As you probably already know, I applied for medical school last year, interviewed and was accepted. I will be starting in August — white coat ceremony is on day 1 of school!
If you’re curious how it feels, well, pretty damn good. I’m not accustomed to hard work begetting rewards, I had grown up with a empirical truth that hard work correlated to nothing more than hard times — thus, you best enjoy the journey — and so far I did. People often ask me a few questions:
Q: did you party like a rock star after getting into medical school?
I wasn’t showered in confetti, I didn’t go streaking down the street (I sort of imagined that’s how I’d celebrate, but alas now’s not a good time to pick up a misdemeanor), I didn’t take an extravagant excursions to Borneo, nor did I go spelunking. How do I celebrate? In a small way, for example “Man, maybe I shouldn’t buy this shirt..wait I got into medical school”. Those small rewards for myself are enough, because like many college students, I was trying to rival a monk on making due without for years — so, now I’m easy to please. Though, I’m amendable to my readers celebrating vicariously for me.
Q: given the smashing debt, why go into medicine at all?
It’s no secret that medical education is expensive in the US. The average medical student walks out about 180K in debt (not counting their previous debt from getting into medical school in the first place). I really had to ask myself this question, because well I turned down a full tuition scholarship to one medical school, and almost 100K from another. Now, I’m left waiting for my financial aid to be process at BU, and I’m not sure if I’ll be paying the bill by myself or with scholarships. I’ll let you all know soon how that worked out financially. Now, this may seem counter intuitive, especially considering how much I spent on applying. But, I think if anyone is going to use that annoying YOLO, it should be a medical student. You see, I grew up thinking I’d never do much for myself, in fact I thought as a child I’d be a trash man like my mom’s boyfriend — I even considered the utility of going to college, being the first to go. So, now that I’m going, I decided to just go for it. The person who inspired me to take that chance was my research mentor, and pseudo older brother.
Now feelings aside it’s an investment, because even if I spent 180K on lottery tickets tomorrow, I’m still statistically very unlikely to receive a return that makes the investment worthwhile. I believe that a good ratio of your pay to investment of education is your expected salary versus the investment, obviously you’d like to make more than you spent. So, for example, if you paid 60K for a masters I’d think you’d like to make around that amount annually to stay financially solvent (because I am expected to pay this money back). With that example, you may pay for 60K masters and make 20K for 10 years, this would be a great intellectual and personal investment but perhaps not a financial one. On the other hand, if you paid 150K for a BA in Underwater Basket Weaving, then you may be in for a rough ride if you don’t have a follow up plan. I don’t expect to buy a island in the Caribbean, put showgirls through college, or play golf with the mayor. Heck, I grew up with one solid dream, that is make enough so I have: running water, power, and have a home (because at some point in my life I’ve not had one or more of those). Besides, how many people actually get paid to do what they want to do? So I feel pretty lucky.
I’ll keep you updated about my financial aid package (or lack thereof) in the coming weeks, should be coming soon. Be ready for the possible massive face palm, or the lackluster celebration on my part. On the side note, I think there’s something almost liberating about owing a 1/5 of a million dollars — it really puts every day expenses into perspective, and I find myself rewarding myself a little more than I used to.
#doctorbust find me on twitter @doctorORbust
As you may already know I’m in limbo, the easiest time of a medical student’s life, the period before when they’re accepted and sitting around awaiting school to start. It’s not a bad place to be. So, what am I doing with my time?
Trying to catch up with what is considered common knowledge!
While studying for the MCAT, I stopped listening to music, and replaced all my audio with Examkrackers Audio Osmosis — I even slept with earphones in at times, I often had very odd but scientifically accurate dreams. In college, I had a TV but it wasn’t actually connected to the wall, perhaps it was for the better because I missed the TV dark ages: Jersey Shore, all the renditions of Bachelor type shows, Honey Boo Boo (pre-health condition), and I never kept up with the Kardashians. I also had no idea who Justin Bieber was for some years, and I’m still confused that Miley Cyrus isn’t that little girl I saw on kids backpacks growing up. But, recently I’ve been defrosted from the frigid lands of premed, into acceptance. For years, people flung music and TV references at me that went over my head. Now that I have time, I try to catch E.R. reality shows, science specials, Walking Dead, Colbert Report, Top Gear, SNL. I started watching the Weather Channel when I realized I might be living in any one of the states buried under the next blizzard. I was in a news desert for a while, so I could only listen NPR due to their reliability, but now there’s another neutral news outlet Al Jazeera. When medical school starts, I’ll definitely pare my TV viewership again, but I’ll keep some shows mentally in queue.
Well, I’ve left the country a couple of times already with my own money, including my “dream locale” of Japan. My stepfather started taking me camping when I was about 16, I’ve camped in different states. I’ve personally driven with friends on road trips to different parts of the US, and the medical school interviews tossed me into many states new to me. And, after consulting with my financier of my life, me, I was told I’m out of money for travel. I have family in Japan, so I might just go to Japan again next summer if I’m not beholden to anything.
Pay bills before I’m off to medical school
Bingo. When I started college I didn’t qualify for financial aid, this was because my parents income was considered, but my parents believed in “financial self-sufficiency” about my education. So, this was a nice Catch-22 of looking wealthy on paper, while being poor in reality. So, how does one pay for college and living expenses, work and credit cards. So, I want to pay off my debt (fortunately, it’s not crazy, it just needs to be done). My student loan debt, ~40K? chump change in comparison to what I’ll owe soon, so I’ll just stack that on top of the school other 180K bill I’ll get from medical school. Paying down bills will make leasing/renting stuff easier, that’s my main motivation and also why I draw a distinction between my personal accrued debt and government loans.
Hang out with my friends.
I won’t see some of my friends for years. Though, I moved around a lot as a kid, as do most Californians, so the feeling of the uncertainty of moving is not new for most of us. What is new is that it’s clear across the country, quite literally, and in the land of actual seasons. I’m comfortable staying at home over the weekend, or reading a book over coffee (dream weekend), but I’ve made more of a concentrated effort to be more social. It’s been great. I’ll miss having access to my friends, but I won’t miss them, because I know we’ll keep in touch. I’ve already reached an age where I’ve shed most of my “extra” friends, and I’m left with exceptional ones. Though, I enjoy bringing my friends with me to Boston, giving them a nexus to the east coast. So, I embrace the complex future.
Read stuff that has nothing to do with medicine — that book over coffee.
It’s my last chance to be able to do this without any guilt about my time. I work at a university, so I have access to a really expansive library, so I’ve used it to catch up on things I wanted to read. I also have been spending a lot of time at the online Gutenberg Library, it’s great for classics, they even have Maxwell’s lectures there. I read the Feynman Lecture Volume I, going over volume II now, with any luck Ill get III done before the summer starts — not that I’ll understand any of it yet. I have a personal goal of being able to look at quantum physics equations and go “Oh Hawking, try again”, as I cross out a formula with a sharpie at Starbucks. One day, one day.
Though, upon reflection all science is tied to medicine, so I’m sort of cheating on the “no medicine reading” thing. =)
Have you ever watched an episode of Batman? When I grew up, the block chinned rendition of the cape crusader blared on television sets across the country in the afternoon. Let’s face it, Batman like many over achievers (spoiler alert, Bruce Wayne) has everything except self satisfaction. He’s the only super hero, who’s not really a super hero, he has no powers. He’s just a man with a plan (and an infinite nest egg), and a tool belt to show for it. In fact, a main driving point of many a stories in Batman’s life is losing his tool belt. And of course, if only he had that darn tool belt all would be fixed in a jiffy, and well if he had his belt at that time during the plot, and well they’d likely be no episode. So, Batman, never leaves home without his tool belt, so why would you as a premed and applicant apply to medical school without your tool belt? Here’s my built below, what’s in yours?
Here’s a standard issue of Batman’s tool belt, as an applicant you’ll likely want to keep most of the pre-packed tools. For example:
1. I’d keep the smoke capsules to escape once people start asking you about their foot fungus once they find out you’re applying to medical school.
2. Those tear gas pellets would come in handy for all of the female applicants who face questions like “Why don’t you just become a nurse?” — no disrespect to nurses, without nurses there’s no healthcare. But, a physician is a gender neutral job.
3. The item to the most right, the breathing apparatus would of come in handy while studying for the MCAT next to that funky dude.
5. Miniature camera? Toss that, I’d get the Medical School Admissions Guide.
Think about what’s in your tool belt when you apply to medical school. Are you using all of them correctly? Are you maximizing their usage? Did you forget to pack your tools with you before you decided to fight crime (AMCAS)? Give these things some thought, otherwise risk feeling like you could of “done better” if you just “would of done (this or that)”.
Don’t leave home without your belt.