How to Financially Survive Med School with a Family?

I am finishing my post-bacc right this semester and will be taking the MCAT in a few months. I am married with three children and my wife started looking at how we will work things out financially if I get into medical school. The living expenses loans we are finding are around $22,000 a year. That is fine for a single person and I realize that is how they design the loan limits, but how can a married person with children survive on that per year? Our current monthly expenses are around $2,200, so we will come up about $4,400 short per year. I would not want to risk doing poorly in medical school by working. My wife is looking into working, but she would have to put our daughter in child care and that might eat up her extra income. We are hoping we can figure out something - we do not have family that can help unfortunately.

Are there any med students out there with children that can offer some good tips? I was also curious if there are private loans that you can apply for that would exceed the tuition + living expense amount set by the medical school.

I certainly hope that I end up getting accepted and have the problem I ask about in this question! I would be part of the 2018 group so we are trying to plan our finances now to see if we can manage a hyperdrive savings plan for the next year and be prepared, but money is already tight as it is.

This is a tough area for non-traditional students to navigate. We get by with maxing out loans, my wife works (part-time), and I worked for most of my first year part-time. We’re also using some savings to supplement as needed.

A few things to keep in mind. First, health insurance is a huge expense for us. You can have your individual medical insurance rolled into your loans, but you’ll have to figure out something for your family. Depending on your income, your kids may qualify for Medicaid, so check into that. Second, you can get increases to your loan amounts through your school for certain qualifying reasons. Among those is child care expenses. So, if your wife has to work to make your budget balance, you can roll some of those daycare expenses into your loans (but the amount may be limited by your school).

Regarding private loans in excess of cost of attendance, those can be available, but the terms will suck. You most likely won’t be able to defer payments on those, so it’s only an option if you’re in a major bind.

Thanks for the information. We will definitely try to avoid the private loans at all costs. Hopefully we can get more money based on our unique situation and be able to do daycare in the loans while my wife works.

There are tons of different scholarships out there as well, each with its own set of unique requirements. Some schools also have scholarships for students based on need.

There are also service-based scholarships, like National Health, some state-sponsored service-based scholarships, and the military. Those will definitely be dependent on what you want to do and where you want to do it…

Oh wow, I had no idea there were scholarships. I will get on that right now. I am actually meeting with a medical school admissions person tomorrow. I have not applied but simply called and asked if they saw prospective students ahead of time and they do. I’m pretty nervous as this is my first visit. I will ask about the financial aspect when I meet with them.

You need to keep in mind that the school loans are meant to support the student and not the family. The school expects that the spouse works to help support the family. However, there are things that you can add on to your cost of attendance in order to increase the amount of loan money that you can get. For starters, and I did this, you can add child care to your COA. That way, that is added and you can pay for child care. Next, if your wife does not work, you need to get health insurance for her. Since my wife was self employed, we went to the market place and the price was through the roof. So we placed her and our girls on medicaid, hey we paid into the system it is time to be used. Second, if you have small children under the age of 5, you may qualify for WIC. This gets your some of your staples of food paid for. Look to your energy company and apply for assistance. We did this and our electric bill went from $250 per month to $30.

When you do your income tax, your loans are not counted as income. But depending on your state, scholarships and grants may be. However, If you are a family of 4, there is a high liklhood that you will be considered to be below the federal poverty line and you will get a refund. If you are considered in poverty, you can always apply for welfare (this is where my wife drew the line).

You will need to look to places like craigslist or ebay for purchases. Don’t be afraid to take hand me downs, especially if they are free. Look to your public library and township for lots of free or much discounted activities. You will be on the toughest financial diet you have ever been on. Eat at home, bring your lunch to school, forget eating steaks often and chicken becomes your best friend. So does soy.

Remember, this is temporary as in only 4 years. After that, you will be employed again though you will be making what amounts to $5/hr. After that, the finances get much, much better.