I'm currently writing a personal statement, and since English is not my native language I sometimes have trouble with transferring my ideas onto paper in English. Here's what's currently troubling me:

I've always wanted to be a scientist. Throughout my younger years I __ ...

What I want in the blank is a word which conveys that before I chose physics, I actually went from scientific field to scientific field and read about a variety of scientific topics. Basically that I hopped from field to field before I settled for physics. What word can I use here?

  • Great question! You did a very good job of explaining what you were looking for. I hope you stick around and ask more questions! – WendiKidd Sep 16 '13 at 22:20

None of them are a single word, but there are many ways to express this. The following is not at all a comprehensive list, but a few options you could choose from:

Throughout my younger years I vacillated between several different scientific fields before I settled on physics.

Throughout my younger years I was indecisive regarding the field I wanted to go into. I eventually chose physics.

Throughout my younger years I moved from field to field often before I ultimately decided physics was my calling.

Any of these would be acceptable, and I'm sure there are many more. I came up with a few others but they all had a slightly negative connotation (ie. "in hindsight I wish I hadn't done this"). If you're curious, I've listed them below:

Throughout my younger years my career path was a bit erratic, but I eventually decided on physics.

Throughout my younger years I was a bit mercurial when it came to what field I worked in. I eventually realized that physics was right for me.

  • Those are some great suggestions, I will most certainly use one of them! – Max T Sep 16 '13 at 22:23

If you don't mind being a bit informal, I'd suggest bounced around:

Throughout my younger years I bounced around from specialty to specialty, but I eventually settled on physics.

The phrase can be used when describing the process of considering a range of options. Here's an excerpt from a blogger who used that phrase:

For years I bounced around from Salon to Salon, while one did great cuts it did not do color well. And another would do great color but average cuts.

  • That's a good one, and it also fits my level of vocab. I'll certainly consider it. – Max T Sep 17 '13 at 0:00
  • 1
    As a native speaker, this is exactly what I would say, if I was being honest. If I was trying to downplay the fact that I bounced around a bunch, I might instead say "I tried a lot of different things." – Andrew Sep 17 '13 at 3:40
  • @Andrew: Quite. Your second one (downplay any earlier "lack of career focus") seems to be the only one out of all the suggested answers/comments that comes close to being a sensible choice if OP actually wants the job (as opposed to wanting to bare his soul). There are probably even better ways to phrase it - surely a more broad-based background could be presented in a positive, rather than negative or neutral light! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 17 '13 at 4:13

This is quite hard to write without the risk of a negative implication. It shouldn't be, of course; the best way to spend your youth is trying a lot of things in order to find out what you like!

Perhaps something like:

In my youth I was interested in a broad range of scientific topics before deciding to concentrate on physics.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.