undergraduate debt and going back to school


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Jan 14, 2015
  1. Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
    I see a few people have already asked similar questions, but the threads seem a bit old and my case is a little different so lets see. Anyway, I graduated in 2013 from a top state university (but expensive) with honors. I took all of the medical school pre-reqs besides organic chem because I got scared of the debt involved in medical school and decided to go the PhD route. Well, now I am having second thoughts and I'm doing a little research. If I wanted to go to medical school, I would have to do organic chemistry I, II and lab. Unfortunately, my financial situation is a little precarious. I'm currently 80k in debt with around $25,000 in savings and only making around 35k a year. My overall GPA is over 3.8, science GPA is in the 3.6 to 3.7 range depending on how many of my more grey-area courses count as sciences. It's been a while since I've gone over the subject material in the MCAT and that worries me a bit if I were to go back and take it. I'm also worried about excelling in orgo given my time off from school and the cost of re-attending (is community college for orgo possible without hurting my chances?).

    On the plus side, I will have over a full year of research experience with 1-2 first author publications, and 1-2 co-author publications in a medically relevant field. I don't have any direct experience with patients, but I do work in a hospital and have a lot of exposure to a medical environment. So I'm not sure how long it will take to make this deficit up.

    From my calculations, depending on where I go to school, I will be anywhere from 350 to 500k in debt upon graduating which becomes scary to me once it hits the 400k mark. I'm also considering the HPSP military program, but honestly it would be a last resort. Ideally, I would like to go into radiology but I'm not going to bank on that.

    Anyway, if anyone could offer any insight into whether this is worth it or not, I would appreciate it. Brutal honesty is most appreciated.

    Thanks everyone


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    1. Attending Physician
      The "worth it" question is highly subjective and only you can answer it. That said, there are typically several routes you can go to reduce your debt burden:

      -depending on the field, debt forgiveness can be a benefit of employment, i.e., a practice, hospital, etc. will pay you a lump sum or money above your salary for a set amount of years to go towards paying off your debt

      -you could receive a scholarship; if money is really a concern for you, then understand that the schools you're willing to be consider will be more limited than other applicants (e.g., expensive private schools will be a no-go while cheaper state schools will be preferred)

      -the PSLF program (Google it) offers a route by which you can get a good amount of your debt forgiven by working for a non-profit entity for 10 years, including residency; I imagine this will be a bit of a political football moving forward so who knows whether or not the program will exist at that point, but it's something to think about

      Again, no one is going to be able to say whether it's "worth it" or not. Only you can make that determination. I will say, though, that going the HPSP route is a terrible decision if you have no intrinsic desire to be in the military.
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