Mayo (MN) vs. BU vs. SLU

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Feb 9, 2017
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>30yo non-trad here. My SO is completing her last 2 years of fellowship in St. Louis and my family lives in both Illinois and Texas. Really hoping for WashU to pan out but at this point I’m waitlisted have to start thinking about my options.

My career is important to me but I’m also old enough to understand that relationships- family, friends, and SO - are what makes life really worth living.

As for specialty and career goals, I am open-minded but I’m looking for a niche where I can really make an impact. I haven’t done a ton of clinical research but would like to explore, discover, and dive deep into my interests in med school. As far as specialty I could see myself doing anything from IM to cardiac surgery. I’d like to match to residency or practice in either the Midwest or Texas because that’s where most family and friends are. There’s a decent chance I’ll end up wanting to pursue a competitive specialty. Likely in academics, possibly PP.

Mayo Clinic (MN) (130k COA)

  • Full-tuition scholarship so COA would be about $130k.
  • Selectives offer a ton of flexibility and the ability to explore which is awesome; curriculum is my favorite of any school I interviewed with
  • Great match list
  • Unparalleled mentorship
  • Peaceful chill community, would not have to worry about crime (see my SLU cons)
  • Smaller city and small class size of 50; being fully honest with myself, I know that I can be prone to melancholy if I don’t feel surrounded by friends.
  • Mayo Clinic and Rochester MN is the ONE place my SO cannot just walk in and get a job; I don’t know the hiring process at Mayo but I imagine it’s selective for oncologists. All of the surrounding hospitals that hire oncologists are over an hour away; that’d be rough.
  • 7-hour drive from family and SO; I know zero people in Minnesota.
  • COLD and tons of snow. Also having to wear suits sometimes though I hear it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Boston University (~160k COA)

  • Generous need-based scholarship means the COA is also 135k (according to their calculations)
  • Much bigger class size than Mayo; age range of the students is primarily non-traditional- I feel more likely to be able to relate to classmates and not feel so old
  • Much more fun city!
  • Social justice-oriented and means it
  • In a big city (lots of people to meet and things to do)
  • Less cold than Minnesota oddly enough. Near the ocean
  • In a big city (expensive, crowded lifestyle); I think they’re lowballing the COA which I would expect to be around 180k for all 4 years. Funny that Mayo has a more generous housing allowance than a school in Boston.
  • It’s so far from family and friends, and my family is pretty low-income so they won't be able to travel to visit me. They also won't be able to pay for my flights back home.
  • Unsure how the research and education compares to Mayo
  • I’ve heard that their rotations can be weird and you have to commute around Massachusetts and even Rhode Island for some clinicals; I would like to be able to sell my car and not have to travel for rotations.
  • Match list is northeast-heavy and I’d like to end up back in the Midwest or Texas.
  • Honestly, I work with the homeless and addict population a lot in St. Louis and it’s pretty thankless; not sure I want to focus on that population.
Saint Louis University ($400k COA)

  • Pretty good curriculum (P/F preclinical, NBME questions, school gives you free Amboss etc)
  • Students seem happy and chill
  • In the same city as my SO, and 2 hours from my family
  • I like the Jesuit mission (but I’m uncertain as to how much they put their money where their mouth is)
  • Unlikely to give much financial aid if any at all. Would likely have to pay full price meaning $400k.
  • SLUCare physicians group was recently sold by SLU to the hospital system, it’s unclear what this means but hard to imagine the attendings happy being directly managed by the hospital.
  • Match list is decent with some positive surprises (several ortho matches at Mayo, MGH, Hopkins for example), but overall I’d be at a higher risk of not matching or matching in an undesirable location compared to Mayo or BU.
  • Large med school class (180); seems like there could be strong competition for limited research and mentorship opportunities, even though current students deny this.
  • St. Louis is honestly wearing on me. It’s a cool city and I could make it work but the way people act and drive here, it’s like you could be randomly killed at any minute by a reckless driver or shot for no reason (happened to a grad student just a couple weeks ago).
Is there anything I'm missing or not thinking about?

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Congratulations on these great options you have! It's a very difficult decision to make, but if you get off the WashU waitlist it would be ideal as it is close to family/ SO and is a great school.

From your pros and cons lists, it seems that you can maybe narrow down to Mayo versus SLU ( Boston seems to have similar cons as Mayo in addition to also possibly traveling and match list Northeast heavy, more expensive, etc).

Now the hard part I think is Mayo is a great program and the COA of $130,000 is very hard to give up. However, MN is one the coldest US states so this maybe a big con lol (at least to me)! For me personally, I value 1. close to family, 2. most affordable, 3. weather, 4. reputation.

I would say if family/ SO is your number 1 I would go with SLU, especially if they can match your offer at Mayo and if your SO is already settled/ can have a job in St. Louis versus difficult to get a job at Mayo. Have you tried contacting SLU to see if they can offer you any scholarships before April 30? A side note, I am from St. Louis, where my family resides but did not get into SLU, but if I did I would be willing to pay the $200-300 thousand extra to be close to family if they can not move with me but this is just my personal value to put family first versus cost. Anyways, congratulations again I hope things work out for you!
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I would not suggest SLU at that price point. Choose from the other 2.
Yeah, I just wanted to include it as a formality because of the family proximity, feels bad since they were a top choice at the start of the cycle. But it’s mostly between Mayo and BU right now
This is really a tough one. If I’m being honest, Mayo is the best school and price but in a tough location, Boston is the middle school (although still amazing) at a great price and great location (but tough on the relationship for long distance), and all SLU has going for it is the location.

SLU is the most expensive and not nearly as good as a school as the others. I’m taking this one out. I think you and your SO can figure it out for a bit until she finishes fellowship (which should be coming up soon if she only has 2 years left of her fellowship)

Between BU and Mayo, I think Mayo is the better school but BU is the better option for you. Like you said, your SO can’t just walk into Rochester MN and grab any job. However, Boston can afford her that opportunity. You guys can do long distance for a bit til she can become an attending in Boston in 2026. You’ll even have a good life/friend group in Boston compared to MN. Then when it’s time for residency in 2028, you both can move back to the midwest or Texas.

I know the BU match list doesn’t show the midwest/Texas matches much, but I think thats mostly due to selection bias and the fact that Northeast people want to stay in the Northeast. I think it’s safe to trust that BU is a strong enough school to allow you to match where you want to be.

This is, in my opinion, the most logical choice for you guys. You don’t go into insane debt (on top of whatever debt she may even have), your long distance relationship would be for less than 2 whole years, Boston is the best city, and Boston affords your SO the most opportunity as an attending oncologist. This seems as good as it’s going to be if you ask me. Congrats!
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Yea, I agree here that while Mayo trumps BU in general, for things outside academics like your future with your SO, BU gets a huge boost there. Plus the smaller things like the city life, larger nontrad class, etc. And it's not like Mayo and BU are worlds apart in academics.
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