Affording a family and medical school

Hello. I posted this in the doctor’s forum, but haven’t gotten any responses, and was thinking that perhaps this would be a better place for this topic.
I’m really considering changing careers and heading off to med school. From an academic perspective, I have every confidence that if I pursue this I will succeed. But I have a huge concern regarding the financial and familial aspects that this change will bring.
A little background: I’m 28, and worked in IT from the time I was 23 until last year, when I decided it would be a good move to go off to grad school and get a degree in computer science. In just four months I will finish that off and get my master’s—along with about 30 grand in debt (fortunately, I don’t have any debt from my undergrad years). After that, I will be getting married. In a few more years (3-5, probably), my fiancé and I hope to start a family.
I don’t have any of the pre-reqs for med school down, so if I started a post-bac after graduation, that would be another 1-2 years of school, and more debt. Then of course comes med school (lucky me, I live in PA, so there is no “cheap” state school that I could go to for that), and residency. I’d probably be at least 35 before I start earning a wage again (a pauper’s wage, that is), and then something like 38 or 40 before I could earn any decent money.
To be clear: my interest in medicine has nothing to do with making money, and I am perfectly content to live in a modest home and drive a used Toyota the rest of my life. But I am really concerned that if I go this route, it will negatively impact our ability to have kids (my fiancé doesn’t earn a lot of money, and even if she did, we both really want her to be able to take some time off when our kids are young), and that I’ll be too wrapped up in med school and residency to be a good father or husband.
I feel like in the long run, assuming nothing disastrous, the money I earn as a physician will enable me to pay back the loans incurred, but I’m not sure if I can survive the ten years it will take me to get to that point.
Has anybody been through a similar situation, or know of people who have? Is there any way to get through this ordeal without going bankrupt? Does anybody have experience parenting young children while in med school or residency, especially if your spouse is not working?
Please let me know the good, the bad, and the ugly. Thanks.

the financial aid for medical school regardless if you are married or not will only provide enough for YOU to survive on. Although you can get more loans it will not be a lot but plenty of folk do it by living within certain limits. There are many married folks in my class with kids that are doing it so it can be done. The hours are LONG during both medical school (although not too bad) and residency (80/week) so beware of this fact. It is not easy but it is doable but no, you cannot do both 100% going to medical school/residency and being a good father just fyi.

Hi pemulis,
I was 27 and had been doing IT since age 22 when I started my post-bac pre-med coursework. Now I’m 35 and graduating this May from Yale (yippee!!). I don’t have the complication/blessing of a spouse and children, so I can’t address that part of it, but I have few thoughts for you. At Yale, any student over age 29 is considered independent of his/her parents, and therefore, being broke, is eligible for all the good financial aid, e.g. scholarships and subsidized loans. (Your situation will be complicated by your spouse earning money – seemingly every penny expected to contribute to your education.) Anyway, this made Yale one of the least expensive places for me to go when cost of living was factored in (I’m from CA, it was cheaper than UCSF). Not the deciding factor, but a nice bonus. So, as you look at schools, ask about their financial aid policy, because I know that there are more schools out there doing the same for us geriatrics.
That masters in CSC – make some money! What’s another couple of years in your med school journey? Take the time to earn what you deserve, pay off your debt, and try to get some night classes in while you’re doing it. I did my pre-med classes as a mish-mash of community college and eventually the local university (not a very good one, but cheap). During the first 2 years of that, I was still earning IT dollars, which allowed me to coast through the transition time. I don’t think it really matters where you do your pre-med courses, as long as you do very well in them and ace the MCAT, and have some substantial medicine-related experience. We non-traditionals each have a different path so there is no recipe for success, but you shouldn’t have to pay a lot of money to get chemistry and physics done. What’s important to schools is that you excel at what you do – even if it’s computer science. Frankly, if I interviewed you, I would question why you would spend all the money and effort getting a masters and then not do anything with it. I would look more favorably on an applicant who got the masters, worked for a while in that field, then changed directions. Nobody will fault you for doing what you need to do financially before applying. On the contrary, it shows responsibility and good sense. If a school doesn’t value those qualities, go somewhere else. What would be really golden is if you could get a CSC job in the medical field, like IT at a hospital or something. Probably wouldn’t pay as much, but gets you started on your transition.
As far as timing goes, having small children would be much easier in med school than during residency, I think. My most time-demanding years were 1) 3rd year, and 2) the post-bac pre-med years (working full-time / taking pre-med classes / volunteering). Presumably residency will be tougher than any of those (at least internship). 1st, 2nd, and 4th year of med school are really not so bad, and I did an extra year for research, which was a nice little break. The finances of having children during school might be tough, though… I’ll let someone else chime in on that part.
By the way, Univ of Pittsburgh offers a few merit-based scholarships that are quite generous (reduces tuition to around $10K). Penn does too, I hear, but I believe theirs are geared towards recruiting minority students, not sure if that applies to you. So, if you’re a very strong candidate, things like this could make your life much easier.
Good luck!

Hi there,
You can be considered an independent financial aid applicant but any school administered need based scholarships require your parent’s financial information. A 29-year old heiress to Johnson & Johnson is not going to receive a need-based scholarship no matter the age.
Merit based scholarships are given independent of financial aid status. You receive these based on your performance and independent of your income. And yes, there are attractive scholarships for residents of certain states, children of firefighters etc. that are available for anyone.
Medical school federal financial aid is based on a calculation done by the financial aid office of your medical school. If you need above that, you have to apply for loans and scholarships outside of the school. They generally do not include money for taking care of families. This puts a person with a family at a disadvantage if you are the sole breadwinner.
You can borrow additional money from private sources,(Citibank, MedLoans) or you can do some serious saving at this point and try to get your expenses undercontrol. You probably will not be able to work during medical school other that an occasional weekend or during holidays unless you want to affect your performance. No matter what year, it is demanding.
Do so planning up front and pay down any debt that you have. Put money away for emergencies. Try to find an affordable way or providing insurance coverage for your family. This usually means that your spouse is going to have to work and have good benefits.
Most medical schools are still geared toward the fairly traditional student who does not have a family or mortgage even though undergraduate and graduate schools are not. You have to do a thorough financial aid inventory and you have to do your investigations early (long before you apply).