Recovering from Failing Pharmacy School

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.
― Theodore Roosevelt

Failing Pharmacy School

I had a moment where I thought ” I failed out Pharmacy School so now what do I do?”

What happens if you find yourself in this situation. Give yourself a short time to mourn your loss and recover. It was a hard process getting into a school and once there it was harder to adjust to the lifestyle. Now you’ll have to make another adjustment.

For anyone who has not gone through a professional program, it’s not school as you know it. It’s a lifestyle, it’s a way of life and a majority of your time and attention.

Taking Action

But, now you have to get planning your new life. As you start over you will cycle though the stages of loss in some way. I did. For me, denial passed quickly. Anger lasted the longest, I felt anger mixed with shame and embarrassment. I didn’t bargain but depression lasted longer than I thought it would. Acceptance was hard-won.

You will have to do an evaluation of how you failed, what you failed, and why you failed. These will be your tools so you can learn from your mistakes and apply this lesson in future endeavors.

This is hard for high achievers, and yes if you made it into a professional program you are a high achiever. High achievers have a habit of taking credit for their successes and blaming other for their failures. For this failure (and anything failed), you have to take a hard and honesty view of your role in the event. You may have felt the instructors weren’t fair in some way, or they didn’t teach or evaluate fairly. This may or may not be true but you have to look past that to yourself and your role.

Looking at my role in the event wasn’t easy but I realized that I was only going through the motions and my heart wasn’t into the program or the school. If you’re in a program you have to be completely dedicated and I wasn’t. I felt like I could see the flaws in the program, how they weren’t being true to real life. I’ve had a lot of experience in the real world and I am older than some of the instructors and it all felt fake. No matter what the program was or wasn’t, in the end the failure was on me and no one else.

Redefining Self

I learned a valuable truth: I set the rules to my life so the responsibility is on me to create a new path.

Up to this point you’ve been doing we I was doing, defining yourself by what you do; I’m a student, I’m a Pharm.D. candidate; I’m a (blank). This is the wrong mindset. You’ll have to learn to define yourself not by what you do but how you do things. By this, I mean you need to have your heart in it, a drive, or whatever you call the internal voice that keeps going when things are tough and people around you are telling you to stop. This is something I’m still learning to control.

(A small rant) Some people would call it passion. I disagree with the whole follow your passion theory. We all hear this term thrown around like it’s a magical solution to everything. Follow your passion and you’ll be happy. What if you don’t have a passion? What if you haven’t found your passion? I don’t know what my “passion” is, I’m still looking. I think you should follow what you’re good at doing and put all of yourself into it.

You can find a whole list of people who were great at things that weren’t their passions. Steve Jobs, whether you liked him or not, was very successful by NOT following his passion. He wasn’t passionate about technology, he was into eastern philosophy and that lifestyle, nothing to do with technology. The point is, take chances (see Option 4) and find what you’re good at doing and put all of yourself into it. (end of rant)

If you’re here then you know things you want to do take time. Getting to professional school took 4 or more years but transitioning your mindset shouldn’t. But it will take an effort.

Transitioning to a new path and changing your mindset may take some time but if things were always easy then everyone would be a doctor of something. You’re going to feel anxiety, stress, fear, and anger and more. The key is to stay positive and not let it get to you or get in your way of changing. It got in my way for a little while but having support can help you correct your course so you don’t crash into the proverbial rocks.

Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.
― Dale Carnegie

Taking a New Path

There are a lot of options and you can blend options. I’m a blend of options 3 and 4.

Option 1: try again.
You’ll have to do a cost benefit analysis of redoing your first year and adding to the cost of your student loans. Is it worth taking on the additional debt? If you have a true drive for it then ask around, talk to your peers, to instructors, you’ve probably already spoken to administration.

Use this as a valuable learning tool. Talk to other schools and get their perspectives. You will need to find a way to learn from your failure and show you’ve changed for the positive.

Option 2
Go for a degree in a similar field (pharmacology, toxicology) or MBA. If you like it then go for the PhD. It’ll be cheaper plus you can do a lot with a master’s degree and you can turn a loss into a win if you can transfer credits at the same school to a different program.

Option 3
Pivot to something completely different. Do a honest self-evaluation of your skills, knowledge base, and drives. Don’t let opportunities pass by; say yes when you would have said no. Explore your options by volunteering in areas outside your comfort zone. You can’t know what you don’t know unless you explore and discover new things.

Option 4
Find what you’re good at doing and focus on making that your career. Work at it as a side hustle until you can monetize it and transition to full-time. You’ll find this path is loaded with a lot of potential failures. The first few times you try doing something, you’ll probably fail. It happened to me but I used each failure as a learning tool.

Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.
― Salvador Dalí

If you try options 2-4 then be aware you’ll always think about the program you left. Every time the school year starts you’ll think “this would be my P3 year.” The month you would have graduated will lurk over you months in advance. Don’t let it bring you down.

The lessons I’ve learned from Pharmacy school were hard. Process the failure was harder but not impossible to recover from. In the end, you have to pick a new path, try new things, and learn what you’re really about. You’ll have to learn from your failure and build on it or you’ll have a hard time moving forward and succeeding in whatever you choose to do. Lastly, be happy for your friends that made it.

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.
― Truman Capote