September 21, 2012

So happy I’ve got another week under my  belt!

More clinic visits today, then a whole weekend off.  FINALLY started being a responsible student and have been reading [decent amounts of] my family medicine textbooks.  Can’t believe it but was able to pick up ID badge and drop off folder with employee health dept. on Wednesday; unbelievably happy at no longer being obligated to make trips over to the hospital for a while.

For those of you considering medical school, I wanted to take a minute to caution you on finances.  I know, historically, with undergrad and most US-based grad programs the hard part is getting in to the program you want, then financing is simply a matter of turning your rich uncle upside-down and shaking him for tuition or filling out a good ‘ole FAFSA form and getting low-interest student loans.  While they’re easier to get accepted into, the downside of the non-big-5 Caribbean schools is that they do NOT qualify for title IV US Educational Dept. loans.  This means that 1) none of the usual FAFSA lenders will give you loans and 2) if you have existing student loan debt, you must keep paying that debt off as you are not at a title IV-recognized school.  The option that most of them offer to US students is private lenders with high, variable interest rate loans that you must re-qualify for every semester and have near perfect credit to do so.  It sucks, yes, but it is a means to an end.  I cringe when I sign off on my loan every semester, but I haven’t really had that many problems with them so far.

That changed.

MUA is becoming a lucrative school on the young-Caribbean-medical schools front because it’s 14 years old, has produced a sizable number of graduates, and has a not-too-shabby residency-placement list that is published with each match that shows they’re doing something right.   I suppose that’s their rationale in consistently raising tuition.  The problem, however, is that for those of us on the private, variable-rate loans, the amount that we receive each semester hasn’t changed.  I don’t know how this fact is overlooked by the school and the powers at be, but it’s finally starting to have a serious effect on me.

Semester 1 tuition:  $9,740              Amount received back from loan:  $5,680

Semester 2 tuition: $9,120               Amount received back from loan: $5,155

Semester 3 tuition: $ 9,120              Amount received back from loan: $4,755

Semester 4 tuition: $9,870               Amount received back from loan: $4,305

Semester 5 tuition: $10,370             Amount received back from loan: $3,955

Semester 6 tuition: $11,745             Amount received back from loan: $2,130

Surprisingly, it’s easy enough to live on a tropical island and spend less than $1000 per month–rent wasn’t that expensive, there aren’t that many places to go out to dinner, nowhere to shop–the only expenditure that could really hurt sometimes was electricity.  So in the beginning, there was more than enough money to cover living expenses.  But now that I’m back in the states, am required to show up in business casual attire, RARELY get the opportunity to sign a year’s lease–usually it’s just for a few months so it comes at a premium rent, and ideally need to drive places, this is not an amount one can live on for an entire semester.

Since the school forbids us from having jobs while in school, we’re forced to look elsewhere for funds.  Canadian students have cushy loans, many students have parents who are docs, rich uncles.  But what about those of us who come from regular, blue-collar folks?  Yeah, it’s a problem.  When I got a bill from the school the other day for an additional $900 to cover the cost of my REQUIRED elective in family medicine, I flipped.  You just upped tuition by $1000 and now you want more?  I called the business office and the financial aid office at the school just to confirm that I was supposed to send them $900 NOW (oh no, it can’t wait) out of my $2130 SEMESTER’s living expenses, leaving me $1230 to live on until mid-January?!

I’m not quite sure what I am supposed to do.  I talked to my folks and they’ve agreed to help me out, but I don’t want to drain them for the next year and a half!  The financial aid office was clueless.  They wanted to transfer me back to the business office to shift the blame and “explain the charges” and then when I wouldn’t consent to that, had no advice for me except that they had applied for title IV loans but were still waiting.  No timeframe?  Nothing?  I’d heard of other students doing a joint MD-MBA program with Davenport University so that they could obtain title IV funding for their MBA tuition and then had some extra cash to live on during the semester but the lady in the financial aid office couldn’t even give me any information on that!  So wait, you know I’m drowning and you don’t even know where the nearest life-preserver is?  How can a school do this?  I’m flabbergasted.  What would I do if I didn’t have my folks?  What about my classmates who don’t have parents to fall back on?  I just don’t know.

So I sincerely advise you–sit down, look at your finances BEFORE you apply to these schools.  I’d say you’d need at least $20-25k put back into savings to help you along and supplement these loans to be financially stable because lord knows the school isn’t going to help you.


4 Responses to “TGIF”

  1. SS said

    Hi Jen.
    Loving your posts and an avid reader of your blog. I would be in your shoes where you are currently early next year so I have some questions and would certainly appreciate if you could answer. After writing step1, when MUA gives you schedule for 3rd year, do they tell you after every rotation about your next spot or do they tell you at the start about it. If they do give you for the complete 3rd year, how much time do you get in between rotations if they are in a different city. If you could shed some light on your schedule that would be awesome. Good luck !

    • jenningers said

      Hi, SS!

      Thanks for keeping up with the blog and glad you enjoy the posts. Hope school is going well for you and that you’re learning as much as possible.

      As to your scheduling question, I can share with you the information that I’ve obtained from my experience with it so far and from what I’ve heard from my classmates completing rotations elsewhere, however I’m not entirely familiar with the whole process. In regards to the availability of the schedule for 3rd year, it varies with each student. I was lucky in that I received my entire third year schedule when I showed up at my current hospital in Chicago where MUA had scheduled me to do my family medicine elective and all cores. I think the way it works is that you give MUA your score as soon as you receive your score back from the Step I, then the clinicals office calls and gives you options as far as dates and locations where you can start rotations, then once you decide on where you want to go, MUA sends you a contract that you must sign which dictates which rotations at which locations you’ve agreed to, then I think they tell the site that you’re coming and which rotations they’d like for you to do there. The actual scheduling of any rotations past your first one is up to the people at the site–your coordinator–as well as if/when they share your schedule with you. If/as soon as your receive your schedule, you have to share that back with the MUA clinicals office as YOU are their link with your coordinator at your clinical site. I think you’re more likely to receive a more extensive schedule if you agree to do a large quantity of your rotations at one site.

      Knowing your schedule in advance is something that sets MUA apart from the other schools; the majority of the other students in rotations with me who are from other schools do not usually know more than 1 rotation ahead of schedule when they will be and for how long. They usually have to move around to different hospitals as well.

      As to the time between rotations–I think that varies with the different sites. I don’t think MUA has control over when rotations start at different sites–that’s up to the sites–they just give MUA a list of when different rotations are starting and how many spots they have available, then MUA decides who gets to go there and how many rotations they can do (based on availability).

      I know at my site, if you’d like a break between rotations, you can simply go to your coordinator and tell them you’d like to change your schedule. Keep in mind, however, that the school has a policy that if you’re going to have more than a 30-day break between rotations that you must fill out a leave-of-absence form. Generally speaking, most rotations here start on a Monday and end on a Friday–so in my case, I have a weekend between most of my rotations, unless I decide to have a break somewhere. You have to sit down and figure out what will work best for you and how much time you want to allow yourself to study for Step 2 and to rest between tough cores, as well as how much time you’ll need to complete everything in order to match by your preferred year. It’s complicated, I know.

      Hope this helps–if anything is unclear or confusing, please let me know. Thanks again for reading and keep the questions coming!


      • SS said

        Thank you Jenn for your detailed reply. You would know best as you are doing clinicals right now but I have heard that its best to spend your 3rd and 4th year at different places as this gives you exposure and helps you when you apply for residency. You chose to do all the cores in Chicago…Is there some other reasoning behind it or just your personal preference.
        Also do you mind sharing you daily and weekly schedule so that I along with other people can get a general idea of what 3rd year looks like.
        Thank you!

  2. jenningers said

    Hello again, SS,

    In regard to doing your rotations in different places, there are different schools of thought. On the one hand, if you do all of your cores at one location, you build up a rapport with the doctors at that hospital in many different departments since you’re there for approximately a year. You could apply (during the match) to multiple residencies at that location and the odds of being selected as long as you did well in rotations is increased because you are familiar to the staff among the medical students.

    On the other hand, the more locations you do rotations at, the more places that might recognize you when you apply for the match, however if they’ve only seen you for 4 weeks, unless you REALLY stood out during your rotation, it’s perhaps not as helpful.

    Practically speaking, I chose to complete my cores at one location because it is much easier to settle down, sign a year’s lease, and establish one’s self at a hospital for a year’s time, rather than having to pick up and move and go through another orientation and find my way around a different city and meet another program director, etc. I chose Chicago in particular because it was the first available location where I could complete all of my cores, without having to wait for another city to open up. I am, however planning on doing my electives (4th year) at different locations so that, as you mentioned, I can gain some extra exposure and add some diversity to my resume. I have heard that if you’re confident in your skills by the fourth year, if you choose an elective at a hospital with a residency in that elective (which you’re interested in) and do well, then you stand a good chance of getting into that residency.

    I will gladly post my schedule.


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