plumdearly

10+ Year Member
Mar 26, 2008
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Wilmington
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Pre-Medical
Hi all! This is my first time posting but I’ve been a lurker for over a year. I was hoping I could get some advice from those of you “in the trenches”.

I decided to start school at the age of 28. I am working on my Associates in Biology before moving on to a four-year college. I plan to enter medical school in 2012.

For the past year and a half, I have been working full-time, going to school full-time, volunteering on the weekends, and trying my best to have a family life. I have two small boys, ages 8 and 4. My husband and I have also had some financial difficulties because he recently lost a very good job and it has set us back quite a bit. I am starting to feel overloaded and stressed to the point that I think it may be affecting my health, and I often wonder if I’m unable to handle the stress of it all and therefore unable to handle being a doctor or if this is what all pre-med students feel.

I wanted to end my school career as debt-free as possible, but I’m thinking about taking out a student loan when I enter a four-year school next May so that I can attend and work part-time, if at all. I'm hoping this will alleviate some stress.

My first question is, is this pressure normal? How do you all deal with making time for your families in between all of your other obligations? Have any of you stopped working full-time to attend school, and is that looked down upon by medical schools? How do you manage to pay for your school without going deeply into debt (or is that even possible)? And how do you manage the stress?
 

Luxian

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Dec 13, 2006
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It is absolutely natural to feel so stressed, especially since you have far more on your plate than most pre-meds! First of all, I know it feels bad to go into debt, but it's worth it if it will allow you to focus more on school. Med schools won't care one whit that you stop working to go to school. In fact, they care far more about GPA than whether you are juggling five other things at the same time. Unfortunately for us non-trads, we usually distinguish ourselves most in the interview, but we have to pass through all the hurdles those pre-med college students do to get to that point.

So I say, keep on plugging. Take a loan to give you and your family a little relief. If it doesn't work the way you're doing it, slow down on the coursework and spread it over a longer period of time. Med school will still be there when you finish. And lastly, I'm 32 and just starting this year. Sounds like you'll be the same age when you start. It's never too late.

Just do what you can to slow down and keep your sanity and your family together. It's all worth it in the long run.
 

njbmd

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Hi all! This is my first time posting but I’ve been a lurker for over a year. I was hoping I could get some advice from those of you “in the trenches”.

I decided to start school at the age of 28. I am working on my Associates in Biology before moving on to a four-year college. I plan to enter medical school in 2012.

For the past year and a half, I have been working full-time, going to school full-time, volunteering on the weekends, and trying my best to have a family life. I have two small boys, ages 8 and 4. My husband and I have also had some financial difficulties because he recently lost a very good job and it has set us back quite a bit. I am starting to feel overloaded and stressed to the point that I think it may be affecting my health, and I often wonder if I’m unable to handle the stress of it all and therefore unable to handle being a doctor or if this is what all pre-med students feel.

I wanted to end my school career as debt-free as possible, but I’m thinking about taking out a student loan when I enter a four-year school next May so that I can attend and work part-time, if at all. I'm hoping this will alleviate some stress.

My first question is, is this pressure normal? How do you all deal with making time for your families in between all of your other obligations? Have any of you stopped working full-time to attend school, and is that looked down upon by medical schools? How do you manage to pay for your school without going deeply into debt (or is that even possible)? And how do you manage the stress?

There are a couple of issues here. First, if you have financial obligations that involve a family, it makes sense to make sure that you have the financial means to take care of your family. If this involves full-time work, then you should be attending school part-time. There are only so many hours in a week and most of the time when a student works full time and tries to take a full-time academic load, it isn't the work that suffers when problems arise, it's the academics.

Second, you have one shot at doing your best in your academics. It's not the number of hours that you take per semester but your performance in those hours. Unless you have a job that allows you to study most of the time, cut back on your academic load so that you have plenty of time to do high quality work and so that you have some time for your family.

Third, please stop trying to figure out what "looks good" to a medical school admissions committee. The most impressive applicants present an application that contains a high uGPA, solid MCAT and strong extra curricular/LORs. If you can achieve these things by working full-time and full time academics, then wonderful but full-time academics are not necessary if that means that your work drops in quality. High quality academic achievement is the most impressive item to any professional school admissions committee.

Fourth, look carefully at what the cost of your education will be in terms of how long your family can afford for you to be out of the workforce. If you are struggling to live because you and your family can't afford for you NOT to work, then cut back and take your time so that you can work full time.

Finally, look very carefully at other careers (PA certainly comes to mind) that do not take as long as medicine. If you enter medical school, you can expect to be out of the workforce for four years and re-enter it at below minimum wages. In addition, your debt load will definitely go up unless you either enter the military or obtain full-ride scholarship. The interest on that debt will accrue during residency (3 to 7 years) and you will be expected to pay off your debt as you enter the workforce (house payment for most folks). The current Congress is also looking at having you start paying off your student loans while you are in residency which would put many residents with families on food stamps and in subsidized housing. (We, at the AMA are fighting this one hard).

I am not advocating that you not pursue medicine but I am advocating that you look very long and hard at the practice conditions of most of today's physicians (especially those who are just entering the workforce), look at the average debt load (likely to be larger since you haven't finished pre-med at this point), look at the decreasing reimbursements (has happened every year and is driving many physicians out of medicine) and look at the rising rates of malpractice (can't open your office door without this and some states are terrible).

Once you do a thorough investigation, then make your decision as to whether or not it is beneficial to leave your full-time job when you attend university. Also look at whether or not it is beneficial to your family to pursue medicine if it means that you can't "make ends meet" for the time that you are out of the workforce. Also keep in mind that no career is worth running yourself and your family into the ground emotionally and financially if you can find an alternative means of finance or take a bit longer in preparing for it.

If you make provisions for all of the above, then do whatever it takes to achieve the highest grades and best premedical education that you can achieve. Add that to a very strong performance on the MCAT and a strong application so that you are successful in getting into medical school.
 

nontrdgsbuiucmd

10+ Year Member
Mar 28, 2008
998
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my own little world
Status
Medical Student
I decided to start school at the age of 28. I am working on my Associates in Biology before moving on to a four-year college. I plan to enter medical school in 2012.

I wanted to end my school career as debt-free as possible, but I’m thinking about taking out a student loan when I enter a four-year school next May so that I can attend and work part-time, if at all. I'm hoping this will alleviate some stress.

My first question is, is this pressure normal? How do you all deal with making time for your families in between all of your other obligations? Have any of you stopped working full-time to attend school, and is that looked down upon by medical schools? How do you manage to pay for your school without going deeply into debt (or is that even possible)? And how do you manage the stress?
Hello, first off congrats on going back to school! That's a tough thing to do, especially with a family. Sounds like you have a supportive spouse which in my experience is an absolute necessity; my classmate did not and is having even more stress due to that.

Debt takes some time to get used to, its the very rare med student who does not have it. I am not working now, only attending classes premed, and recognize that I'll have plenty of debt by the time I finish med school/residency. I'm hoping to "moonlight" during my residency and earn some cash, I think rules on that vary by state, my intent is to bring my salary up to maybe $70-$80K during those years, to reduce additional debt/pay some down. That said, I look at debt as taking a 20% (or so) bite out of my physician take home after completing residency/fellowship. Even without that 20%, take a look at what physicians earn, it's still enough to live on.

Stress.I have experience with that. When I owned a company, there was substantial financial stress in the early years; received a pre-foreclosure notice/nearly lose your cars/kids pulled out of private school type stress. It took a physical toll, I was on meds for a while after the stress started damaging my body. I won't do that again, don't think I physically could.

As a premed (& parent of two) the stress is a different type, it's the stress of "need to learn this material well/do well in school stress", which for me is enjoyable; one can work hard and earn top grades. Guess if it was the reverse (school caused physical manifestations of stress and financial distress did not) I'd be concerned about going to med school, as it is, I feel better able to put the stress of school into perspective given my extracurricular experiences.

So my 2 cents is: take the loan, alleviate some stress, use some of your extra time to spend it with your family! PS lots of med schools are "ideally" looking for both recent clinical exposure, and over a long time period exposure, can you change volunteer time to biweekly? take a timeout on that for a year or two maybe, starting again 1+ years before applying to med schools?
 
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plumdearly

plumdearly

10+ Year Member
Mar 26, 2008
5
0
Wilmington
Status
Pre-Medical
Thank you for all of the advice so far. :) I have briefly considered the PA route, but my love is forensics and I am pretty sure that I either want to be a medical examiner or practice hospice medicine, and although I can practice hospice medicine as a PA, I can't do medical examinations as a PA. Also, being a doctor is something I really want. It's really hard for me to let go of that.

My stress lately mainly comes from the pressure of our finances. My husband is in sales (previously mortgages, so we all know where this story is going), and sales in general come and go. There is no steady flow of income. Couple that with the fact that my husband gets very nervous providing for our entire family with earned commissions makes it very hard for me because I feel the pressure to earn a paycheck along with the pressure to keep my high GPA.

Neither my work or my school are suffering right now, but I definitely feel some burnout with both. I think that a combination of slowing down and getting a loan will help. I also need to learn better time management since my family usually demands my time when I'm at home even when they know I need to study. (If you have any tricks for that, I'm all ears. :p)