A reader posed this question about going to medical school while drowning in debt.
Hi. My name is XXXX, and I know that this is a bit of an awkward request, but I wanted to see if I could get the advice of someone who has been where I want to go. I completely understand if you're too busy to respond, but I thought it was worth a try to seek your advice.
Long story short, I spent my entire college career trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and I finally settled on web design/development. It wasn't until a few years after I graduated that I finally decided that I wanted to become a doctor, but four years of college and a few poor financial decisions have put my wife and me in a considerable amount of debt, over $20,000 of which is high interest credit card debt. On top of that, we're paying $640/month in car payments and $1427/month on our mortgage. We also have a 9-month-old daughter who apparently enjoys to eat on a regular basis.
Which brings us to today. I want more than ever to go to medical school, but at the age of 31 and with the level of debt my family is currently dealing with, I'm trying to determine the feasibility of doing so. At the moment, I'm working a full time job as a Flash/Photoshop trainer and a part time job as a freelance web developer, but I'm concerned that if I'm able to start medical school I won't be able to afford our monthly bills. Is this a valid concern, or is it possible to get enough financial aid to cover these kind of monthly payments?
I'm currently working on a plan to ramp up my freelance design work in order to try and pay off this debt a little quicker, but if I'm able to go to med school, I don't want to put it off TOO much longer.
So, I realize that this is kind of a generic, blanket question, but as an objective outside observer, what advice would you give to someone in my shoes? Thanks so much for your time,
Here's my advice:
1) First get into medical school. It's not an easy thing to do. You have to have excellent college grades (on average at least a 3.5 GPA). You have to have all the prerequisites completed. And you have to do very well on the MCATs. It's not as simple as saying you want to go to medical school. It takes years of consistent hard work and determination as well as high intellect to pass through the hurdles put forth in front of you. Now, if you can pass these hurdles, my next recommendation is
2) Don't worry about the credit card debt. At $20,000, even at 30% interest, your minimum monthly payment is 500 a month. You can pay for that by doing #3
3) To pay your minimum monthly payments on your credit card debt, sell your new cars to get rid of your car payments. and buy cheap transportation. Perhaps invest in a $1000 vehicle that has four tires and an engine. When I was in medical school I drove a 15 year old car that had no air, no heat, rust in the floor boards, no power anything. I drove it until it died, the week of my residency, at which point I leased a Ford Focus for $200 a month. If you want to do medical school on your financial status, you will have to sacrifice.
4) If you are renting, find a cheaper apartment. If you are buying, find a cheaper house. Your goal, if you wish to go through medical school soon on your current debt is to sacrifice every way you can. That means your wife and daughter will sacrifice as well. No vacations. No luxury. If your wife is working, great. If she can't afford to work because of child care, fine as well. Either way it's possible to make it through medical school on skin and bones with a wife and child. I had lots of med school colleagues grow their family during school. It is possible.
5) Loans. You can take out lots and lots of loans. 13 years ago the living expenses I got in loans was about $1,000 a month for me alone, single no wife and no children. Fast forward to today And I'm sure it's quite a bit more, also depending on which part of the country you live in. You very well may be able to avoid some of the above sacrifices if you can secure enough loans to cover your current expenses.
6) At the current payment rates of outpatient primary medical fields, you would have to think long and hard if you plan to do them at your age. You will be almost 40 years old with no retirement savings and close to $300,000 in debt. You will never come out ahead in the primary medical fields of family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics at current payment rates. However, hospitalist incomes rates rising rapidly. If you choose to go into a subspecialty, you have the ability to thrive, and at your age, I would suggest you have no alternative if finances are any consideration on your radar. What do you readers think? Can he go to medical school in his current situation?