The Right Price: How to Pay for Medical School and Feel Good about it


Christine Wiebe

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    If this sounds like something you want to avoid, read on.

    Typically, the idealism of aspiring medical students collides with the harsh realities of financial indebtedness, which rises steadily for many students during their medical school training. Debt not only may influence their career choices, but it can create significant anxiety and disillusionment, particularly when students feel powerless over their financial destinies.

    What is the best way to finance your medical education? Are there alternatives to borrowing large sums of money? Most premed students have only sketchy information to answer these important questions, and misunderstandings often cloud the decisions they make.

    Unfortunately, much of the financial aid literature is so complicated that you may feel overwhelmed and unable to ask relevant questions. Moreover, individual medical schools' Websites can be difficult to navigate, and some provide misinformation or no information at all about financing your medical training. It's not surprising, then, that financial aid officials find many medical students seriously uninformed about their own financial situations.

    This book addresses these problems by bringing the discussion of finances to a level that can be readily understood. It will enable you to take charge of your finances and make the best decisions possible.

    Christine Wiebe, a freelance writer who has covered issues in medical training for nearly two decades, started out as a premed student herself. After graduating from Goshen College in Indiana with a degree in chemistry, she received a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University. She spent several years as a general reporter for a metropolitan newspaper and then worked as associate editor of The New Physician, a magazine published by the American Medical Student Association.

    In the course of gathering information and advice over the years from numerous experts on how to pay for medical school, Ms. Wiebe has become highly expert on this subject. She writes clearly and powerfully, and the information she provides will simplify your options. By mastering the contents of this book, you will be able to better plan your future and save yourself from ruinous financial entanglements.

    Robert HolmanCoombs, Professor of Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA, Series Editor
  • Appendix A: Sample of Free Application for Federal Student Aid

    Appendix B: Countdown to Medical School: The Year before You Start

    In the Fall
    • Research private scholarships and grants using the Internet and resources in your financial aid office; complete applications for any that apply to you.
    • Obtain a copy of your credit history and resolve any problems or errors.
    • Learn about loans and gain an understanding of what your medical education will cost you if you have to borrow substantial amounts of money. (Start by reading this book!)
    • Explore service programs that pay for medical school to determine if one suits you. Apply for any that fit your goals.
    • When interviewing at medical schools, meet the financial aid officers and be prepared to ask questions (such as the average debt of their graduates).
    In the Winter
    • Work with your parents to organize your family financial information and complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1. Check with schools when you are applying to determine if they require additional financial aid applications or whether you need to fill out a separate form to receive state funding.
    • Request financial aid transcripts from any schools you have attended, regardless of whether or not you received financial aid, and have them sent to the medical schools where you are applying.
    • Follow up on private scholarship applications by contacting those organizations to demonstrate your interest and to inquire if they need any more information.
    In the Spring
    • Review the financial aid offers from all schools where you were accepted to compare the value of each. Discuss the offers with your parents and college financial aid officers to be sure you understand all the terms.
    • Contact the financial aid office at the medical school you want to attend to discuss your award. If you feel their package is less favorable than another school's, review any options for improving your award. Ask about work-study options and alert financial aid officers to any special interests that might qualify you for private grants or scholarships.
    • Once you have decided on a school, be sure to sign and return the award letter by the school's deadline.
    • Notify the medical school financial aid office of any private scholarships you receive, which may change your financial aid package.
    • Complete and return all required loan applications or other financial forms.
    • Start a file system (if you don't have one yet) for any loan records. Get all financial papers in order from any college loans; contact lenders to be sure your records are current.
    • Prepare a budget for the upcoming year, using your medical school's approved budget as a guide. Look for areas where you can spend less than the school allotted. Practice living on a budget and determine whether you need to change your spending habits.
    In the Summer
    • Pay off all credit card balances and car loans if possible.
    • Find housing for the fall that will be within your budget.
    • Request deferment forms for any college loans and send in change-of-address notices to your current lenders, if applicable.
    • Earn as much as possible for the upcoming school year.

    Appendix C: Budget Worksheet

    Appendix D: Student Loan Record

    About the Author

    Christine Wiebe is a freelance writer who has covered issues in medical training for more than 15 years. After starting out as a premed student herself, she graduated from Goshen College in Indiana with a degree in chemistry, followed by a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University. She spent several years as a medical writer and general reporter for the Knoxville, Tennessee News-Sentinel and then took a job as the associate editor of The New Physician, a magazine published by the American Medical Student Association. In that position, she became familiar with many medical students who passed through the offices and with the issues relevant to students and residents. She continues to write about medical education for a variety of publications and has won national awards for her reporting.

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