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Archive for the ‘Finances’ Category

First Second Look

In Finances, medical school, Rants on March 30, 2010 at 12:05 am

While my state school has had some events for us, I wouldn’t quite call them Second Looks. Now that I’ve officially attended my first Second Look, there are two points I want to discuss.

1) If I so much as hear another whisper about URMs stealing other applicants’ seats I’m going to snap. The Second Look I attended was at one of the largest medical schools in the nation. Do you know how many URMs were there?  Three Black females, maybe 1-2 Latinas, and no Black or Latino men…NONE!!! I kept looking around at my potential future class that was about 50/50 Asian and White, and I couldn’t help but think…really?!? Talk about feeling like you stick out like a sore thumb…  I love Love LOVE how all these schools repeatedly state how much they value diversity in their student body and it’s something they promote, however, physically it’s something I rarely see. Granted, I know race is only one element of a diversified class. I am well aware that diversity comes in many forms, from ethnic to socioeconomic to religious and to ideological diversity, and that all are important in forming a truly well-rounded class. I also know that clearly not every accepted student attended the Second Look. However, if the sample I saw is roughly representative of my possible future class, then that’s ~3% of the class is URM.  Wowsers. That’s incredibly low…especially for a big school in a major Northern city.  Seriously, I never want to hear that annoying argument again. Blows my mind every time. Clearly URM quite literally means underrepresented minority, so hush your mouths…there really aren’t enough people involved to make the effort of debate worthwhile…negligible impact on your chance of admittance, so hush!

2) Exactly what is Financial Aid?!? Giving a brief history, I was fortunate enough not to have to deal with financial aid stuff as an undergrad (someone close to me passed away and had left money for my education…which my undergrad institution gladly ate up).  Needless to say, I am unfamiliar with dealing with these offices.  I sat and listened to the long, depressing, anxiety-inducing financial aid presentation at Second Look. I glanced around the room to see that most of my peers had the same glazed-over look on their faces that read “Please make this stop! Purdy pleeeeease?!?” It’s never fun listening about going into roughly $200K worth of debt (+ interest)…NEVER!

Somewhere in my nervous trance I picked up that it appears that this office awards everyone the same thing – NOTHING.  I mean, they have a bunch of little scholarships that they give out to people ranging from $500-$5000, but that barely puts a dent in ~$36K/year they expect their students to cover with more non-federal loans. Which brings me back to the question of what is financial aid exactly?!? First off, it’s more like abuse than aid. I know I feel slightly beat down every time I discuss the issue, not helped in any manner. Secondly, is their sole role to act as a liaison between the students and the lenders, whether that be the Federal Government or private institutions? I mean, I guess when I always heard of “financial aid packets” I expected money to spring forth magically from these offices to partly subsidize the difference between what the government can cover and the actual, full cost of attendance.  Shoot, the government can’t even fully cover tuition… Once again, I just don’t understand!  How are you aiding me???  Perhaps I just have a strong imagination and hope my desires for minimal financial debt can be dreamt into existence. Or, maybe this school’s financial aid department is not its strong suit.  Maybe I’ll have much better packages from other schools that actually resemble aid…assistance in alleviating the costs.  Lord know that at this point, while I liked this school and was almost won over on Second Look, if other schools I am considering deliver better in this area, I’m dipping out and getting that refund back…I don’t like them that much.  If I did, then maybe I’d consider the HPSP (Health Professions Scholarship Program) offered through one of the armed forces. But, I’m not quite there yet.  I’m really just hoping that this school is lackluster in this area and other schools come up with something better. It will certainly make my final decision easier. Money, money, money, money…when you have none, people keep wanting more. Ugh!

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Financial Aid Woes

In applying to med school, Finances, medical school on March 10, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Thanks to some pressing from my mom, I went ahead and filled out the much dreaded FAFSA last night.  Eyes got crossed a few times flipping through the pages of lines on the forms for my mom and me (yes, she makes me do hers instead of her filling it out).  Finished that sucker relatively fast (haven’t completed one in about 2 years, but I swear it took ages before to do) and submitted last night.  I’m happy to say that it’s already been processed and sent out to the designated schools – one step closer to becoming an official medical student 🙂

Then, something told me to go look at the financial aid websites for the designated schools to see what was due next.  Good thing I looked too, as some have forms due on the 15th (as in Monday!) if you want to be considered for need-based money…and who doesn’t want some of that?  So, I opened my Word document and created a nice little color-coordinated timeline (yes, I have a slight obsession with color-coordinated items) of what’s due for each school and when, with links included where pertinent.  Then, I started reviewing suggested budgets for each school. That’s right about the time I felt my heart sink a little, then stop completely, then rapidly recharge to a pulse far exceeding my normal resting rate.  The schools range in price from about $56k (in-state) to $70k (private). Personally, I feel swindled that our in-state price is that much, for a crappy and dangerous city to live in too. Why can’t we all be like Texas? What’s their tuition, like $8k per year – absolutely ridiculous and unfair…that needs to be regulated or mimicked. Seriously, what is that state doing so well that they can provide professional education for that price. Perhaps other states need to start modeling their system…

Anyways, back to my lovely little state.  Supposedly, state-wide budget cuts are hitting our state school system hard. Librarians are being fired, libraries are being “closed” and restructured into “media rooms” literally the size of a room. Rumor has it that the licensure people came around this week and weren’t too happy with what they saw.  Now, I will state that this is just hearsay and, as of yet, as no truth to it. However, I think it says something that this rumor has sustainability because of the status of the state and it’s medical schools.  Not a good look, Jersey…puts at least one little check under the cons column for your list in my book.

I went into this process stating that money would not be a consideration. In retrospect, maybe I went into this process a bit wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was all about “fit with the school” and “personality of the student body” rationalizing that since I lacked undergrad student loans, I had a little room for give in terms of financial aid. Now…as I stare down that long, dark, barrel of debt, I’m wavering a bit in my stance.  I don’t think it helps that somehow I am just now realizing how much my 12 month post-bacc program cost, smh. When I factor in the price of obtaining an MPH as well…I get slightly overwhelmed and start getting so nervous that I reach the point where I embrace debt and do not care anymore.  I pray that God will work a financial miracle in this situation.  I pray that the financial aid offices will take pity on my soul, and award me a very nice package. I would also love some scholarships – I know they’re hard to come by, but a girl can ask and pray, right?

Actually, when I started receiving acceptances, I prayed that God would show me the school he wants me at based on their financial aid offers. Now that the time is approaching for those packages to be unwrapped, all I can say is, “Yikes!!!” While I still stick by that, I am nervous and am anxiously waiting to see what happens in these upcoming weeks. Keep me in your prayers!

The Dating Game

In applying to med school, Finances, medical school on November 16, 2009 at 11:33 pm

To a certain extent, searching for the right medical school is much like searching for the right significant other. Most people have a certain set of characteristics in mind when they search for a mate. For some, they look for a mate that they think is on their perceived level – someone they think physically looks as good as they are convinced they look (emphasis on perceived…you know how some people have that inflated self-image), someone who fits the look they are going for. Some (like me) find intelligence irresistably sexy, and consequently all partners must possess a certain level of smarts to make the cut. Some seek financial security. Still others (usually men) are intimidated by too many brains and therefore chose someone of lesser intelligence to accompany them throughout life. The list continues… Some look for a deep measure of humanity, a concern for the environment, a shared love of music/money/sports/[insert some random passion or value].

One of the funniest things I have said when considering someone is that I could picture them an excellent father and husband, but a boyfriend…not so much :/ Rest assured, we remain friends and have never dated, and I have absolutely no desire to date the man. His unintentional lack of follow-through irks me to no end. However, I know that in another 5 years or so, when he’s matured a bit more, he would be an engaging spouse and potentially an amazing father (I’m not ready to get married or have kids any time soon…let that be known). To round out the list, let’s be honest and just say that some people use their mates for networking opportunities (cold, I know, but I’m sure we can all name somebody). Ooo, one more. There’s always that desperate individual who really doesn’t care what traits another person has, as long as they are available (sometimes that’s not even a requirement) and possess the right body parts (still not always a requirement)…they’re the most entertaining to watch, imho. lol

Likewise, all these criteria are used by applicants to evaluate potential medical schools to apply to, and finally, which one to choose as their legally bound mate for the next 4+ years.  So, let the dating game begin!

So, what am I looking for in a man and/or a medical school? Well, let’s see, for a man, I look for someone who mirrors my life values. I want someone with a sense of humor, who’s bright (I get intellectual crushes very easily…just call me intellectually promiscuous), who understands the importance of giving to others, who’s down to earth (I hate pretension), likes to live life, has diverse interests, and likes to do random things. When evaluating a guy, money’s not an issue. I mean, if he has money, it’s certainly not a negative, but lacking money is not a negative either. Ha, looking at this list, it kind of looks like I am asking for a lot, but I swear I’m not! In the end, I just want a down-to-earth guy, with a nice smile and laugh, that likes to have a good time, but also has a serious side (such as focused on his career and family).

I am pretty much looking for the same thing in a future medical school.  I want a “family oriented” school, where there is a sense of family within my class and between the administration and the students.  Likewise, I desire and institution that supports my diverse interests outside the classroom through reduced lecture hours and various student groups and community service outreach.  The only big difference here is that financial ability will be a LARGE factor when making my selection. 

I am really curious as to how all of this is going to play out. For instance, if I am accepted at a school that seems down-to-earth, has a student body that’s into serving their community (both within the walls of the school and externally), and encourages its students to maintain their outside interests, but lacks a substantive financial support, will I pick them? My heart says one thing and my brain says the opposite. Ugh, I hate when that happens!

In undergrad, I was fortunate enough to receive numerous acceptances at a wide range of schools. One of the schools offered me a $100,000 scholarship for being one of their “top 100 applicants” or something like that. They went over-the-top, inviting us all to campus, taking us out on the town – the put on the works! However, despite their enticing offer, I chose a school that I wound up having to pay full-price out-of-pocket for (thank God I had been left money to finance my education). Why did I chose that school? Because I felt that my undergraduate years were, well, literally priceless! But, unlike medical school, I felt that it made a significant difference where I attended undergrad.

Medical school is a completely different game though. Any US accredited, MD-granting med school is good – it has to be, as we will be handling human life…something our society (rightfully) highly values.  With hard work (both inside and outside the classroom) you can get into any residency program of your chosing. With that in mind, it makes no sense to choose a school that’ll land you a quarter million dollars in debt (GASP!) when you can go to another school that you might not click with quite as well for substantially less money. Plus, lowering debt reduces the possibility of being pigeon-holed into a speciality just for the sake of being able to pay off loans versus following your true passion.  Like most other things in life, I feel that it is important to follow the heart and where God is leading. I’m excited to see what the spring offers. Whew, May 15th, 2010 is only 179 days away!!! Doesn’t seem so far away now, does it?  People keep asking me if I have a top choice right now.  My answer remains the same: I am trying not to get attached to any school until financial aide packages are laid out on the table.  I need to see my potential spouse’s hand before I commit!  I must know how deep those pockets go!