Sorry about this long post but I just needed some advice. So it was just a year ago that I came to the decision of going back to retake these undergrad courses as a post-bacc student, and I can’t believe what a year it has been and what I did. Just a bit of a background, I graduated with a dual major in Electrical and Computer Engineering after 5 years from Michigan State university in 2003 and have been working full time engineering since then.
Originally my plan was to start my MBA this year, but I’ve been volunteering at the Children’s Hospital on the weekends for fun for almost four years, and eventually just felt that business wasn’t for me, and medicine was more to my liking. However my grades for the first two years at MSU were quite dismal, and I graduated with an overall 2.98 GPA so figured it would be quite tough to get into med school with that.
I started in January and retook some courses, and some new courses with the grades below:
Winter 2009 (Jan to April,)
Physics I, 4.0
Biology I, 4.0
Biology Lab, 3.3
Summer 2009 Session I and II
Chemistry I with lab, 4.0
Chemistry II with lab, 4.0
Biology II, 3.8
Organic Chemistry I, (B+) 3.4
Overall GPA after 30 credits was 3.89. Additionally, I have already two strong (hopefully) recommendation letters from my professors and only need one more. I am wondering if I do well in the MCAT, is this GPA and my performance ok to apply to the competetive medical schools, or will my old GPA still keep me out??
The classes I took in the fall, including Organic Chem, were at TWO DIFFERENT universities both about 50 miles apart, and at the same time I was still working my Engineering job, will the med schools factor this in as well (I had a lot of sleepless nights!) Ideally I would like to get into a good/competitive school such as University of Michigan, although am not sure if my past GPA will keep me out?
Lastly, I also have concerns and doubts regarding this path, mostly related to the financial aspects of losing a good salary to take this long and arduous path. I am very nervous and apprehensive about having to be poor again, and wondering if the financial aid package provided in medical schools is adequate for a comfortable lifestyle?? How much financial aid/loans can you get maximum per year while in medical school, and does it allow you to live a comofortable/feasible life?
Thank you and would appreciate any feedback!!
I can’t help you on where to apply–still doing prereqs myself–but those are some fantastic grades. Keep up the good work!
GREAT work on the new grades! Congrats! Here are my thoughts. The great thing about this site is you will often hear from lots of people with different experiences which will, hopefully, help to shape your overall thoughts on a question.
- skysurf Said:
I think much of this is going to depend on what you classify as "competitive". Different schools will cite different classification systems when they quote where they rank (for example, the school I attend is quoted as both a top 25 and a top 10 program depending on the parameters one is looking at). A strong MCAT is going to be very helpful, as this has been looked at as "the great equalizer" (however, many places are understanding the limited nature of applying this score in that fashion). It is important to remember that most schools (competitive included) are looking for a well-rounded class. Therefore, it is not only grades and MCAT scores that are used at most institutions when they select students--they are also looking for personal qualities, life experiences, volunteer experiences, etc. You are doing very solid work academically now. You will want to continue to do this and your MCAT will hopefully reflect this. Make sure the other areas are covered as well (as in your volunteering at the Children's Hospital). The initial application to the schools isn't the most expensive part--that comes with the secondary applications. Get the secondaries first and that may give you a better idea of how you're going to handle which schools to continue the application process for.
- skysurf Said:
Again, is going to depend on how you define "comfortable lifestyle". I am aware of no one who is struggling to eat or have good housing on the financial aid provided by my medical school. That being said, if your goal is to go to Europe every couple of months or to buy a new $30K car while in medical school you will be disappointed. I know of multiple people who actually bought a home during medical school and are using the money designated for housing to make their mortgage payments. Most students will go out for a nice dinner or to the bar weekly as well. In other words, from my viewpoint, one can live respectably without too much difficulty with the financial aid (at least as provided at my school).
Keep up the great work and best wishes on another outstanding semester!
thanks so much for the reply. I didn’t even know regarding the primary and secondary applications, I thought there was just one. Thanks for the info.
Regarding the financial aid, I am worried for a few reasons. I plan on enrolling/starting medical school in the Fall of 2011. My plan was to keep working Engineering until the start of medical school, and hopefully to save up around $50K in cash by the time medical school starts. However I am not sure if with my current salary (which is over 70K,) it would be possible for me to get financial aid during the first year? The reason is that I would need the 50K, atleast part of it for substantial costs like selling my condo, car repair, etc,) and thus don’t think would be able to cover the entire cost of tuition and living expenses during the first year on my own. Do you know if financial aid is provided to first year medical students even if they had a substantial income the previous year? If not are there any workarounds or alternatives?
Also, I cannot rely on financial support from my family during the four years of medical school, and will be strictly dependent on financial aid. However I would need extra cash for things like visiting my parents in Texas, or my brother in New Jersey, etc. Do you know if it’s possible or feasible to work part time while in medical school, as I am sure I could really use the extra cash?? Also, are there any paid internships, etc. for medical students during the summer that might help with finances? If not, what do the normal medical students do during the summer, just out of curiosity?
Thanks again for your advice!!
You would probably need to talk to a medical school financial aid officer for a definitive answer, but to the best of my knowledge, your income the year prior to starting medical school does not affect your eligibility for loans. It is assumed that med students will not working, so typically medical students are eligible for the full amount of federal loans each year (currently around $50k a year). If that amount is not enough to meet your tuition and expenses, you may have to borrow from a private lender for the difference.
I’m not sure how your savings might affect this. Again - you might need to talk to a FA person.
I can tell you from experience that financial aid is available during first year even if you had been working and making a good salary like yours prior to school. The application process would lead you to believe otherwise because your income was large, but the forms are created for “standard” students who are currently in school, etc… it is understood that your expected income will be $0 while a student. Talk with your school once you get in somewhere. They will walk you through it.
Still, your “need” will include your assets, savings, and your ability to pay (as it should).
As for parents, that’s a tough one. If you have living parents, you will be required to put their financial information on the FAFSA, and as ridiculous as it is, their ability to contribute will be factored into your “need” even if you are “old”. You will have to work directly with your school on this as I did. It works out, in the end, but it is a hassle and an inconvenience and somewhat of a humiliating thing depending on how you look at it…
As for work during school. Don’t. It is sometimes strictly prohibited and always looked down on. Work options will present themselves during summer (if you look) and will be extremely low paying unless you can tap into your engineering background and line something up.
As for “comfortable” living – your expenses will be dictated to you by the school’s financial aid office based on a standard algorithm. You cannot borrow more from federally subsidized sources (which most are at some level) than your financial aid office says is necessary unless you file petitions which may or may not be granted. They often are, but only small deviations from the need algorithm are likely. Definitely talk directly to them about this as they will be your best source of reliable information.
If you hope to maintain the lifestyle of a single young man earning over $70K a year you will be in for a major shocker – and having expenses like selling a condo or fixing a nice car may not be the types of things they allow to factor in (again, ask). Take care of those things prior to engaging with the financial aid system… Set your expectations correctly and it’ll be no problem.
Keep in mind that you’re outside the “normal” so many of the forms, procedures, and processes will seem strange and not make sense for your situation – just work with the folks in your school’s office on how to best squeeze yourself into the round hole. Financial aid is a federal system (mostly) so operates as such…
- jeffm Said:
Double check on this. Different circumstances will dictate whether you will have to supply this. For example, I am not required to, however, I may do so if I choose--in some circumstances it may be beneficial depending on how low your parents' incomes are.
Just speaking from experience as a high-wage-earner who went back to school with living, middle-income parents. I had to include all of their financial information as part of determining my need even though I was quite old. There were letters of petition, etc… and it all worked out, but it was a requirement at the time at least to go through it all.
You are NOT required to provide parental information on your FAFSA in order to be eligible for federal loans. All professional students are considered “independent” for the purposes of financial aid. However, some medical schools require that you provide your parental info on your FAFSA if you wish to be eligible for any scholarships or loans that they provide. Putting this information on your FAFSA will not affect your loan eligibility.
skysurf, it sounds like the best source of info will be the school’s financial aid office Even having been through it, I, for one, don’t appear to be giving accurate testimony… Once you get in somewhere, you’ll have lots of access to people who know and will help. It all works out.
It’s totally school dependent on whether or not they require your parents info. There are some schools who require you to submit parental info. Ohio State only requires parental info on the FAFSA if you want to be considered for need based aid. In my various years here, I have submitted parental info twice and not submitted it twice (based on whether or not I felt comfortable asking for it that year). My federal loan eligibility was in no way affected by reporting (or not my parental info) or by my spouse’s income. Even though FAFSA calculates an “estimated family contribution”, I was still eligible for the full amount of federal student loans.
But, I agree - with his complicated other questions, it is best to talk to a med school financial aid person.