How do you choose between two great schools?

NEVER thought I would be in this position - I have multiple acceptances and I’m perplexed on how to proceed – very unlike me! I have already passed on some, but two schools are just driving me crazy.
My first choice, WVSOM, is a school that just plain fits me – I love everything about it. Well, with the exception of the cost of attendance. The other school, LECOM-Bradenton has a similar curriculum, but it also has more experience in PBL, headed by a guy that I hear nothing but great things about – and it’s a LOT cheaper. But, it is going to be a new campus in FL, so I would go in without the benefit of checking the place out.
I prefer my first choice, and that may be because I’ve had longer time to think about it, but it also was one of those situations of knowing it was a good fit as soon as I walked on campus – the interview just nailed it. However, after my interview at Lake Erie, after 10” of snow, I liked that place as well, and would like FL even better. I think I would very much enjoy and be successful at either school. But the money situation gives me pause, and rightly so. Being an older student, combined with the notion that I really do want to practice in an underserved area (rural I hope), I will not have as much time to make the money back as a younger person would, nor will I be practicing in an area that will make me rich. So that’s my dilemma.
I tend to be somewhat of a loyalist - when I stick I stick, so I need to make the right decision. I’m already searching for real estate in WV, but I have this nagging voice in my mind that will not go away - I’m I a fool for being lead by my emotions? I need to be more pragmatic is what keeps popping up.
Coming from the working world, the issue with a dress-code at LECOM does not bother me, especially after talking with the students. Continuing with the Ben Franklin trick of weighing the pros and cons indicates that the two schools are equal in most respects, but with LECOM winning with perhaps better rotations, and yes, I keep coming back to it - it’s cheaper.
All things equal I think I would go with WV, but they are not equal – so I don’t know why I have this hesitancy, why I’m not being practical. Perhaps more time will help, but those damn deposits will limit that luxury.
I guess I just needed to get this off my chest – no one else seems to understand my plight – thanks. All thoughts, suggestions, and advice are greatly appreciated by all.

BACMedic, you know what, the money should give anyone pause but I honestly believe it shouldn’t be the thing that causes you to NOT follow your heart. (poor syntax but I am in a hurry so I am not going to try and re-write that)
Also if you want to practice primary care in an underserved area, you will have a lot of options for scholarships and loans to help you defray this cost. National Health Service is the first thing that comes to mind - but there are many others. I really, really think you should go where your heart is telling you that you belong. The money will sort itself out and you will definitely be okay.

I agree with Mary. As soon as I read that you wanted to serve in an underserved area, I thought of the National Health Service Corps (and there are other programs also). I would add that if you want to serve the underserved, then WV is a great place to do that (I don’t know much about the location in FL, so I can’t say anything about the patient population there).
Follow your heart (there are many times these past two years I wish I had) and the rest will sort itself out (like Mary said).

As a side note, I just finished filling out the National Health Service Corps application last night. However, that is very competitive and there is little chance of getting it. In fact, WV told me that no one received the scholarship in WV last year.
LECOM also stresses primary care and underserved areas. Sigh…

Of course you know I’m prejudiced, but let me tell you why. Not just because I love WVSOM, but because you say it is your first choice and that it ‘just fits.’ Personally, since WVSOM is a great primary care school, especially for rural care, having been ranked quite well for several years now,. . . . and since you knew you ‘fit’ from the minute you got here,. . . . and since PBL here is new, but the Dean of PBL had many successful years developing and leading PBL in Ohio. . . . consider your options carefully, and go with what you feel in your heart is right. As to the National Health Scholarships here in WV, I was offered an interview, assured I had a really good chance at the scholarship, but turned it down. I chose to go with Primary Care Loans because you have more freedom to choose where you practice. And, if you decide on WVSOM, they have a great rural health professions retention program that will help you find an area where you will be able to get your loans repaid just for agreeing to practice there.
Call me if you have any questions, or just need to talk. If you don’t have my number anymore, then just email me. I’ll get it to you!

Well I am in your same shoes. I received multiple acceptances with three full rides and now it is getting to that time sigh. I am really torn btw Mayo and Vanderbilt with Mayo taking the lead so we will see what happens. Second look weekend will be very important for me at Vanderbilt. If I was in your situation money would concern me becuase regardless of what you think now are you 200% sure that you are headed for primary care? what about if you change your mind which many med students have told me is the norm…also if both schools are about the same and one is much more expensive, unless the other less expensive one is just not your cup of tea, I would go for getting the more bang for the buck. I know that this is a huge endeavor but for us non-trads money is a concern and it seems that both schools are pretty darn good. Go back again if you can and visit and see if that will make the choice for you. Good luck.

Dear BacMedic:
If this was a job, I’d echo the ones who lean towards the financial savings. But for me, at least, this has been more emotionally draining than any task except parenthood and marriage.
The money I’d save at my state school would not have gotten me through my first semester. The staff and my classmates at Minnesota helped me to keep going. I strongly encourage you to go to the school where you can find some happiness and laughter, encouragement and the occasional kick in the pants, and where your family can be content.
It sounds like money saved cannot buy those things. It could be money spent will buy such things for you.
It’s not just a marathon of time or effort; it’s a mental marathon too.

It sounds as if your heart is telling you the answer. One thing I do when I’m not sure of my own mind, is to flip a coin. Before I uncover the coin to see what turned up, I listen to see what outcome I’m secretly rooting for. It doesn’t matter what the coin says; just having it lets me hear myself.

I would heed Susan’s very wise words about being happy where you are. This is something you can’t put a dollar figure on. Yes, finances can be a source of stress and that alone could color your feelings about a place but… I think that having a good positive feeling about a place is something that is worth quite a lot of $$$.
Yes, NHSC is competitive and you can’t count on it, and it’s also true that it would be boxing you in so that if you changed your mind about a specialty, you’d be paying off a loan at a premium rate. It’s one reason that I decided NOT to pursue it because that concerned me.
However, NHSC also has a loan repayment program that you can apply for after residency. They maintain a listing of jobs in underserved areas that qualify you for grants to help pay back your loan. Meanwhile your salary in those jobs is supposed to be “competitive.” These jobs are in rural and urban areas.
And there are similar state programs, too - I know Virginia maintains a listing of jobs where they’ll help with placement and loan payback.
Note that your loan payments can be deferred during residency, so your kingly resident’s salary (cough) doesn’t have to make you choose between food and loan payments. Deferral depends on total family income as I understand it (I’ll learn ALL about this next month at my FA exit interview).
Finally, IF you go into primary care, particularly in an underserved area, you may also find other offers to help you with loan stuff. Right here in Northern Virginia (NOT an underserved area) I know an FP doc whose offer to join a practice was substantially sweetened with loan payback money. I have read somewhere - unfortunately don’t remember where - about little, middle-of-nowhere towns who have put together government money to lure docs (usual story is something like, “We haven’t been able to get a doctor in town since ol’ Doc Smith retired”); packages included free rent, office staff, loan payback money.
Even though medicine is not likely to again be the lucrative profession that it was a generation ago, I don’t see that there’s any reason why a primary care doc can’t make a decent living. That’s why I don’t think the loan burden should keep you up at night.
And my loan burden is going to be in excess of $160,000 as I graduate, so I am not just blowin’ smoke on this one!

Let me jump into this as well - with an admissions story. “Back when,” we (Stanford) admitted a student who was also admitted to UCLA (state school for this person) and other fine institutions. He was in a dither. He wanted to come to Stanford, and his folks wanted him to go to UCLA. Finances were an issue. And although Stanford had (and has) fabulous financial aid, it still would have been less expensive at UCLA. This student and I talked many times as he worked his way through the decision-making process. I reminded him more than once that school is only for 4 years (generally speaking), that having less debt is better than more debt, that you can get a fine medical education without going to a private academic research institution, and on and on. Undeterred, he came to Stanford. And it was the right decision because in spite of finances, he was happy at Stanford and it was the right place for him.
What I learned from the experience with that student (who is now a family practice MD in Seattle) is that what’s probably most important is where you feel the most comfortable. Where you will be happiest. Where you feel you have the most support (see Susan’s earlier comments). In the long run, you’ll be more involved in the med school, you’ll do better, and you’ll be happier. Med school is stressful enough without going to a school that you are not totally sold on just so that you can save some money. Listen to your heart & gut. Rarely will it lie to you.

All good advice, thanks so much for you input. My dilemma is that I think I could be happy at both schools, and that is why I think this is such a tough decision. On one hand I visited the campus, and just loved everything about the place. On the other hand, I only visited the main campus and have not had that same opportunity with the new campus, but still liked the main campus, the program, rotations, and the students – all giving me a very comfortable and warm feeling. Both places, it turns out, are rural – which is ideal for me.
My leaning towards WV I think is simply due to having been there, and saying to myself “ this is it” – if I’m not flexible and base a decision just on that, then I could be short-changing myself. Other factors; I would not mind paying more for something I was sure about, but not over 60% more. Also, I have a stronger support group in FL –everything from church to family and friends. So where cost gives me pause on one side, the unknown campus gives me pause on the other.
As you can see, as time passes my leaning is straighten out – now I will still give it just a bit more time to see where I tip. Of course to complicate things a bit more, I have another interview in a couple of weeks – after the deposits are due!

Hi there,
You really have to go where you know that you will be happiest. If you do well in school, the scholarship money will come to you. You can’t do well if you are not comfortable and happy. As for the National Healthcare Scholarships, when I was still a medical student, one of the administrators told me that you could practically write your own ticket if you were interested in Geriatrics because Geriatricians are in such demand. Family Practice is still looking for practictioners so that you can find good deals with offers for loan repayment as a signing bonus if this is your calling. The primary care specialities are still wide open (especially in rural areas) for people who want to practice and many opportunities exist for finding ways to pay off loans and work at something that you love.
In short, go where you will be the happiest and where you feel that you are a good fit. The rest will fall in line.

Okay if you know that both schools will make you happy what is the problem? it seems that this is a no-brainer. It is obvious that you are leaning towards the more expensive one or you would not be asking this sooooo if that is the case then there is your answer.,

Here’s another thought: if you give any credence to Myers-Briggs types, maybe you are someone who prefers to make decisions by gut, by feeling. Yet you have this nagging thought that you “shouldn’t” decide that way. I struggle with this myself from time to time. Usually I’m better off going with my gut. Don’t make decisions the way you “should” do it. Make this big decision the way you make your other most important life decisions. If you do better being pragmatic and making lists of pros and cons and thinking things through, do that. If you do better thinking about it and talking about it and then going with your heart, do that.
I’ll offer you another decision-making tool I sometimes use: imagine yourself having made each decision, being in the place where you’ll be, looking back at the other choice. Which decision gives you more regret?
I’ll shut up now.

A friendly piece of advice…take to heart the words from the folks who have been there & done that. Med school will be more of a mental & physical drain than you can anticipate. Irrespective of your current monetary concerns, the extra debt is small compared to attempting to survive in a pace where you do not fit…or even not fit as well. Follow you heart…go where you will be happiest!
I think I am merely echoing the words of many who have posted before me…but folks like Mary, Linda, SPN, myself & Nat can do so having either been through it or buried up to their neck in the middle of it.

Whatever your final decision, just be happy. Also, its great that you had that choice to make. Good luck in your studies.

After much thought, after weighing all the pros and cons, I made one of the most difficult decisions in my life. It was difficult because my ‘gut’ feeling was divided, and once I accepted that fact and that it was not going to be resolved anytime soon, it was then just pure logic – may you live long and prosper.
Interesting that most of the replies picked up on how much I liked one of the schools, but the fact that I thought I could be happy at the other was lost. It was that very point that made the entire process so difficult for me. Still, even after sending in my formal withdrawal it just did not feel right, after all, it was my dream school. However, going through the entire reasoning process again through the weekend, I not only think I can live with the decision, but with the available rotation sites and the significant savings, I may end up in a better position (or am I trying to convince myself?)
Thanks everyone for taking the time to hear me out and giving your take on my dilemma, it really did help. Only time will validate my decision, but I will grease the process along and stack the cards in my favor.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t bother me when my carefully-thought-out advice serves only to tell you that what I’m thinking is not the right thing for you. This is actually one of the ways I make decisions. If I have NO idea what to do about something (particularly something with MANY options) I ask for advice. I immediately know that whatever the advice is, is WRONG, and I suddenly know what I want to do.
Happy to help. Even through listening imperfectly and nudging you in the wrong direction. Congratulations again, and I hope I have the same dilemma in a couple of years.

I had heard from Dr. M last week that you had withdrawn from WVSOM. I have to say I was sorry to hear it, but I totally understand that you had to make the choice that you felt was best for you.
Good luck at LECOM. Keep us posted on how the new school is progressing!