Applying to Medical School (3): All I KNOW is student loan debt repayment.

This is not the post I owe you but it is the post I need to write at the moment…

Despite the apparently cavalier approach to both my career and finances in my 20s, I am actually a risk averse person. I take “risks” but only after thoroughly assessing the potential outcomes and weighing them against my interests. In the past, my happiness and intellectual interest has been given far more weight that it perhaps deserved. Or not. I was young and theoretically I had time to “recover” from any missteps. And I did. I am recovering.

Part of that recovering has been paying off my student loan debt. Paying off my student loan debt doesn’t really come with risk. While there is a chance that I could end up better off taking a different approach where I invest earlier, every dollar I put towards my debt leaves me in a better financial position than I was previously. The plan to paying off debt is really clear. there are no risks. There is no uncertainty. Earn more. Save more. Spend less. Send in extra payments.

Applying to medical schools is not a certainty and it is a very expensive and time consuming process (which I have detailed extensively in the past so I will spare you here). For this reason, I have been dragging my feet on applying. Ultimately, I dragged them long enough that it was not possible for me to get a seat for the MCAT that would be accepted during this application cycle. At first my response was a reflexive panic that this choice/opportunity/avenue had been taken away from me. Followed immediately by relief and new plan making. “I could apply to schools that accept a January MCAT or I could sit for the MCAT in January…or I could wait an apply next cycle…or…or…or.”

All I know is student loan debt repayment. Applying to medical school seems scary not because I won’t get in or because the road to being a physician might be long or hard. It seems scary because it would require that at some point in the very, very near future that debt repayment (picking up gig shifts, spending very little, etc.) take a back seat to the application process for medical school. And that feels super uncomfortable to me so over the past few months I have been trying to consider every other career path that might make me happy that wouldn’t require that I de-prioritize my student loan debt…because all I know is student loan debt repayment.

But time is running out and I need to make a decision soon. My best friend asked me, “What if you didn’t have any student loan debt? Would you go to medical school?” My response was, “Absolutely.” Her response was, “Then that’s what you should do.” I think she is correct. I also think it is an oversimplification of the costs and risks associated with pursuing a career in medicine at this stage in my life.

At this stage in my life… Let me not pretend that I have not considered, ad nauseam, how pursuing a career in medicine at this stage in my life might complicate dating or having a family. Let me not pretend. Let me not pretend that Dude Avery’s questioning of my choice, and disapproval, didn’t make me feel a bit insecure or like I was making a mistake. Let me not pretend.

There is a lot going on in my head…which is why I haven’t written a medical school application update post in quite some time despite promising to do so. I am scared and worried that I am once again being overly self-indulgent and that my continuing to pursue medicine is something I will one day regret…perhaps because so many physicians with whom I have spoken seem to regret it.

All I know is student loan debt repayment.

4 thoughts on “Applying to Medical School (3): All I KNOW is student loan debt repayment.

  1. This is such a thoughtful post. I empathize with you in having to make this tough decision.

    I had a few thoughts while reading. The first is that your feeling of relief (after your initial panic) when you realized you had missed the test date may be an indication that you enjoy the financial path you’re on, and you want to continue that, and that’s a legitimate choice. Your debt-free countdown is 4.2 years. If you applied to medical school at the very end of that journey, you could enter medical school debt-free, and possibly be a less stressed, more grounded physician to your patients when you graduate.

    Another is that if Stacy Abrams had people around her who told her to pay off her debt rather than running for governor, Trump could be President instead of Joe Biden. I don’t want to tell you to be less than all you can be.

    Whichever path you choose, you will do your best and it will become your life and you’ll have to live with knowing you left another choice behind…but that is part of living life. I guess I’m mostly saying, there’s no wrong choice here. Go in the direction that feels right to you in your gut. 🙂

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  2. Ellen’s comment is so good. It’s hard and emotional because the choices are so real. I do want to encourage you towards stability, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay all your debt off first. It means, yeah, follow your gut! (Do not follow this dude’s gut, if at all possible, though.) In this case it sounds like your gut may have led you to a year’s delay on med school? As in, you may actually not have a choice anymore about applying this year? That may be ok. It would let you finish the year at the university and finish taking your classes and finish paying off the private loans. Then next year you could do gig work, and maybe volunteer at a community medical center or something like that, and apply.

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    • It’s Ellen, it’s never not good 🙂

      This is almost the EXACT plan I came up with for myself. For the same exact reasons. I think the relief was not about not going to medical school but about relief from the pressure I put on myself to apply this year. As much as I try to resist it, there is always the mental clock/timeline ticking in my head. It’s nice when it turns off…even if just for a bit.

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