Can I do this? Thoughts or experiences to help me decide

I’m a 34 year old father of 2 that is separated and moving towards being divorced. When I first went to college right out of high school I wanted to be a doctor or a surgeon but didn’t want to put in the time so I decided to be a teacher instead. I’m currently in my 10th year teaching chemistry and biology and feel I am ready to move on from teaching. I need to take O chem and Bio chem this summer then I would have the class requirements. I would like to take the MCAT early in 2018. I know I have the desire and work ethic to do it. After only posting a 2.9 gpa in undergrad back in my late teens and early 20s I have since obtained my chemistry teaching degree through masters classes and have obtained my masters in educational admin as well. In those classes and the undergrad chemistry and calc classes I took last summer I have a GPA of 3.8 and have not gotten anything lower than a B. I’m being told that non-traditional students are being accepted at a high rate in med school right now so and I have heard from 3 or 4 previous teachers that are either in med school or have completed med school in the past couple years so that is not a concern of mine. My fear is this…I have 41k in student loans right now, will only have my income and will have 2 kids to take care of at least part of the year. I really want this and I know there is a lot of positive Rah Rah keep going, you can do it, insight on here…but is this really obtainable for me? I’m asking those that have or are currently doing it. I don’t know how I will come up with the money unless there is a higher cap on loans available for med school than undergrad. I was capped off last summer for undergrad loans being that I have taken 240 undergrad credits (about half I’ve paid for out of pocket) and have degrees in life science, chemistry, physical education, coaching and minors in biology and environmental science. Is there any potential to bartend on weekends (which is what I do now along side teaching) or work over the summers to get money for the next year? I think there are summer classes and clinicals that need to be done but how involved are they? I really don’t want to hit my 40s and do what I’m doing now, which is look back at my early 20’s and say I should’ve done it. But I don’t want to get into something that will kill me or that I won’t be able to do because of money road blocks. Thanks for any thoughts or experiences you can give!!

I can’t comment on the financing, but there are scholarships out there that will pay for school in exchange for time (military and national health corps immediately come to mind). I think some states also have scholarship programs, especially if you’re looking to do primary care. Some schools provide merit-based or need-based scholarships as well.

Academically you sound like you’ll be okay. You have a strong recency despite a weak undergrad showing, and you’ve done stuff with your life.

How old are the kids? Medical school doesn’t give much time outside of studying. I have 2 kids and really only get to spend time with them between dinner and bed time and some time on the weekends depending on how class is going. I go to class everyday. There are others who don’t and are able to spend more time at home. I find that when I do spend most of the day at home, my study time gets impacted with random kid needs (mine are 3 and 1). I might be “slower” than others because I spend a pretty decent amount of time trying to learn the material (but when I get it, I get it down solidly).

Some schools require mandatory attendance at every class. Some schools only have a select few mandatory classes. Choose your school wisely.

The summer between 1st and 2nd year is pretty much the only summer you have off. After that, you’re effectively an employee-student and will be working in the hospital/clinic year round. There are some vacation time periods built in, but they’re not the months off that the normal students get. There are also some blocks built in for interviews/electives that may offer you more time at home.

Working on the weekends is possible but frowned upon (you gotta do what you gotta do though). I know of only one guy in my class who kept a weekend job, and he ended up quitting toward the end of the 1st year. It’s really dependent on you, like how quickly you learn, how much sleep you need to be functional, what you want to do with your free time, etc. You’ll definitely need to plan for some “me” time to escape the brutality of med school. What you do with that time is purely up to you…

It’s probably doable for you, but it’ll definitely take a lot of work on your part to keep things in balance.

Thank you very much for the insight. My kids are 8 and 5. I thought about military but being that I am 34 I don’t think I can commit 4 more years to a military experience. I plan on attending every class, every day regardless of whether it is mandatory or not. I learn quickly when I’m focused and I’m focused when I’m in class. I’m still very concerned about how I’m going to afford it. When I finish, especially if I end up being a surgeon or oncologist, I’m sure paying back loans won’t be very hard. It’s more a matter of getting the loans that I’m worried about. I suppose cost of living comes into play too. If I were to get into San Fran or Seattle I’m not sure how I’d take out enough loans to live, feed myself and my kids, and cover the cost of utilities…

I was worried about cost of living as well (I’m on the military scholarship), and ended up getting accepted to the school with the lowest cost of living of the ones I interviewed at. That’s definitely something that should factor into your decision of where to attend. An in-state school would by far be your cheapest option for tuition, but private institutions offer you a better chance of getting into schools that are out of your state/region of residency.

You might look more into the national health scholarship program. I think you get somewhat of an “assignment” to a medically underserved area, but that doesn’t necessarily mean rural. I don’t really know the ins and outs of it, but it’s one option for “free” schooling without the risk of deployment overseas. On a cursory look, it might be limited to primary care folks. There are other payback programs out there in exchange for service, but I don’t know what they are off the top of my head.

The AAMC has a finance information page for students you may want to check out too.

By the time you start, your kids will be at a mildly autonomous age, which should help a little bit. Getting into a school that is near a support network would be invaluable. My mother in law is retired and has helped immensely (despite having to fly all the way across the country).

Money is going to be a tough thing during med school, especially if you’re a single parent. Regarding loans, you should be able to get up to the maximum cost of attendance as set by the school with a combination of unsubsidized Stafford and Grad Plus loans. This will cover tuition, plus fees and a modest amount for living expenses (set by the school and depends on the region, but is based on a single person). I max out my loans, I worked some during the first year, and my wife works to help support us, but it’s tough.

You can possibly work during the first two years on the weekends, but you won’t be able to work once you start clinicals. Part of that is going to depend on how quickly you’re able to move through the material. I end up not doing much studying at all during the weekends (unless I have a test on a Monday or something like that), otherwise I set that time aside so that I can be home with my family.

If you have childcare expenses, most schools will increase your budget allowing you to borrow more money for your expenses.

It is your call, where all distractions are taxing. I would not work, except summers per-se and first term/semester maybe. Find out if your loans you had in undergrad will effect your overall amount to borrow. Try to apply in your home state, since most accept a higher percentage of local people, over outsiders. It is harder by far with children, unless you are part time parent. It is tons of memory, and serving in the Nat. Health corp is under 44 years old, but the military may need to sign by 39 years of age(check with recruiters but they are liars), so double check, but they would love to have you and it is good work being a physician there as captain pay likely. If it matters that you will be < 39 when you complete med-school, then it is unlikely. It is far less military than it sounds for medical staff officers. America is a poor place to be poor and raising daughters in a poor neighborhood, but Universities have shelters of their professor's schools that can help if you are stuck in the inner city. In reality most professors today live outside of a major city if they are in a large metro area. Sugar coat nothing going into this, since it is not easy. You do get a relatively generous stipend for FAFSA, that maxes out at $250K or so for the 4 years, but as others have said, it is tight unless your state is generous and far cheaper for residents of the state than outsiders and foreign students.