Dear OPMs,

Help me. I need some ideas and suggestions.

In the past ten years, I have accumulated debt, such as credit cards and school loans. (Who hasn’t?)

I was thinking of perhaps getting my bills consolidated or go to credit counseling so I can eliminate/reduce my debts. My question is will this affect my eligibilty for getting loans if I get into medical school? Right now I am working fulltime, and I am barely making ends meet. I know sooner or later I will have to reduce my work hours so I can concentrate more on my studies.

So will credit counseling hurt me or help me? What do you guys think?

Thanks in advance.

Credit counseling can only help you. For one thing, it shows you are serious about doing something about your debt. It’s the debt and failure to pay it that credit ratings reflect, not your responsible attempts to find ways of paying it down. You absolutely must eliminate your credit card debt in particular before going to medical school. This should be your absolute number one financial priority. The interest will destroy you otherwise. You need to keep your pre-med debt to a minimum so that you can handle the debt you’ll need to acquire for your MD. If you end med school with more debt than you can handle, you could end up in extremely serious trouble; for instance, if you default on student loans you can lose your right to practice medicine.

A credit counselor can help you make a reasonable plan to eliminate your debt–and help you realize how serious it would be if you were not to deal with this now.

Good luck.


I would second what Joe Wright says. I would advise postponing classes for 12 or 24 months and just focus on getting your debt under control. Do whatever it takes to tame that beast–borrow from your parents, moonlight at Walmart’s or MacDonald’s. Medical school will always be there and a year or two or three doesn’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things. Think of it as part of your requirements to get into medical school. You’ll be working 100 hours a week once you’re in, might as well get used to it now! Best of luck,

Thanks! I appreciate all of your suggestions and comments. Keep it coming, guys, if you have any other ideas to share. I would write more but I have some friends coming over. Thanks again!

Some credit counseling goes on your credit report as a negative. If you are applying within the next 2 years and have some dings on your credit it might be difficult to obtain school loans. It would be far better to take the next year and clean things up and then start down the road. You don’t want to stop once you start and you sure don’t want to be in a position where you can’t afford and can’t find money for medical school.

Be very careful!!!

There are a number of outfits that claim to perform “credit counseling” and help with your debt, and your credit report. Some of these places tell you to stop making payments to your creditors, and some say that you should pay them and they will pay your creditors. I worked in loan operations and the “credit counselors” would call us up sometimes and try to cut deals for their customers - customers that had not paid us in months per the counselors’ crappy advice. Believe me, this did not help the credit scores of our customers.

If you wish to seek credit counseling, please find a non-profit that wishes to teach you how to manage money and budget. Do not fall for seemingly quick fixes that will end up hurting you, and never believe something that seems to good to be true. There is no quick fix to getting out of debt, and anybody that promise you one is full of it.

I am in quite a lot of debt myself, so I completely sympathize with your plight. There are a LOT of people out there who would like to take advantage of the desperation that debt can cause. Be very careful who you trust with your financial future. And of course, never, EVER, give confidential personal information to someone you don’t know.

I apologize if this seems overly obvious or somehow condescending… in the years I worked in loans, I knew many intelligent people who got themselves into bad situations that could have been avoided. Please be careful and don’t become one of them.

Also - I didn’t think I could ever disagree with Joe Wright, but it is not true that credit counseling can only help you. In situations such as those outlined above, it can hurt you. Try not to get anything put on your credit report… black marks stay on for many years.

If you already have delinquencies on your credit report - the most important thing you can do is NEVER EVER be late EVER again. In seven years those delinquencies will be gone. If you start paying in a timely manner now your score will continue to inch up. Even a non-shady credit counselor can be a black mark on your record, at least for banks. Not always, but often - so once again, be careful. Many deliquencies or charge-offs are hard to overcome. If that is your case, find a trustworthy non-profit credit counselor - perhaps someone affiliated with a religious or community group.

If your credit problems are simply due to a debt load, but no credit delinquencies - you are in better shape than you think you are. It’s a much better idea to sit down and make a very concerted effort to pay things off than to trust a 3rd party with your $$. Read a Susie Orman book if you’d like concrete advice (or one of the many other similar books on the market). I am currently making minimum payments on all cards but one, and pouring every single extra dime into paying off the card with the highest rate. When that is paid, I will move onto the next one. I estimate that this will take me about 2 years, which is about my ETA for AMCAS.

Good luck with this. It is a very nerve wracking situation to be in. Feel free to PM me or ask in this thread for specific questions about credit reporting, etc - I dealt with consumer credit reporting on a daily basis for a long time.

Oh, and credit counselors that you just talk to about money won’t go on your credit report - just ones that take over part of your debt or make an arrangement to pay on your behalf. I’ve only really seen that a couple times so I’m not an expert about how that works. It seems pretty weird to me and the loan officers at my bank certainly looked askance at those credit reports.

Debt consolidation loans can be great, but only if the interest rate is lower than the rate on your cards. And only if you CUT UP YOUR CARDS.

I’ll say it again: CUT UP YOUR CARDS. Or at least put them in a safe deposit box. Don’t use them. You’ll just be digging your hole deeper. I got a debt consolidation loan, then proceeded to charge my cards up again. That’s why I am currently screwed. So if you do debt consolidation, make darn sure you can’t use the cards ever again.

While there is some great advice on here about cleaning up your credit record and reducing your debt, I want to clarify one point. All medical students are eligible for the full amount of federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans which are NOT based on credit. Last year at my school it was $38,500 and someone else mentioned that this year it was $40,500 (per year). At my school, this amount covers all tuition and living expenses except for a couple thousand dollars. Some people use private (credit based) loans to make up the difference, others choose to live a little more frugally than the budget to avoid borrowing any extra. Now, if you go to a private school or a school where you are classified as an out-of-state student, your tuition will be significantly higher. Many of these students need to borrow money using credit based loans.

Again, the advice to pay off as much debt as possible is good - med school budgets don’t allow for credit card debt, car payments (even if a car is required), etc. and often assume that you will have a roommate to share expenses. However, don’t think that you won’t be able to get any loans if your credit is less than perfect. If you can’t clean up your credit enough to qualify for private loans, you may be limited to attending schools where your federal loans will cover most of your expenses.

I know a few people who had bad credit and while the federal financing is there they weren’t able to afford the cost of a family plus school. They chose alternatives to medical school…ala PA school. Interesting enough these guys were only accepted to DO schools which charged, what I consider ridiculous, out of state tuition rates.

I am no authority on DO schools but I believe there are only two which are “public,” in Michigan and New Jersey. Private DO schools charge pretty much the same as private MD schools, which is to say, a lot.

Amy is right, that the federal funds available will only be enough for tuition & related expenses if you go to a private school.


Thanks for the clarifications on “credit counseling”–I didn’t know about the alternatives to the reputable non-profit kind… which is I guess why those shady operators might be successful at doing what they do? The plusses and minuses of working with a credit counselor are discussed here in an MSNBC article:…

This is why you should never trust advice you get from some know-it-all on the Internet!


  • croooz Said:
I know a few people who had bad credit and while the federal financing is there they weren't able to afford the cost of a family plus school. They chose alternatives to medical school....ala PA school. Interesting enough these guys were only accepted to DO schools which charged, what I consider ridiculous, out of state tuition rates.

Virtually all of the DO schools are private insitutions, which means they do not receive subsidies/per student from the Fed or state gov't. That is why their tuitions are high. However, if you compare private DO-school tuitions with private-MD schools (compare apples to apples & not to gold nuggets), you will find them to be right in line with the mean tuition rates. In fact, the most expensive med school tuitions are a couple private MD programs.

"State Schools" are exactly that - each student enrolled prompts a financial subsidy from the state that offsets a portion, sometimes a substantial portion, of their tuition. That is why state schools are usually much cheaper for IN-STATE students & as high or sometimes even higher than private school tuition for out of staters. The thought is that state residents are more likely to remain in that state; so the state is somehow funding its future pool of physicians.

True, except that there are at least 3 state-subsidized D.O. schools: OSUCOM in Tulsa, WVSOM in West Virginia, and MSUCOM in Michigan. The latter two schools are particularly expensive to non-residents, about $47K/year, and all three are in the $16K or $17K range for in-staters.

Also, LECOM charges only $26K/year ($25K for state residents), which seems quite cheap for a private school.

My dad paid $500/year for his medical education but that was a while back

My point wasn’t to single out DO schools vs MD schools. My point is that these guys didn’t get into MD schools because of their stats. They were able to get acceptance to DO schools. Due to costs they weren’t able to attend. I’m certain they also wouldn’t have been able to attend any MD program that would’ve accepted them. I just get a little inflamed when I hear about how much any school promotes primary care and yet charges some incredibly ridiculous tuition. We’re all willing to pay because it’s our dream and that is what schools are counting on.

(Slowly step off of soap box)

While I don’t disagree with you that the tuition is ridiculous, I am constantly hearing that the cost of educating a medical student far exceeds what we are charged in tuition. (And thus, why - once you are in - they generally work with you pretty hard to keep you from dropping out/quitting). I have no idea where they get their figures from or why they figure it costs so much to educate a medical student.

Also - another state DO school is Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Not sure what their out of state tuition is, but it is relatively easy to gain in-state resident status in Ohio after your first year.

I don’t think the costs to educate are all that much. I could be wrong because how can over 200 schools be wrong.

I guess I’ll have to see which states allow to switch residency status. States such as my beloved Florida make it very difficult. You basically have to buy a house and prove you’re there for more than school. Jerks!

So - I did some googling. According to this abstract , “How much does it cost to educate medical students?.” by Franzini L, Low MD, Proll MA.

Annu Meet Int Soc Technol Assess Health Care Int Soc Technol Assess Health Care Meet. 1997; 13: 137.

University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center, Houston, TX, USA.:

“METHODS: A cost construction model was used to build up the economic cost to society of undergraduate medical education using information on student contact hours, enrollment, professional activity profiles, resident and faculty salaries, and supporting resource costs. Sensitivity analysis was used to vary the allocation of joint products, such as joint teaching and research/service, and to vary the level of research and service essential to the educational mission. Residents costs were included and the contribution of volunteer faculty was identified and imputed a value. RESULTS: With an enrollment of 200 students, we predicted an economic cost per student year ranging from $44,448 for pure instruction to $92,638 for providing an appropriate educational milieu. Omitting the cost of residents and the imputed value for the contribution by volunteer faculty lowered those costs by approximately 16%.”

From Pubmed : “The authors review studies spanning a period of more than 20 years and find that instructional cost estimates of medical student education, when adjusted to a standard base year (1996 dollars), fall within a fairly narrow range: most are between $40,000 and $50,000 per student per year. Estimates of total educational resource costs show greater variation, but four of six estimates fall between approximately $72,000 and $93,000 per student per year.”

So - there’s a couple of figures for you. Again - not saying I agree with them - but there they are.

  • croooz Said:
My point wasn't to single out DO schools vs MD schools. My point is that these guys didn't get into MD schools because of their stats. They were able to get acceptance to DO schools. Due to costs they weren't able to attend. I'm certain they also wouldn't have been able to attend any MD program that would've accepted them. I just get a little inflamed when I hear about how much any school promotes primary care and yet charges some incredibly ridiculous tuition. We're all willing to pay because it's our dream and that is what schools are counting on.

(Slowly step off of soap box)

Nah, did not take your post as singling out DO programs. I just wanted to emphasize how expensive all private programs are, MD & DO. State schools, if you can get into one, are definitely advantageous in as far as $$ goes.

And, you make a superb point in calling attention to how so many schools, MD & DO - DOs probably being much worse, emphasize going into primary care and charging tuition rates such that your cumulative debt would be a massive challenge to pay off as an FP...or even worse, as a pediatrician. I am thankful that I LOVE being anesthesiologist - the pay is damned awesome & I owe a TON! Couple that with being an 'Old Fart' who liquidated his retirement to go to med school and now has 2 kids to put through college - those $$-signs will provide some modicum of confidence that we will actually be able to make it & retire one day.