Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen?

My family members and friends have ridden the train of my college admissions process from the beginning. They usually just listened and gave some generic responses but as time grows closer to decision day, their voices have grown louder. My parents…grandparents…extended family members…family friends. It seems like they all have something to say! I respect their input and I nod and smile, but I feel helpless. It’s my decision but I feel like whatever I do, someone won’t be happy. The main outcry is “no debt” which I completely understand. But along the way, their unique opinions have definitely formed.

I want to go into pharmacy and have wanted to do that since I was in 8th grade. I’ve definitely considered other professions and have appropriate backups but pharmacy is my top plan. I haven’t changed my mind and the closer I get to going off to college, the more excited I get. I know a lot of people change their minds and majors when they get to college, but I feel it’s one of those things where I’ll tackle it when it happens. For now, I don’t really want to worry about it.

My grandmother is the only person who disapproves of my profession choice and wants me to go into something different (The something different is an unknown factor at this point). I understand she worries that I’ll change my mind or not like it or it won’t pan out, but she hasn’t been very supportive of my career/major choice at all. She wants me to take on minimal to no debt at a local school (which is no problem for me) but just do four years in something else. (Again, the something else is unknown…)

My parents are supportive of my career choice and want me to have minimal to no debt. Mom wants me to go to the local school; Dad is leaning towards the selective school (if I’m even accepted and the financial aid is good) I haven’t found out yet. I understand both sides but the problem with the selective school is no direct or even pre-pharmacy track. I’d be on my own applying to places where I would be drowning in debt for another four years. While I wouldn’t mind being the prestige monger at the bumper sticker school, I don’t feel like it’s the best academic fit based off of what I want to do. But then that brings up the side of the debate that goes “Well why don’t you just go into something where you only need like four years?” I’ve been accepted into 0-6 programs where I would have a guaranteed spot in pharmacy school but my mom is worried that I won’t like it and will be saddled with the debt and no job.

My grandfather, uncle, and a family friend are also leaning towards the selective route and think that a person with my scores shouldn’t just be going to the local school. They also tell me that I really should let myself be open to other career choices. I’m overall disappointed in everyone for not having enough trust in me to make this decision myself. I want to do pharmacy. It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do, and it just feels right to me. I’ve talked to different pharmacists and I’m still on-board with the whole plan. I haven’t changed my mind yet and obviously while I can’t guarantee my mind won’t change, I’m 99% sure it won’t change.

I considered other career paths: law, nutrition, writing…pharmacy always just stood out to me and it claimed my heart. I don’t regret having these people involved with my process but I just wish they didn’t have such STRONG opinions about all this. Because no matter what I do, I know I’ll be disappointing someone and I really don’t want to do that. As a parent, what’s your take on all this? Also sorry for the length.

You will always disappoint someone you care about, no matter what you do, in decisions large and small, for the rest of your life. There is no way you can please everyone. Part of becoming adult means learning to accept that.

You do, however, have to think about debt. If I were in your shoes, I’d look at the schools that offer pharmacy programs and pick the one that leaves you with the smallest debt load.

OP, we kept choice of colleges to ourselves. Pharmacy is a great field, and the direct route is best. I find most parents and especially grandparents have no idea about current salaries and job prospects. I try to educate people, using tables and charts. Grandparents are especially naive about debt and job prospects. They just know certain fields have status among their friends.

Can you clearly articulate reasons why you want to spend 40+ hours a week over the next 40-50 years of your life in pharmacy field? Other than “talking” to pharmacists for let say many hours, or liking science, or having stocked shelves at local Walgreens, do you have any real life experiences/background in pharmacy field to say, “yes, I want spend my life in pharmacy?” Please do not provide me answers? You’re the one who has to decide and live with what you want to do, not your grandparents, parents, uncles, family friend….

As to actual advice, pick a college where you fit in as if you’re happy there you’re more likely to do well which will be important no matter what pathway you end up on. Although your parents and grandparents get to brag to their friends about what college you’re attending, the name on your college diploma will not be that important in the scheme of things. Go talk to your pharmacist acquaintances and ask them about this. Talk to a college counselor as soon as possible. Don’t be so limiting on yourself at this point, explore new areas outside of any pharmacy related courses when you get to college. When I was young I knew a lot of four letter words. I still do. But the worst of the worst is debt. No matter what pathway you end up on, try to leave college with little, if any, debt. Your family is giving you invaluable advice. Listen to them on this topic. Good luck.

You sound like a solid-thinking young person. Time to start drawing some boundaries for all involved, and it is a hard and sometimes painful process for all involved. This is your decision, it is your life, and in life, yes, you will sometimes disappoint people … you have to accept that as an adult, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be disappointed in you. There is a difference. I obviously don’t know your parents, et al, but I’m guessing they’re vocal about what they think just because they care so very much about you, and you are a bright and shining star to them; so as annoying as it can be, try to see it as a positive – you have LOTS of people rooting for you. Learning to bite our tongues is one of the hardest and scariest things for parents … be patient with them. It’s not about control (usually); it’s all about love.

So, from what you’ve said, here’s my 2 cents… (because, of course, you need another opinion :wink: ).

  1. NO DEBT! If you can possibly help it. Especially since you have to do pharmacy school later. There are scholarships for undergrad; probably not for pharmacy school – choose a path that lets you satisfy the requirements to get into pharmacy school while conserving as much $$ as possible. My 10th grade daughter wants to be a vet, and this is what we are already discussing with her … if the goal is vet school, then the “prestige” of the path there doesn’t matter nearly so much as conserving the $ so she can be as debt free as possible at the end. So, if she gets a full ride to somewhere less prestigious but it lets her satisfy her requirements for vet school and still gives her a solid undergrad degree, then who cares? Begin with the end in mind, and keep your eye on the prize. So, the answer to the people who would choose prestige over affordability is just a spreadsheet that shows the $ numbers. Speaks for itself. Once you’re in pharmacy school, where you did your undergrad won’t matter. Once you’re in college (any college), your HS grades and test scores don’t matter – they might as well disappear; what you do while you’re there matters.

  2. As for choosing a different major or keeping your options open … I’d say as long as you choose a school that has other majors, then by default you are doing this – you will have the option to change majors if you decide you want to later. So I don’t really understand why anyone is really stuck on that point. I don’t know anything about the path to pharmacy school – I assume you have a bunch of pre-reqs to take, and then it will be GRE and GPA related, etc… I will say that it isn’t a bad idea to broaden your personal vision from just “pre-pharmacy” to think about what else you could use your undergrad degree to do if you decide after 4 years that you are just tired of school. Or, if you don’t get into pharmacy school the first time (it happens – I’ve heard its pretty competitive). Okay, looking back now I see that you are considering 0-6 programs that give you a guaranteed spot in pharmacy school… But do you end up with a degree at the end of 6 years? In what? What else can you use it for? From that perspective, I can understand your mom’s concern. So, whatever your major is … what, besides going to pharmacy school, what would it qualify you to do? What other sorts of careers would be open to you if you stopped after your undergrad for a time? Maybe if you spent some time thinking about this and being able to articulate this sort of “contingency plan” to your family, it would help? This is also something we are actively discussing with our 10th grade daughter. Vet school is very competitive – 1200 applicants for 120 spots per year is not unusual. There is a decent chance she won’t get in the first time she applies, even if she does everything “right” along the way. So we’re advising her to look at degrees that allow her to get in all her pre-reqs, while also equipping her to be marketable after 4 years of undergrad if, for whatever reason, vet school doesn’t happen right away. There is the option, with vet school, to go in after only 3 years of undergrad if you’ve satisfied all the pre-reqs and can get admitted … but that is a big risk that we are cautioning her against, because then if she doesn’t finish vet school, she has no degree at all…

Good luck!

It’s simply not the business of your grandparents, extended family or family friends. Your parents, fine. Is there a cultural thing going on here where you have to pay attention to these people? Can you learn the art of smiling, nodding and changing the subject?

What would happen if your extended family “objected”?

Do the 0-6 schools only have pharmacy? How much debt will you have at the direct entry schools vs going to a 4 year undergrad and then 4 years of pharmacy school? And are you and/ or your parents paying? Because Pizzagirl is right- it’s only your parents or those paying that have any real business telling you what to do.

Thank you for the replies, everyone!

@Massmomm‌ - I’m starting to learn that lesson early on. I am definitely thinking about debt and am highly considering going to a school where I won’t be as saddled.

@bookworm‌ - She’s right about the debt I know, but when it comes to job prospects, I think she also feels like pharmacy isn’t a good field.

@Jugulator20‌ - Yes, I have written a personal statement for some 0-6 pharmacy schools and programs that clearly state in detail why I’ve chosen it. I’ve been accepted to two programs already, so I guess my statement was good in their eyes? I’ve asked one pharmacist that I frequently talk to about the colleges. He said it was ultimately my decision and that he couldn’t make the choice for me, but he said having less debt is a more optimal situation, even though the other place might have a tad bit more prestige within the pharmacy program world.

@ailinsh1‌ - Thank you for the great advice! I’ve chosen six regular schools that have other majors besides Biochemistry (what I would be majoring in if I didn’t go to a 0-6 school) so yes there are options. With the 0-6 pharmacy schools, there are other majors and programs but they don’t range much outside of the healthcare/pharmaceutical fields. So if I get there and realize I don’t want anything to do with science anymore, there would be a problem and I would have to transfer out. The only problem: I would be 35K in.

We’ve talked about what else my biochemistry degree could allow, career-wise. I know STEM degrees outside of professional schools don’t have the greatest job prospects but there could be opportunities in labs, research, teaching etc. If I had my PharmD, besides actual pharmacy, other job opportunities include pharmaceutical research and pharmaceutical business/sales (like drug companies). A work colleague of my father’s is involved in that type of business so he knows the field well.

Good luck to your daughter!

@Pizzagirl‌ - It’s nothing cultural. I just am close with my family members and have kept them updated with the process. If they objected to my decision, I would have to hear their clamors of disapproval constantly when we’re talking. They’d never let me hear the end of it or drop it.

@illinoismom4‌ - Yes the 0-6 pharmacy schools have a Doctor of Pharmacy program that, if you’re accepted, give you a a guaranteed seat in the pharmacy school. It will be six years if I go through that program. If I did it through a 4 year school, it would take me 7-8 years. The exact details of the costs are lengthy but the cheapest way would be through the local school (if I get in the 3+4 dual program–they haven’t told me yet) Albany would be in the middle and USciences would be the most expensive. I will be primarily footing the bill for the loans; parents will not be helping out. I am 99% sure no family member will be surprising me with a “gift.”

The only person who matters when you make an education/career search is YOU.

Choose what YOU want to do. If someone in your family is disappointed, that is their problem, not yours. Listen politely to their advice, but make your own decisions. You will be the one who lives with the consequences, including any potential debt.

As to the choices of the programs – where do YOU want to be in 6 years.

Keep in mind that no choice binds you for a lifetime. (So disregard the 40-50 years statement in post #3). I went to law school. I practiced law 20 years. Then I changed to something entirely different, which didn’t require a degree. But I know other career-shifting lawyer who went back to get different graduated degrees, and I did think about the possibility. I am sure that there are pharmacists who work for 6 years or 10 or whatever and then go back to school to earn other degrees in the health professions. There are probably others who shift to different careers–some, like mine, that don’t require a degree. So if that’s where your heart is – now-- a pharmacy career isn’t going to stop you from doing something different if there comes a time that you feel burned out or limited and want to do something else.

@calmom‌ - Thank you for replying! It comforts me to hear that even if I possibly career-shift, it won’t be detrimental.

I also think that if you did enroll in a 0-6 year program, there’s also probably room to change your mind after the first 2 years. You would know better than I, but I would imagine that the first 2 years would be classes that would be easily transferable to a different major – you must be taking basic courses like math & chemistry that would easily transfer to another major or college. So if you really did have some change of heart early on, it wouldn’t be as if you had wasted your time because you started in a pharmacy program. So again–if that’s what you want, go for it!

“@Pizzagirl‌ - It’s nothing cultural. I just am close with my family members and have kept them updated with the process. If they objected to my decision, I would have to hear their clamors of disapproval constantly when we’re talking. They’d never let me hear the end of it or drop it.”

Then don’t update them except at the very end. Don’t set up a situation where they will feel compelled to give an opinion in the first place. Think about your role in this dynamic.

Go where you want to go. If you don’t like it, change. They’ll still love you.


I really do get the point “that no choice binds you for a lifetime.” People often do change their minds/move in different directions as life goes on. I earned my first doctorate at 24, my second (a law degree) at 40. Many young people like OP often make potentially long term career choices (10, 20, … however many number of years) based on very limited life/educational experiences which was main point of first paragraph, not the years. Later I encouraged OP not to limit her/himself at this point.

However as OP had asked “As a parent, what’s your take on all this?” I simply offered my take. So instead of letting OP give what weight, if any, to my opinion, thank you for stepping in and relegating my comment “So disregard the 40-50 years statement in post #3” to the trash heap.

“Thank you for replying! It comforts me to hear that even if I possibly career-shift, it won’t be detrimental.”

OP, depending on career shift, it can be much more challenging as there’s the time and/or resources you’ll need for career shift, potentially new educational debt, and the need to juggle family and work (if needed to suppport youself while career shifting).

My daughter is considering a 0-6 Pharm program. She is not as sure as you are that she wants pharmacy but if she chooses that program, we know that as calmom pointed out, the first 2 years are very similar to several other majors she’s interested in (heavy science and math) and at this university switching OUT of the 0-6 and into a different science or pre-med or whatever major is easy (whereas switching INTO the 06 pharmD is not).

This U will also grant her a BS on the way to her pharmD after year 5 (it’s a co-op school) which is something important to consider if you do decide to switch gears after that point.

Another thing to consider is what happens with any financial aid/merit aid you receive as you move through the program. The school D is considering guarantees the same level of school aid and it goes up with tuition. The 5th-6th years are part of that - many schools do not cover those at the same level or at all, and a few schools really raise the tuition the final year of the pharmD program - make sure to ask about that.

@calmom‌ - Yes, the first two years would be considered pre-professional. So there would be no rotations or pharmacology courses or anything pigeonholing yet.

@Pizzagirl‌ - You have a very strong point. By continuously telling them updates like an ongoing Twitter feed, I’m enabling them to continue their behavior.

@MotherOfDragons‌ - Hopefully! :stuck_out_tongue: Thank you for replying.

@Jugulator20‌ - That was a concern family had brought up, regarding potential marriage and kids in the future. Because I do obviously want to have a family someday and I have to think ahead to make sure it’s as smooth as possible to allow for that.

@OHMomof2‌ - The one school that has a pharmacy program would be (possibly if I get in) giving me a BS in Biochemistry as well as the PharmD. The financial is a big deal and down the road, we’ll have to compare the math. I’ve definitely noticed a spike in those last years that make you want to cringe and hide the checkbook! The scholarships I have received do help but compared to those numbers, they barely scratch an icicle off the car.

Didactic- when I graduated from college, if someone had told me that I could conduct a business meeting from my kitchen, using Skype, on a laptop computer, I would have thought they were crazy (other than the kitchen, none of those things had been invented yet).

Don’t start worrying about work/life balance. You have no idea what your worklife will entail down the road, and the folks I know who chose “family friendly” careers (i.e. my contemporaries)are now somewhat irritated by the trade-offs they’ve made. I spent yesterday (a snow day here) in my pajamas, working a full day without even having to clean off my car. My neighbor- a nursing manager in a long term care facility (nursing used to be considered a great career for a working mom) was in her driveway at 5 am scraping chunks of ice, spent over an hour navigating a drive which should have taken 15 minutes, and then got stuck at an unplanned overnight in her facility when the night shift couldn’t get to work because a major road was closed due to a huge accident.

It’s ok- the neighbors pitched in to take in her kids, nobody was in danger. But my point is that you don’t know what your working life will be like now regardless of the path you take. So don’t start shedding options - right now you have neither a career NOR kids! And what may seem like family friendly options often don’t turn out that way.

Agree wholeheartedly with @blossom. As female engineer, I worried alot in college about how I’d juggle the work/family thing, but I figured I’d figure it out later. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that I’d be able to work part time as an engineer, but I have. I was one of the first at my workplace to do so … I was terrified to even ask … but if you don’t ask, the answer is always no, and my boss didn’t even blink and said yes! Now it is almost commonplace in alot of workplaces for female engineers and other professionals to spend some portion of time in part-time status after they have kids … and now its starting to be more common for men as well. One of my colleagues is married to an MD … it is easier for him to go part time than for her, so that’s what they did when they had kids, to give them some balance and flexibility. They don’t even blink at it any more. I’ve got kids in college and HS, and I still work part time, because it works for our family, and I’ve made it work for my employer too. Kids home on a snow day? I VPN in and still get stuff done. It’s great. But not anything I could have imagined in college. So, aim high, get a good solid education, and then flex from there with whatever life offers; having the degree will give you flexibility beyond your specific field/major, because part of getting a degree is just learning how to learn and think critically. Lots of people end up doing something totally different than their degreed major years down the road.

@TheDidactic, go for pharmacy. Yes, you may change your mind but you may not. It’s your life, so stick to what feels best for you. I work with pharmacists but in a research university. While many work in retail, there are many other position where a PharmD is welcome or required. One colleague worked in hospital ICUs and went on doctor rounds; then she worked in research for 15 years. Another pharmacist also did retail, then research and now she works for the federal government. Another friend manages a mail-order prescription place (I’m not too clear on the organization). So there are many avenues for a PharmD other than Walgreen’s or CVS.

I have a female friend who is married with kids, and she is a pharmacist part-time. Works 3 days/week, plus a half day every other Saturday. Makes $100,000/year and feels balanced with her work and family. (I even know a female friend who is a lawyer, and she figured out how to turn a job as a in-house legal counsel into a 3 day/week job!)

Females are strong and intelligent, and can get creative with most any job situation. So don’t let the unknown future stop you from living the dream you are sure about today. Yes, dreams can change over time and in different stages of life, but you gotta go with the dream you’re feeling now.

Best of luck to you! I encourage you to come up with a phrase that acknowledges your family’s comments about your life without committing to taking the advice they are dishing out. “I’ll take that under advisement” or “I know you must love me so much to be so concerned about my future” or “We’ll see how it all works out” or “I appreciate your concern.” If you can find a phrase you like, you can smile and nod and repeat the phrase to every relative.