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Financial Aid during gap year

kevinw

New Member
Nov 6, 2012
5
0
  1. Non-Student
    Hi,
    My daughter is planning on her MD/Phd. She has let me know that she would like to take a gap year in order to do volunteer research in a laboratory that is in her field and is associated with her desired college (University of Chicago). It appears she has a very good chance of getting into this excellent school, but during her gap year, she would not be paid.

    Are there options that people are aware of (aside from high interest private loans) that could give her income during her gap year? Should she get a position in the research lab, it will be unpaid and yet she will need to live near campus presumibly in an apartment. I suspect traditional financial aid will not be of help given she will not be a student at that time.

    Thank you.
     

    wholeheartedly

    Epi Geek
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  • Aug 8, 2009
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      Yikes, no clue. Will she be working full-time in the lab or could she get another job in addition to that?

      I'm also not sure about how I feel about a year long volunteer position in a research lab for a non-student, especially if it's full-time. Not to be a downer, but students can get taken advantage of that way with promises of admission or publications only to be used as free labor work horses and no guarantees the promises will be fulfilled. Some researchers are real jerks like this. Make sure her gpa/mcat and previous research experiences actually give her a shot at that school and that it's not just her potential research advisor telling her this. MD/PhD programs are generally extremely competitive.

      I suppose applying for grants might be an option.

      A really financially stupid option might be to max out on her student loans this spring and hope it's enough to carry her through a good chunk of next year.
       

      kevinw

      New Member
      Nov 6, 2012
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      1. Non-Student
        I appreciate the perspective. Some background - She will graduate a year early having done 4 years at her current school (in a 5 year program). 5.0 GPA and an MCAT score which will get her in most schools for graduate work. She also has been in research facilities at the university since her Soph year, so she's doing very well. She is a high achiever and has her sights set on UofC (she will find out in Spring whether it's a go for that gap year). She wants to take her MCAT again this winter to give her a better chance for the MD/PHd program at UofC in the future. There is no way, IMO, that she could handle a job and a research position, she will be too focused and it could burn her out. I understand what you are saying about being taken advantage of - to some extent I feel that's happening now, but at least she's given scholarships to offset her time.

        I had considered maxing out the student loan option - but that may not be too good either. My wife and I gave her a certain amount of money for college each year and any shortfall she was to make up for herself. Ultimately, because of scholarships and grants, she never needed any loans.

        Bottom line, it seems to me that our only real option may be grants and private loans - but I'd rather avoid private loans that if at all possible.

        Thank you
         
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        wholeheartedly

        Epi Geek
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      • Aug 8, 2009
        6,763
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        Beyond the Wall
          I'm not familiar with schools that give 5.0 gpa's, is this a US school?

          Also, posting this in the non-trad forum gives you perspectives from people who have taken gap years, sometimes long gap years who might know some funding strategies, but we also have a physician scientist forum for people who want to or have gone the MD/PhD or MD/MS routes.

          They might be able to contribute more to the discussion and have more ideas about funding options for students doing research that most of the non-trads aren't going to know about as most in this forum aren't planning on going that route. You could ask one of our moderators to move this discussion to that forum. (just make sure not to repost the question there yourself as it's a terms of service violation to post the same question in multiple forums). I just think you might get more valuable responses from that group on this topic.

          Here's a link to that forum if you haven't found it already: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/forumdisplay.php?f=32
           

          ChE04

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          Nov 3, 2009
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          1. Attending Physician
            Honestly, she should get an actual job and get paid. Volunteering full time for a year?? That is just being taken advantage of, especially since she will have a bachelors degree. Professors have grants that pay for salaries of research assistants. Anyone who would let someone (again, especially with a BS degree) work full time for them for 1 year without paying them a dime is not someone I would want to associate with.
             
            Last edited:

            LifeTake2

            Full Member
            Nov 30, 2010
            908
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            1. Pre-Medical
              Kevin, please don't take this the wrong way but it is time to tell you daughter to figure it out.

              If she is close to finishing her undergraduate degree and looking at a MD/PhD....it is time for her to take responsibility for how to pay her bills and stop expecting her dad to figure it out.

              She can join SDN and get all the advice she could ever need but SHE needs to show ownership for her own future.
               

              WaterPog

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              Sep 3, 2012
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                Kevin, please don't take this the wrong way but it is time to tell you daughter to figure it out.

                If she is close to finishing her undergraduate degree and looking at a MD/PhD....it is time for her to take responsibility for how to pay her bills and stop expecting her dad to figure it out.

                She can join SDN and get all the advice she could ever need but SHE needs to show ownership for her own future.

                Ditto
                 

                kevinw

                New Member
                Nov 6, 2012
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                1. Non-Student
                  No offense taken. :) My expectation is that she will figure it out. She is extremely independent and I suspect she may be upset I'm even worrying about it. However, I am doing this investigation on my own because I want to be armed with some perspective when she and I talk next about it. Given my background, I have no real perspective. I don't know if this gap year/research thing is normal or if it is not normal. It appears, based upon the feedback, a gap year seems normal. Working for free is not. That is kind of what I expected and it appears to be validated with some amount of data. I am sincerely hoping she can negotiate some pay for her time in the lab, but in my discussions so far, it appears that's not in the plan. Is that what one normally does to get into their top school given the level of competition is so high? Work in a research lab on a gap year for free and use that as access into the school? In my discussions with her, she can get into the school anyway, but not the Md/PhD program. My preference is for her to stay where she's at, continue her research during her gap year (and get paid) and then move to her top pick as a student and not a volunteer.

                  I really appreciate the perspective.
                   

                  kevinw

                  New Member
                  Nov 6, 2012
                  5
                  0
                  1. Non-Student
                    I'm not familiar with schools that give 5.0 gpa's, is this a US school?

                    Also, posting this in the non-trad forum gives you perspectives from people who have taken gap years, sometimes long gap years who might know some funding strategies, but we also have a physician scientist forum for people who want to or have gone the MD/PhD or MD/MS routes.

                    They might be able to contribute more to the discussion and have more ideas about funding options for students doing research that most of the non-trads aren't going to know about as most in this forum aren't planning on going that route. You could ask one of our moderators to move this discussion to that forum. (just make sure not to repost the question there yourself as it's a terms of service violation to post the same question in multiple forums). I just think you might get more valuable responses from that group on this topic.

                    Here's a link to that forum if you haven't found it already: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/forumdisplay.php?f=32

                    I may have mis-stated her GPA. I never see a report card though I know it's all As. Given her history, that's no surprise.
                     

                    ChE04

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                    Nov 3, 2009
                    396
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                    1. Attending Physician
                      I can only think that she is hoping to make some connections at her top choice school by working there and getting a good letter of recommendation from someone on faculty there. There are 3 situations where it may be of some advantage: 1) her PI is on the admissions committee, 2) her PI is personally close with someone on the admissions committee, 3) her PI is a world renown researcher in his/her particular field (ie, Nobel laureate). If she develops a good working relationship with her PI and numbers 1 or 2 are true, then a glowing letter of recommendation and possibly a phone call can carry a lot of weight with that particular institution. Number 3 probably won't have any significant effect at UChicago relative to any other program, but having a "big name" letter of rec is always a plus.

                      If none of the above are true, then there really are no advantages to being exploited as free labor, even at your school of choice. You are correct in that a gap year is quite normal, but that being slave labor is not. If the PI is a reasonable person and has some semblance of conscience, then he/she should be quite open to a discussion about reimbursement. Volunteering at a lab is fine while you are a student and have limited time, but not as a graduate out in the real world.
                       

                      kevinw

                      New Member
                      Nov 6, 2012
                      5
                      0
                      1. Non-Student
                        I can only think that she is hoping to make some connections at her top choice school by working there and getting a good letter of recommendation from someone on faculty there. There are 3 situations where it may be of some advantage: 1) her PI is on the admissions committee, 2) her PI is personally close with someone on the admissions committee, 3) her PI is a world renown researcher in his/her particular field (ie, Nobel laureate). If she develops a good working relationship with her PI and numbers 1 or 2 are true, then a glowing letter of recommendation and possibly a phone call can carry a lot of weight with that particular institution. Number 3 probably won't have any significant effect at UChicago relative to any other program, but having a "big name" letter of rec is always a plus.

                        If none of the above are true, then there really are no advantages to being exploited as free labor, even at your school of choice. You are correct in that a gap year is quite normal, but that being slave labor is not. If the PI is a reasonable person and has some semblance of conscience, then he/she should be quite open to a discussion about reimbursement. Volunteering at a lab is fine while you are a student and have limited time, but not as a graduate out in the real world.

                        Great insight. Some of what you said she also was stating but it's easier to see in writing. I think I have enough now I can talk intelligently with her and understand a bit more about her intent. Thank you!
                         
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