college out-of-state where the tuition is 33k a year now, and I have about 12k a year in academic scholarships to help me out there. When I originally came here, my plan was graduate, go to med school, residency, and take part in the National Public Health Service Corps for about 5 years so that I could pay off my medical school loans while getting work experience. With my income, I could then probably pay off my undergrad loans as well soon after and then I'd be able to practice on my own with very little to almost no debt hopefully. But, I feel like if I were to somehow change my mind about what I'm really passionate about, I'd now be a junior in college who has more debt to pay off without a concrete way to pay it off soon, and I'd be sacrificing financial stability and certainty for being able to learn about and go after my scores of intellectual pursuits.

Now, with my grades in question, the money situation I'm locked into, and the question of whether or not, if I made it into medical school would I actually be able to handle it mentally and lifestyle-wise? By that I mean I'm the type of person who's mind go off on tangents on a whim because I've thought of something extremely interesting I want to start looking up, researching, and learning about simply because I want to know more about it and I love learning. It kinda shows when I go to the library often and would check out a dozen books, read them all inside of a week or two, and do it over again.

I don't know if I'd be best to be forced to attach myself to learning absolutely every infinitesimal and agonizing detail about each and every thing they have in medical school. While I do love learning about stuff like that, if I have to force myself to sit one place and just straight absorb and memorize absolutely all that info, my mind is gone. It's almost like I need to constantly be moving around, being hands-on, and be actively learning about a subject, rather than have it repetitively gone over ad finitum.

If it helps, I came up with a partial list of different subjects I like and/or skills I want to learn:

Play the acoustic guitar, harmonica, and maybe piano (I already can sing)

Learn to speak a few languages (Spanish, French, Italian, etc.)

Become a sort of everyman fix it guy (auto mechanics, electrical, plumbing, etc.)

History (I think it'd be awesome to do some historical reenacting, pre-1900s most likely, along with taking in as much about various time periods)

Politics (I've thought about volunteering for a political campaign or two sometime, or maybe even run for political office when I'm a bit older)

Economics (I'm starting to learn about Austrian Economics and the many benefits it has compared to the Keynesian economics that our President has unfortunately decided to try and follow)

Possibly get certified as an EMT/Paramedic/Firefighter

Be a bit of a personal trainer (I do mix of CrossFit currently)

Accounting (being able to manage my my own finances properly and assist family and friends when needed)

Education (knowing the best methods of learning to help my (eventual) children learn at a better rate than what I have either by homeschooling or a sort of co-op program as they age

Agriculture - knowing how to best grow and raise my own food on a small scale for financial and health reasons (cheaper if I make my own, and noticeably healthier)

Martial arts (most likely boxing, muay thai, capoeira) Continue playing rugby later after college (currently on my school's squad)

Computers - know how to operate and fix the majority of problems I may have with computers and/or be able to upgrade them in different ways to make them more efficient

I want to be able to travel to a few countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia/Oceania

I've wanted to volunteer or work for a charitable organization abroad or in the U.S. where the main goal is building or construction for the needy

I love alternative nutrition and specifically the Paleolithic Diet, and how it's healthier for you (really want to learn the details behind how and why it works)

I want to be capable of being a "citizen soldier/National Guard" of sorts in my own mind, like being able to handle guns, knives, etc. with relative ease, while also being able to handle myself and strategically help others when needed.

Writing - I've thought about this, whether or not I'd be a good writer and/or whether I'd have a topic that I could write about that I'd be able to make a noticeable difference in or about that subject

***Summary: I am unsure of whether or not to become a doctor because of my interest in multitudes of subjects and skills, and because of my current academic and financial situation. I would sum up my interests and drive to learn as being sort of a polymath. I am very interested in medicine as a subject and to learn it, but I believe that how I learn and become interested in all my other academic pursuits, may hinder me or become a struggle to balance if I so chose to be a doctor. Basically, I love learning, I want to continue to learn as many subjects as I am interested for as long as possible, and I want to find a way or career(s) that will allow me to do so while being able to support myself financially.

There's a lot more, but that's it for now. Any suggestions?... 

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I'm a college professor.  I get to study a lot of things.  I love it.

A writer would be similar, but the occupation is less secure.

I don't see how people can do the same thing all the time.  Admittedly, there are 4 classes I teach every year.  But every year it's different!

...but if you decide you do want to be a doc, bust your butt on the GPA!

The key words in the OP are, "...subjects I like and/or skills I want to learn."  In just your first two items, you list five skills that I know really need a year of daily, serious practice to get to the point of doing well.  And you're talking an hour a day for each language or musical instrument (admittedly, I know nothing about the harmonica.).

On top of a huge "bucket list", you've got a chunk of finacial uncertainty weighing on your mind.  You really need to look up your academic advisor and your pastor and get some advice.  If nothing else, you need to bring some focus into your list and definition into your basic life direction. 

For that matter, you may not be destined to become a physician.  You may find your path, if it stays in medicine, leads to working as a Physician's Assistant or a Nutritionist.

Does your college have a career planning service? You sound like you like everything and are not sure which one you want to pursue as a career. Don't worry, that doesn't make you a polymath, it makes you a normal college junior.

The short answer is you are not going to be able to do all of those things. Life is too short and busy. And if you spend too much time thinking about all of them and not focusing on some of them you'll do even less. If you continue to pursue medicine, you can pretty much throw most of them out the window because it doesn't leave much time for anything but medicine. Not trying to discourage the medicine option, I did it and love it but despite research it and not pursuing it until my 30s I can tell you even I had no idea just how life consuming it would be.

I think its great that you are getting a broad education in your undergrad. Three degrees later and I can say that most what you learn getting college degrees is BS anyway. Better to learn as broadly as possible.

I've noticed that so far in my life I've just kinda coasted along on my natural intelligence, particularly in high school. Then college came and while my grades took a bit of a dive, I don't believe it's because I'm any less intelligent, it's just that I had trouble adjusting to the style of teaching in college compared to high school, along with the intensity of my courseload. However, my interest and curiosity in several different subjects has gone up as well, since I have even more access to resources than I did previously.

I know that I'm interested in medicine and health-related fields in particular, but it may be that I'm not particularly sure of the scope of medicine I want to practice. For instance, my father is a physician's assistant who's mostly worked in cardiovascular surgery, while he also works as a part-time EMT and volunteer firefighter. Prior to going to school for PA he was a full-time Paramedic-Firefighter from the time he was about 19-25. I've seen sort of what his career is like, and while I wouldn't copy it exactly, I feel like having only one job or career is something I wouldn't enjoy. My thought is that I'm not sure if committing myself till I'm 29 or 30 to complete med school/residency and then working for a long stretch of time after that is really what I want to do. If possible, since I know my main interest is medicine, I think it would be best to try and pursue a career in a medicine-related field that gave me enough flexibility to pursue my other interests. Then again I feel like my tuition kinda screws me in that I came to the college I'm at because I assumed I would go on to med school and be able to pay off the higher tuition than I would have had to pay at a more local school.

Will - I have considered the professor route, although I haven't looked much into it yet. My one concern is that I don't consider myself much a teaching-type person, and the fact I don't try and speak much publicly doesn't really give me much confidence in thinking of doing it either

Shane - I have looked at military options a few times, although it was for purely medical school purposes before. However, I've started at least skimming across other careers in the military sector as well, and the Navy Corpsman seems to pop up on my interest radar quite a few times. My roommate and I are in the process of trying to setup a meeting with a Navy medical officer recruiter to get a better understanding of the different possible careers, both Navy physician and corpsman. If I'm not mistaken, would a Navy Corpsman's training be approximated to a Paramedic/EMT/Physician Assistant/RN's civilian training or close to it? I have considered being a PA like my dad, possibly just in a different specialty if I chose, although I can also change specialties over my career if I chose that route as well. You mentioned I could try and get attached to a Marine or SOF (I'm assuming Spec Ops?) unit, so I would think that in those cases I would be acting in a field medic-type capacity? I don't know exactly your connection to the military, but if you have any immediate information you'd like to share, please feel free.

Going from high school to university is a big change. I think HS does a disservice to many students by not pushing them hard enough (or in the right way). I know of many friends who were scholars in HS only to crash and burn in college. If you are able to absorb a lot in lectures and have a good memory you can excel at HS. Problem is, when you get to college you need to physically study (ie learn from text books) to excel and for gifted HS students this is sometimes the first time they had to do this and are ill-prepared for it. I'm not saying these guys were lazy nor am I accusing you of it. But I think HS should have spent more time evaluating how you study rather than evaluating how well you memorize civil war dates and math theorems.

But this is no help to you. What I think you need to know (and sounds like you already figured it out) is that just because you excelled at HS doesn't mean you're a genius who never needs to study and just because you struggled freshman year at college doesn't mean you're stupid. Both require a different skill set. The first one probably can natural, now with a bit of work you'll get the second one as well.

If your heart is set on it, would you consider going overseas to study medicine? I did. Medical school in  Ireland may be expensive but not much more than what you are paying right now for your college degree. is the place to check out studying in Ireland (from Canada or the USA) and there are other schools in other countries as well. If you are planning on spending a few more years paying your current fees plus godknowshowmuch for med school in the US after, it might be both cost and time effective to study overseas.

Get in to grad school then polymath


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