Friday, January 18, 2013

Farewell to thee, tuition, I won't miss you

Could it be? After 9 years and many Ferrari's worth of tuition paid to Stanford University, I have just paid my last tuition bill! With money that isn't my own of course. I once heard that each year's tuition can buy about one of the huge palm trees lining Palm Drive, the entry to Stanford. If that's the case, listen up, Stanford.  I should have my own small forest of palm trees right now. You can call it La Grove de Katherine to keep with the Spanish-style theme you have going on.



I am fortunate to have parents who value my higher education more than fancy cars or clothes. They have sacrificed a lot to send me to medical school.  When I think about the glamorous life my parents could be living right now if it weren't for my tuition, I feel a little terrible. But I can't think about another career where I would be so happy, so I think for me, it was worth it. I hope my parents agree. They now live under Interstate 85 in Atlanta. I try to bring them warm blankets and gruel when I'm in town.

Ok, not really. But the cost of a medical education is completely outrageous.  According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average debt is $162,000 for allopathic students. Unacceptable. And everybody wonders why medical students are now choosing dermatology (the most disgusting field ever) over primary care fields (the best, most rewarding careers ever in my opinion).  It turns out when you have $200,000 in debt and go into a low-paying field, like primary care, you'll be lucky to pay off your debt before you're dead.  Whereas if you go into dermatology, start your own skin-care line, and Botox the hell out of the local country club, debt goes poof! Like magic! Unfortunately for me, I was not destined for derm, and I'm one of the stupid, yet amazingly happy, people who wants to go into Pediatrics, one of the lowest paying, but most spectacular, specialties. 

It's funny how the reality of the cost of med school and tuition payments and debt was not something most pre-meds really considered all that deeply.  We all kind of assumed, hey, we'll be rich someday, it will all work out.  In med school, you get loans.  You feel rich.  You buy things. You get more loans. This money isn't real, you think.  It's just Monopoly money.  But now, as 4th year med students nearing graduation, I hear a lot more discussions amongst my classmates about finances. And debt. And I have absolutely no doubt that several of my classmates decided their specialty because of money. Had they not been in so much debt, maybe they would have become Family Medicine docs instead.

So pre-meds, I urge you to consider these things before you spend 4 years and $200,000 in medical school and decide, you know what, medicine isn't for me.  Do your research beforehand.  Shadow somebody in medicine.  If you love basic science, consider doing a PhD instead of or in addition to your MD. Though very competitive, MD-PhD and PhD students have their tuition covered and receive a stipend every year.  Consider going to an in-state school. And please, please, please, don't go to medical school because of the money.  There are much easier ways to become rich.  Most doctors aren't rich.  And very few doctors are ever filthy rich. If this is your goal, I'd recommend hedge funds. Or consulting. Or a sugar mama or daddy.

I have loved almost every minute of my ridiculously expensive education at Stanford.  I will miss being a student. But damn, I will NOT miss those tuition payments!


10 comments:

  1. There is nothing wrong with our home under I-85....except for the constant roar of traffic. I wish those drivers would be more considerate when someone is trying to get some sleep. Your Blog is delightful and insightful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was a very important text for me. I am 15 and having a dream to become a surgeon. I was searching all day about med schools, MCAT, and everything. I ended up dreaming about Stanford, then i went searching for the prices and found your post. I feel like i don't have much time if i want to go to med school. I'm in high school and i feel like i need every second to prepare. At the same time, i feel like i need to make a decision. life-changing. In which i'll spend a big amount of money and time. So posts like your make me think about what is ahead of me. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Barbara,

      It is a big decision, but for many people like myself, medicine is absolutely the best and most amazing field. You definitely don't need to decide in high school. Most of my classmates took time off after college before decided to go to med school. Right now, try to focus on getting good grades and filling your time with activities you're passionate about, whether they have to do with medicine or not! Good luck!

      Delete
  3. Oh dear! I've spent a full day reading your entire blog!

    But seriously, thank you. I'm currently embarking on my own journey into medicine...The long way - I'm already 26!

    Your blog has inspired me to record my own reflections. Congratulations on your journey so far! (Now to think of a blog name!!!)

    Kath

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kath,

      I like your name! I'm so honored you've read the entire blog, and good luck getting into medicine and with your blog!

      PS You are not too old:) The average age of matriculating medical students in this country is 26, and many of my classmates are in their 30s

      Delete
  4. Hey nice blog, and opinions. I am a pharmacy student year 1 or P1 like they call us, and I have been contempling taking the MCAT, and trying for medschool. The thing is that I will turn 30 this july, and I will be out nearing my 40, to get in debt till 70 at least lol. It does not sound very promising. If I say in pharmacy and if and only if I find a job at least in alaska, then, financially I might be better off when I get my 50, even though, I don't like pharmacy much. I did shadow physicians and everything and I liked it. Well, did not like the nurse complot in the wards, some crazy tension sometimes. What do you guys think?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! You're not too old if you feel like medicine is really the field you see yourself in. It can be harder in your 30s than 20s though, especially if you have a family. It depends a lot on what you want to specialize in too. If you plan to do primary care, becoming a nurse practitioner may be a relatively less expensive and time-intensive path. As a pharmacy student, I'm sure you're probably aware of some other great medical fields, like occupational therapy, physical therapy, social work, etc. There are a million variations on what you can do within medicine. Some of those require med school, others don't And as for the nurse thing, as long as you are kind and respectful towards nurses, I've found they can enhance, rather than hinder your experience:)

      Delete
  5. Hi! I came across your blog while googling medical blogs. Shocked to see the cost of medical education in the US. I am a final year medical student from India (yes, Indians are crazy about medicine in India too!!!). however over here, the government bears the burden of education. Guess what I had to pay for my medical course USD 2500 !!! AND that too after the fee was doubled from my year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing! Congrats on finishing up. I've heard how competitive it is to get into med school in India. I must admit I'm jealous of the tuition you paid!

      Delete
  6. Just curious Katherine, did your parents pay your entire medical school tuition or did you take loans? Just wondering as I'm thinking about pursuing medicine but just very concerned about the cost before jumping in. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete