Students Take Time Off To Enter Medical Schools
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Students Take Time Off To Enter Medical Schools
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  • 승인 2003.05.07 00:00
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According to the statistics released by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources on March 21,about a third of all students enrolled in colleges are taking a leave of absence every semes-ter. Some do it just to explore the world beyond the ivory tower after semesters of hard work; some do it to study foreign languages abroad. Yet,there is another reason. A large portion of students take time off from school in order to give college entrance examinations another shot. Most of them hope to get into medical school.

It is nothing new to hear of students retaking the National Scholastic Aptitude Test (NSAT), which is known as "suneung" in Korean. Students have always tried to get into better universities, such as Seoul National University(SNU). But now, it seems, there is a different rationale for retaking the NSAT exam. Whereas previously the majority of students who took leaves of absence in order to retake the NSAT were freshmen, now more upper-level students are leaving school and joining preparatory institutes in order to retake the NSAT. They hope to enter colleges of medicine and not necessarily the most popular departments of top universities.

Kim Yoon-kyung (Food and Nutrition, 3)is one of the many students who took this semester off to prepare for the college entrance exam.She knows that she will fall four years behind her friends if she enters college again next year. However, she feels "That giving medical school a shot is challenge worth taking before it is too late." Kim, like many others,would rather fall four years behind her friends and have a stable career as a doctor than become an ordinary office worker.

This year, 46.9 percent of Ewha"s College of Medicine freshmen were NSAT retakers. 59 percent of Hanyang University"s medical school freshmen
were retakers. And percentages were even higher at the Colleges of Medicine of ChungAng and Kyunghee Universities: 60 percent and 61.9 percent, respectively.

Figuring out the reason for this emerging trend is not exactly rocket science. First of all, the average salary that doctors make is relatively stable and high. In addition, even though medical students have to put in long hours for their studies, exhausting internships, and painful residencies, once they do pass the state examination they are rewarded with an employment rate of almost 100 percent. Even if they fail to get positions in big
university hospitals, there are plenty of private hospitals that will be willing to hire them.But probably more tempting,at least from a purely materialistic point of view, are the prospects of establishing one"s private clinic.

Job security and financial stability figure high on anyone"s list of reasons for making a career change. Kim Tae-wan,a senior who majored in Vietnamese language at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, spent almost half a year working as an intern at the POSCO Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd. before he got cut in the last part of the employee selection process. "It was very frustrating for me, and I thought I would be better off entering medical school in order to become a doctor,which is a financially secure and socially respected occupation," he reasons. He retook the exam and he is now a freshman at Pusan National University"s College of Dentistry.

Crowding into medical colleges has given rise, however, to some undesired side effects. One such problem is the diminishing skilled labor force in other scientific areas of study. Due to uncertain job security and relatively lower wages, numerous students, as well as researchers in natural sciences and engineering turn to the NSAT every year in hopes of entering medical schools. Choi Dae-heung (KAIST, 4) points out why many students in his age have already left for medical schools. "We don"t get paid as well as doctors, and our careers are at risk when we reach the age of 40 because the field requires constant acquisition of knowledge. That? why people are dying to get into medical schools."

However important the economical aspect might be in one"s life, there are some who view it differently. "I know that medical students and doctors deserve much credit for their hard work during and after their college life," says a Liberal Arts student at Ewha. "But I think this also results from the lack of a courageous spirit among young people, who seek a stable life because they fear being thrown in a world of constant challenges, struggles, errors, and sometimes even success."

Monetary reward or success, challenge or struggle, these and many other factors figure in some measure in students" decisions to retake the NSAT. But in a local economy that has seen a steady decline in job creation, the fears are more real than the aspirations. Before the government carries out a plan to increase job opportunities for college graduates, this situation will not undergo a meaningful change.

arielle@ewha.ac.kr

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