Heart vs Wallet

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    Okay, I am trying to decide between a medical school that is ranked highly, and I really love (UMichigan) and schools that are closer to home and cost a lot less (Ohio State, U Cincinatti). I don’t think I’d be unhappy at any of them. I don’t know how to start making this decision, should I go where I really want to, or should I be sensible and go where it will cost me half as much and be near my family?

    Has anyone here had to make a similar choice, and if so, how did you decide? Is there anyone who wishes they had decided differently?



    This is a highly personal decision. I am an advocate of happiness…and you have to decide what’ll make you the most happy. Being close to home is often underrated. If you need support, or a warm meal, being close to family is priceless. In med school, when I was too exhausted to eat healthy, it was my mom who made me healthy dishes to give me energy.

    And, lemme say, money (i.e. the amount required to borrow to attend a particular school) *is* a big deal. When I was applying to schools lots of folks told me “don’t worry about the cost, you’ll be able to pay it back.” Well, lemme tell you, that huge private school debt is hanging heavy over my head. Sometimes I think about taking some time off and just enjoy my life, and my baby…then that $200,000 debt changes my mind. I love to fantisize about working in a place I love, but for less money…but there’s that debt load again!!

    If I only owed a small amount, I’d have more professional options now. But as it is…I *have* to make money. I feel like a slave to this huge loan debt. And, yes, I can make the money to pay it off…but if I owed less money, the money I earn now would be a reward for ME…not to be used to pay interest to a bank.

    The school you graduate from isn’t as important as you may think. If you want to match in a highly competitive residency, study for your boards (USMLE step 1). Do well on your clinical rotations…and earn AOA (honor society). Do rotations at places that interest you, and work hard to impress everyone there. Get awesome LOR from your evaluators.

    And, remember, it’s easier to be a “big fish in a small pond.” Going to a highly prestigeous school sometimes backfires if you aren’t in the top half of the class. In which case, you’d been better served by going to a smaller school and being a shining star. This is the advice I gave to my sister when she was trying to select a college to attend…and now she’s a happy star student at a smaller UC rather than an average student at UC Berkeley.

    Choose carefully…and good luck with your decision.

    EM momEM mom

    I agree 100% with Mya-being near home is highly underrated. I’m not sure I would have had as easy of a time in med school if I wasn’t able to go to my parent’s house often for meals, support, unwinding, whatever! Secondly when I got married, it was easy to plan the wedding because I was in the same town (unlike several of my friends that planned long distance weddings) and now that I have a daughter, I am trying to get back home as quickly as I can! Plus, no cost to go home for the holidays.

    I also agree with Mya that $$ is incredibly important. That debt follows you everywhere and shapes every decision you make. You certainly don’t want to be a slave to your loans! I know many people (male and female) who would like to quit medicine or take a break but are unable to do to financial pressures. I also know people who chose shorter specialties so that they could get out of debt faster rather than doing what they really wanted to do (I am NOT advocating this!!). Go where you think you would be happy, where your personality fits in, and where you liked the other students you met. Good luck on your very tough decision!


    I understand your dilemma, Audrey. I’m going to turn down an interview at a very prestigious school because it is simply too far away from all my family and the tuition cost is easily 4x that of the school I’ve been accepted to. I’m just extra fortunate that the school I’ve been accepted to happens to be my 1st choice!

    Think about the whole picture over the 4 years. I started thinking about how I would never be able to afford to fly my family of 5 back to TX to visit my family for the summer and holidays. And during the clinical years I would not have enough time either. add that to the debt burden, and I just had to decide against the long distance school.

    Go where you will be happiest for the 4 years, both as a student and as a family member.

    Good luck and congrats on having a decision to make! 😉


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