Applying to Medical School (1) : “(Debt) cannot be a disqualification for ambition.”

This post should have appeared on January 8th, but between my hope and ambition for the new year and today, a lot has happened. I’ve also been a bit rundown from work, and organic chemistry is trying to kick my a** just two weeks into the course.

This post was originally going to be titled, “Why I am applying to medical school.” Yea, I know, not particularly creative. But as so often happens when I begin writing a post, something happened. The something that happened was actually a fabulous someone and that someone’s name is Stacey Abrams.

I have always thought Stacey Abrams is kind of amazing. Stacey Abrams is the kind of chick you have to be if you are an educated, black, single, childless woman in your 30s and you don’t want your family to constantly, not so subtly mention the fact that you are an educated, black, single, childless, woman in your 30s. I kid, I kid…not really. After losing the Georgia gubernatorial race to then Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Stacey vowed to create organizations to combat, often racialized, voter suppression practices that had long been a part of Georgia’s complex political history. And she did. Her efforts are currently being lauded locally and nationally for increasing voter turnout in Georgia.

Overall, she is just really an amazing chick. She also has a pretty amazing resume that is chock full of early and consistent achievement. Which is why I was shocked when my internet stalking turned up a 2018 Fortune op-ed, penned while she was running for governor, where she admits to being in more than $200,000.00 of debt ($50,000.00 in back taxes owed to the IRS and $170,000.00 in credit cards and student loans). To say that I was shocked is an understatement. However, because Stacey Abrams is Stacey Abrams, even in a moment of extreme vulnerability, or perhaps because of it, she was able to offer the kind of insight that allowed me to set down a bit more of the shame I associate with my debt, and start dreaming again:

I am in debt, but I am not alone. Debt is a millstone that weighs down more than three-quarters of Americans. It can determine whether we are able to run for office, to launch a business, to quit a job we hate. But it should not—and cannot—be a disqualification for ambition (Abrams, 2018).

If you have read the post, “Stupidity. Reason. Qualified stupidity. The post where I explain how I got here,” then you know that after completing my graduate degree for FREE99, I decided I wanted to apply to medical school, and promptly took out ~$30,000.00 in student loans. Convinced that somehow this was different because I’d be able to go to medical school for free (rural state school and state scholarship program) and I’d be able to easily pay it back. Right.

So I spent the next year as a full time student, taking most of the prerequisites for medical school, and barely scraping by financially with a part time job. The school was very rural, and most of the time I was miserable, scared, and lonely. By the end of that first year, I had credit card debt I didn’t have the means to pay off and no real desire to return to campus in the fall. So I bailed. I took a job in a field for which I was qualified and took off to the other side of the country. Between then and now, I paid off the credit card debt, paid down some of my student loans, and generally found myself on much more stable financial footing. My premed textbooks and notebooks tucked away in my living area TV stand, never quite able to bring myself to throw them away…

It was after reading Stacey’s story, and that quote in particular, that I realized I was disqualifying myself. I decided because I made some poor financial choices in my formative years that I no longer had the “right” to dream or to want more. Somewhere, towards the end of 2020 as I sat on my couch and chatted with C over email, I decided to stop doing that. I’ve decided the only thing I have to do is to make prudent financial choices that don’t jeopardize my financial future. I think I can do that, AND apply to medical school. In another post, later today, I will break down the expected costs of applying to medical school, including what I’ve shelled out thus far.

4 thoughts on “Applying to Medical School (1) : “(Debt) cannot be a disqualification for ambition.”

    • Sarah, I’ll admit I was a bit worried about what the response of the Pennyfolk (anyone who reads my blog) would be to this decision. I know some folks probably don’t think this is the right decision but…I am super, super grateful for folks like you who are supportive and take time share. Thank you!


  1. When I was reading Stacey Abrams’ quotation, and your last paragraph, it was like there was a swell of inspirational music in my head! I didn’t realize she was in so much debt when she was running for governor (and maybe even now). Had she said to herself, I can’t run for governor until I’m out of debt, she wouldn’t have changed the composition of the Senate, and the course of this country’s history, through her work registering voters in Georgia. I’m so glad you’re not going to let debt diminish your dreams. We as a country need the contributions of people like Stacey Abrams, and like Ms. Afro Penny. Someday we’ll be posting comments saying, imagine if you hadn’t applied to medical school because of your debt, you wouldn’t have accomplished X, where X is something bigger and more important than you can imagine now. Thanks for the great post!


    • I know! (She’s out of debt at this point…I think between book deals and speaker engagements, she started raking in the money.)

      Thank you so much for your continued support both in comments and emails. You have no idea how much it is appreciated. I know you all don’t realize it but you know more about my financial situation than anyone else, so when I make decisions like this, or any decisions, you all know better than anyone what the real impact of these decisions is.

      Have you thought about starting your own blog? I feel like your new journey is definitely worth blogging about…just a thought.


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