Your thoughts on this story?

I’ll be 40 in a few months and am just starting my pre-reqs for medical school. With some hard work and a bit of luck, I hope to be enrolled in med school by fall 2010.

As I’m breaking this news to friends and family, I hear a mixture of “Hey, we’re happy for you” to “Geez, it’s a mistake.”

Stuff I’m sure everyone has heard before and has consumed a lot of bandwidth on this forum.

What I am interested is in the money situation. Not the money involved in surviving through school itself, but the money that does or doesn’t come flowing in once you’re done with residency.

As altruistic as I’d like to think my goals are, there is also the practical reality of a return on my investment of time and the loss of salary that my family will have to sacrifice on MY behalf. I least owe it to them to be able to have some sort of carrot dangling at the end of this.

From the salary surveys I’ve seen, that doesn’t appear to be much of an issue. Then, a friend shared this with me this morning:

"My sister X got a degree in nursing right out of high school. She worked as a nurse in the hospital in Y, the town were my parents live.

She then decided to get a masters in nursing and when to Z-University to complete that then returned to Y where she got a job at the same hospital as an ER nurse. She did that for 10 years and because it was a small ER with only one doctor and 2 nurses on duty, she was forced to do a lot of work that the doc’s normally do…Like “close up”, stitches, minor surgery, etc.

After 10 years she decided she wanted to become an ER doc so she went back to school and continued to work (like you want to do)…

And got the pre-req’s. She then applied to med schools. My sister X has never gotten anything less then an “A” in school…Even when she was pregnant and gave birth in college…she had her son over spring break and still got A’s…I think she applied to about 10 med schools and got rejected by all but one or two…one of which was Stanford….

Stanford said 'We will accept you but we want to be really clear that we believe this is a bad idea on your part…You will never recover the money you spend on what you are going to spend on med school because you are starting to late in life.'…

Basically they told her she was too old…I believe at the time she was 37 years old.

With that info she elected not to go to med school and instead decided to become a nurse practioner. I think that took 2 years and she has never been happier and has been a RNP for about 10+ years.

If all goes well, I'll be 50 when I've completed my residency and figure I'll have at least another 15-20 years to work.

Can a family practitioner pay off the $150K in debt and still make a decent living?


“Stanford said 'We will accept you but we want to be really clear that we believe this is a bad idea on your part…You will never recover the money you spend on what you are going to spend on med school because you are starting to late in life.'…

Basically they told her she was too old…I believe at the time she was 37 years old.”

(Sorry about doing quotes this way, but none of my browsers are able to “see” a “quote” icon to do it in the “normal” way.)

I don’t know about the rest of this story, but I do know that if this allegedly happened between 1990 through 1999, there is no way that this is true. The financial aid office may had a conversation that went something like that (the person in that role is long gone) but the Admissions office never made a comment like that. And “we” (that during my tenure as Asst. Dir.) admitted more than the average number of non-trads for that period in history. Even people in their 40s. :slight_smile:



The salary surveys I have seen put FPs at about $140K or $150K in their 1st year out of residency. These are national averages; it’s lower in some places, higher in others.

You can get your full tuition reimbursed via the NHSC in return for like years of service in an underserved area, or similarly in the military. In other words, you don’t have to go deep into debt, though you will need to pay it back in other ways of course,

I would also note that RN/NP/PA are noble professions but are not the same as medicine; there is a substantial difference in the depth and breadth of the education and the amount of responsibilities, authority, and opportunities afforded to graduates. You should take all of these factors into consideration when deciding your path.

I was attracted to the nursing profession originally; nurses rock. But I wanted to study a lot of basic science, and medicine seemed the best route to achieve that goal. Also, I wanted the freedom to open my own clinic, write and teach and do research as my interests allow, and medicine once again seems to be the right path. But you have to choose your own path. Best of luck,

Judy and Terry,

Thank you for taking the time to respond. The salary surveys I’ve seen show the same figures.

My assumption is that the subject of this story did not score well on the MCAT, although that is just a guess.

For the same reasons that Terry listed above, I am interested in becoming a physician, not a nurse.

I just wanted to run this story through for a credibility check and also the feasibility of paying off the debt (the figure I keep seeing here is $150K) before my Social Security kicks in. ;^)


I, too, am hoping to get into med school in Fall 2010 and I will be 45 at that time. Now, I don’t have a family that I have to support, so I know that when I get out, as long as I live like I have been (salary of $21K with some coast of living increases, I can try to pay the majority of my student loans off earlier).

One of the things that I have been looking into since I have to still get my bachelors degree is to next year finish the rest of my prereq classes (which include OChem I/II and Physics I/II), and then I am looking to get into the Cardiopulmonary BS program at UCF (Florida). I’m doing this for a few reasons - 1) Interest 2) it will take care of the BS requirement and 3) if for some reason, I can’t get right into a medical school, I can work and then reapply.

Your debt will vary; many schools, especially those with more money on hand, will cap your debt at somewhere between $20-25K per year. (This is a moving target, obviously, but so are salaries.) If you can avoid debt for your post-bacc–one of the big arguments for doing it at public school while you work part-time and cut expenses–you might be able to get through with less debt.

Ironically, Stanford offered me one of the best financial deals I could imagine getting, because

a) they automatically considered med students >30 to be independent

b) they capped loans at something like $20K/yr

c) they gave a lot of money for student research projects and for teaching assistantships.

These kinds of reasons are part of why older students have actually gravitated to Stanford med, along with their consistent interest in people with interesting stories. If I had gone there I would likely have something like half as much debt as I do now. I tried not to think about this when I made my decision.



I don’t understand how loan caps help? What about being listed as independent helps?

I’m not familiar with college financial aid so I guess that’s why the questions.

I can answer the independent part . . .

Many medical schools require you to submit parental information for you to be eligible for institutional aid (scholarships, etc). Technically, all professional students (med, law, vet, pharm, opt, etc) are considered “independent” by the government for the purposes of federal financial aid, but the schools can still require parental information if you want to be eligible for their scholarships.

It was explained to me that since pretty much all medical students have zero income, the only fair way to determine need-based aid was to take parental income. The theory is that if your parents have a decent income, they are more likely to help you out with expenses. As non-traditionals, it seems unfair, since very few of us get any kind of monetary assistance from their parents. Not to mention that it can be awkward for us to ask our parents to provide their financial information to us.

My first year of medical school, I used my dad’s financial information and did get some need-based scholarships. However, after he got remarried, I didn’t feel comfortable asking his new wife to provide her financial information to me, so I opted not to provide any parental information to my school. That meant that I was no longer eligible for any need-based scholasrships. The good news - I still got a scholarship based on where I grew up.

School policy varies widely on this. Some schools require you to provide parental information if you wish to be considered for ANY institutional scholarships. Some only require it for need-based scholarships, and will still allow you to be eligible for other institutional aid that is not need-based. And, there are others (like Stanford), that make a determination that you are truly “independent” based on some criteria (age, years out of undergrad, etc) that will consider you eligible for all institutional aid based only on your financial information.

Keep in mind that this is ONLY school-based aid. Many students think (because of the way their school presents it) that they can’t get ANY loans/aid if they don’t provide parental info. You will still be eligible for the full amount of federal loans (currently $38,500 per year at my school) without that info.

Hope that helps.

Thanks! Makes sense. My mom is retired and only income comes from Uncle Scam and a rental unit or two. Will I have to provide her AARP card?

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You will still be eligible for the full amount of federal loans (currently $38,500 per year at my school) without that info.

The Stafford loan (Federal subsidized loan) has gone up from 38,500 to 40,500 for this year, at least for first year graduate school borrowers.

Right–the advantage of being “independent” is that it means that they don’t take parental income into account. (If your folks are not well off or are retired or have died, this won’t make much of a difference.) As above, this ONLY makes a difference if the school provides other aid in addition to the federal aid.

It’s also true that policies on this vary a great deal school to school. Something important to ask about when you are considering a place.


So, the amount of $18,500 per year is for graduate schools other than professional schools? I wasn’t aware of that…thanks for the info!

It’s specifically different for medical school if I believe. Professional schools have their own caps which may be $18,500 or somewhere around there…if I’m not mistaken medical school in specific allows you to borrow up to $38,500 per year.

Crooz, I believe retirement income is not counted, actually. Again may depend on the school.

Emergency, if the scholarship isn’t totally covering things, you should talk to your financial aid office; since I have two of ‘em, I know well that step-parents’ income should not be counted. (I realize it’s hard not to get in her business if they file jointly, but perhaps you can talk to the fin aid officer about your dad sending his return to the office without you even seeing it.) Additionally, I was initially not declared independent and then complained and also the policy changed… so keep checking back about whether you can appeal this part.