In the 13 years since Matt Soden graduated from Columbia University with a degree in history, he has worked stints as a legal assistant in New York, as a financial analyst in Hong Kong, and with a reality TV show in L.A. The jobs were demanding and the cities exciting, but none made Soden, 35, feel he was living up to his potential. That's where med school comes in: He's a first-year student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Soden is fascinated by how things work, "and the human body beats them all."
Goal: Soden sees himself as a neurologist or a psychiatrist. He wants part of his practice to help underserved communities.
Aha moment: On 9/11 and the days after the towers fell, Soden watched on TV as rescuers sifted through the rubble. "Working to manufacture reality," he realized, "I'm not doing anything significant."
Education: B.A., Columbia, 1995; part-time premed classes at a local community college, Cal State-L.A., and SUNY-Stony Brook. He had no science background; Soden says that while there was no need for another four-year degree, med schools want proof that you're really dedicated.
Finances: This year, he has a $30,000 scholarship. He'll take out $35,000 in federal loans to meet the $64,000 tab for tuition, housing, food, books, and health insurance.