“So what’s your #1?” and why it’s OK I don’t have an answer

People are still so shocked when they hear me simply say, “I don’t have one” after they ask me that question about my fast -approaching decision of where I really want to go for school next fall. I understand they are doing the polite thing by being interested in my future and what I’ve been working towards all of my college career. I’m still tired of having to explain how I don’t have a first preference or that I really do not know where I want to go RIGHT NOW. If you asked me where I want to live in ten years or who I want to marry, would you also expect a well articulated detailed answer with confidence? It’s impossible. I only know who holds the future, and that is enough.

I realize this is an incredibly good “problem” to have, and I am not at all trying to sound like I’m stressed out about it. At the same time, having so many options is not always the best for someone as indecisive (when it comes to major life decisions aka college, major, etc) as me. I’ve always been one to heavily weigh each pro and con of pretty much everything. I didn’t commit to a university until May of my senior year of high school when I ultimately chose to go where everyone in my life knew I probably would. I guess I relish the drama and like to keep people guessing.

Since I wrote about my first UTHSC – San Antonio interview on here, I’ve traveled close to home (Dallas and Houston) and to an all together new world of the Northeast (Philly and NYC) to a total of four other schools: Texas A&M/Baylor College of Dentistry, UT School of Dentistry – Houston, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, and Columbia University School of Dental Medicine. Wow.

“Take a step of faith when God gives you a vision because you trust that the One who gave you the vision is going to make provision. And for the record, if the vision is from God, it will most definitely be beyond your means.”

It was such a season of waiting and anticipation those few months of constantly checking my inbox or SDN notifications (yep I’m one of those nerds), and I couldn’t help but jump up and down or do my happy dance with each new invitation. I am so grateful that God opened all these doors for me, and I can’t help but praise and give him the glory throughout all of this. Just to be offered interviews at those schools was a huge dose of affirmation that all of my years of hard work and passionate commitment to my future vocation were worth it and that I truly am walking in God’s calling on my life. If you would have asked me in my little small town Atlanta, TX high school (when I did start considering a medical career – first medical school, later dental) if I saw myself even going to interview at an Ivy League grad school, I probably wouldn’t have even known which schools you were talking about. Now all of these big scary decisions are in front of me that lead to four (I can pretty much rule out San Antonio at this point personally for various reasons even though it is an excellent school!) very tangible and realistic lives I could have for the next four years or even more depending on residency possibilities.

“Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God.”

Everyone that I’ve talked to that’s already in school somewhere seems to have the same kind of answer when I ask how they ended up choosing that school (if they had that wonderful problem that I’m hoping to have which is multiple acceptances). They all say something along the lines of just having a certain feeling at the end of their interview day that it was somewhere they could thrive, be surrounded by supportive classmates and faculty, find their specific niche through opportunities that the school offers, and ultimately a place to call home for the next season of life (we’re talking most of the 20s.) Well, I felt that at every school. Seriously.

My roommates, friends, and family like to guess which school I really will probably end up at, but I promise them I don’t know any more than they do. Most people don’t understand how complicated this decision is and that it’s based on so much more than just, “Where do you want to go?” How about we talk location, COST, student body, research, specialty exposure, honors programs, grading/testing style, ranked vs not ranked…the comparisons could go on forever.

“Finally, I learned that we shouldn’t seek answers as much as we should seek God. We get overanxious. We try to microwave our own answers instead of trusting God’s timing. But here’s an important reminder: If you seek answers you won’t find them, but if you seek God, the answers will find you. There comes a point after you have prayed through that you need to let go and let God. How? By resisting the temptation to manufacture your own answer to your own prayer.”

First of all, the general consensus of these interview days are that they are…fun! I don’t know why I was so nervous about this part of the application process. I have genuinely loved each conversation I’ve had with current students, my faculty interviewers -and not to sound too confident – but I honestly think all of them liked me too (we’ll see just how much come December 1st, right?). Another cool part of these visits is meeting the other students there interviewing with me that day. We all instantly click and have great conversations throughout the day about our colleges, other interviews, our diverse backgrounds, etc. These same folks that all laugh when I say “Y’all” (or actually know where Baylor is and that our football team is pretty cool as of late) could in fact end up being my classmates and life-long friends or colleagues. Weird. Also extremely cool to think about. 

If we were to play a game where I just say the first words that come to my mind when I think of that school/city (or if you had a peek of my extensive pro/con comparison chart of each school), it’d look a little something like this:

baylor picTAMU/BCD: Family, happy, reputation, lab work, downtown Dallas, Texans, friends, familiar, busy (lotttttts of tests/quizzes every week), proximity to Waco/Austin/home, churches, supportive, clinical competency, cheapest, numerical grading, awesome faculty, people like me (but more diverse than Houston), tons of Baylor alumni

houston picUTSD: brand new, fun, laid-back, cool new city, hot and humid, best facilities, super friendly faculty, TX Medical Center (best/biggest in the world), great food/bars, art/culture, cousins live there, churches, integrated curriculum, numerical grading, research collaboration, Texans, former frat/srat vibe (I really don’t mean that in a bad way – just that they are all very social/outgoing, have fun)

penn picpenn pic other 1penn pic otherPENN: historic, super cool city vibe, diverse/global vision, ambitious, individualized, extensive honors programs, in clinic from day 1 (as assistants), well-rounded curriculum (general/clinical v specialties), rigorous, reputation, externships, collaborative/ALL schools on one campus, insane specialty rate (like 13 got into OS of 14 that applied, same for all specialties), lots of research, graded/rank top 10, Yesle (D3 blogger friend), supportive, tight-knit, cutting edge, beautiful weather and actual seasons, far from home, scary amount of dollar signs, Dean’s scholarship

columbia picnyc picnyc other picCOLUMBIA: NYC duh, medical education (with med students/med classes first 1.5 years), pioneering research, pass/fail/honors (WOW tempting), most diverse, incredibly driven, mentorship, family, networking, reputation, they breed specialists, strong OS prep (insane high scores on Step 1), work hard/play hard, more scary dollar signs, zero competitiveness, less preclinic/clinic, externships, highest cost of living, John (D2 Baylor alum), foodie central

All that to say…that’s my [lack of an] answer. I may or may not have other thoughts deep down and visions of my future that point in one direction or another, but for now I’m staying open-minded to anything that could happen. I’m tuning in to God’s voice and praying circles around this. Several people have told me at this point there is no such thing as a wrong decision. I fully believe that, and I remind myself daily that I will get clarity in God’s timing. More than anything, on my heart is the weight of the financial stress that this decision entails. Recently I’ve shifted towards asking for bigger than ever faith and trust that God is the ULTIMATE provider. Eventually we have to realize that we can plan like it depends on us, but we’ve got to pray like it depends on God. 

The future is exciting, my friends.

“While we’re busy planning, sometimes God is chuckling. And if our plans are way off, that contagious chuckle probably makes its way through angelic ranks like a laugh track. It’s not a vindictive chuckle, as if God relishes our failure. I just think God is sometimes amazed at how small our plans are. He allows our small plans to fail so that His big dream for us can prevail. So keep planning like it depends on you, but make sure you pray like it depends on God. Prayer is the alpha and omega of planning. Don’t just brainstorm, praystorm.”

– All quotes from The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson –

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