Monday, December 5, 2022

The battle that never ends: STEM pressure and the different ways it manifests

October 3, 2022
Photo by Madison Echlin | The State News

Many students studying STEM face an abundance of societal and parental pressures. This pressure could be to pursue a certain career, go to medical school or follow a specific path of study. 

Human biology senior Savannah Bevill felt pressure from her parents when she switched from an undergraduate pre-med track to a pre-genetic counseling track.

“Genetic counseling lines up a lot more with my passions," Bevill said. "But I would say there's definitely pressure to go to medical school in the STEM community for because that's what I feel like most people are doing." 

Bevill wasn’t forced into studying within the STEM field by her parents, but she did face an adverse reaction from them once she switched out of the pre-med track.

“It was very like, 'Are you sure about this?'" Bevill said. "And then there's also just the nosey questions like, ‘What's the pay like?’" 

Months after Bevill made the switch, her mom continued to send her resource links meant for pre-med students. 

Eventually, Bevill’s parents came around. She said they are incredibly supportive of her choice to become a genetic counselor nowadays.

According to a 2010 study conducted by Jon Miller, a retired MSU professor of integrative studies, only 4% of students without parental encouragement to attend college planned to enter a STEM post-secondary program. For students who have parents that strongly encourage college attendance, it raises to 41%. 

Miller’s research concluded parental influence is a likely factor in guiding students to careers in STEM. 

Human biology and neuroscience pre-med senior Nathan Seiler said he is a part of that 4%. He said his parents didn’t have a say in his career choice and didn't put pressure on him. 

"I do feel like (for) a lot of people … their families have incredibly high expectations of them and that translates into the pressure they feel to succeed,” Seiler said. 

Nevertheless, competition among STEM students persists, creating an atmosphere of academic pressure. 

“There is definitely a pressure to perform better than those around you,” Seiler said. “I feel that all the time.(I) think that a lot of people in STEM majors, in human biology, also feel that way.” 

However, Seiler said competition is largely inevitable for STEM students wanting to go to medical school.

“Even if you don’t want to have that sense of competition, you need to out-compete and be the best kind of applicant to get into med school in the first place,” Seiler said. “And then, secure your future within that field.”

At at the end of the day, Seiler said the pressure placed upon STEM students is necessary.

“It pushes you to try to be the best that you can be or else you aren't going to succeed," Seiler said.

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