Friday, May 30, 2008

Student Loan

There are a few ways to pay for that expensive medical school education. Unless you have a great inheritance, win the lottery, or find a sac of hidden cash, it is likely that student loans are the only way to pay. I never found the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and now must look for other financial options.

Scholarships and Grants
If you have the grades, the time, and the will power, it is wise to search for a little free money. Grants and academic scholarships helped fund a large portion of my undergraduate studies leaving me debt free upon graduation.

The hardest part is sitting down and looking for matches that meet your personal qualifications. FastWeb is a great place to start as it does the sorting for you. With the right grant or scholarships, the medical school expenses can be significantly buffered.

Student Loans
Once scholarship opportunities are exhausted, the most common method for payment comes from borrowed money in the form of a loan. With rising costs for medical school, loans are becoming more substantial all the time. Loans to consider: Stafford, Grad PLUS, Perkins, and private.

Stafford Loans
Stafford loans come in two forms, unsubsidized and subsidized. $32,000 and $8,500 can be borrowed from these loans respectively, totaling $40,500. This will satisfy tuition, but not easily the other expenses of room, board and supplies. Interest is paid by the US department of Education for subsidized loans while in school where unsubsidized loans require the interest to be paid by the student from the time of disbursement. Obviously subsidized loans are preferred in this regard. Interest rates may be high, but some lenders offer benefits to curb the overall expense.

Grad PLUS Loan
These loans are backed by the government and come with a fixed interest rate of 8.5%. As these are usually supplementing the Stafford loans, they are not need based and vary according to the amount of aid already received. You cannot borrow more than the cost of attendance. A good credit history will make this loan easy to obtain.

Perkins Loan
The Perkins loan is a federally funded loan that provides aid to those who are exceptionally needy. It offers a low interest rate to those who qualify.

Private Loans
Should the loans above not provide adequate funding, private loans are available to supplement your resources. Do not over-borrow as it will one day have to be repaid. Interest rates are not fixed and other requirements may apply.

Lenders
Finding the right lender can be difficult. Compare the terms of service and special offerings before selecting your lender. Some will offer all or a couple of the loans listed above. Use one lender for all your loans. Once the time comes to repay your loans, the process of loan consolidation will be made easier offering a lower interest rate.

I chose to use MedInvest as they offered greater discounts than the other lenders I researched. With on-time payments and direct withdrawal, similar sized loans save almost $2,000-3,000 over the lifetime of the loan.

Application
I have chosen to apply for the Stafford loans and some Grad PLUS loan money. TUNCOM has a loan application form that is filed once a lender is chosen. The financial aid office applies for Stafford loans on my behalf. In order to obtain Grad PLUS money, I must apply with my lender of choice for the amount of desired money on my own. Since my wife will be able to work during my time in school, it is not requisite that I borrow the full amount available. Since I would like to buffer some of the expenses, I will obtain a small Grad PLUS loan to help cover living expenses.

In every case, it is necessary to fill out a FAFSA application as this is how lenders approve your loan request. Never incurring debt until this point in my life has been a great accomplishment. Now that I must borrow money to thrive, the natural fear that is associated with owing something to someone else is very daunting.

One physician I spoke with said that students are poor and doctors are rich. Borrow a little extra during school in order to live moderately so that the transition is not too drastic. Good advice, I hope that is still the case when I graduate.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Achievement

The sweet taste of achievement is immeasurable by anyone other than the one who obtains their own success.

Making it to the Top
Defined as "a thing done successfully, typically by effort, courage, or skill," achievement is the result of a goal set and accomplished.

More than eight years ago, I embarked upon the collegiate journey as a lowly freshman without a notion of the things to come. During orientation of that first year, many made a trek to the over-sized, cemented 'Y' on BYU's eastern backdrop. It was by no means the hardest climb, nor the longest. Simply an afternoon walk that lasted a couple of hours. We stopped at the base of the 'Y' and never climbed the extra 380 feet to its top.

As we hiked back to our dorms I remember thinking to myself that I would one day hike the remaining 380 feet. Time passed quickly, and I never returned to finish what I had started. Now graduated, I had more time to see that my goal was not abandoned. On a day off, I set out to hike the 'Y' once again, this time all the way. In a matter of hours I was there, peering out over the valley, soaking in the sun, and feeling the cool valley breeze. Finally, I made it to the top.

Success
As cliche as it may seem, the mountainside hike was a moving experience. I made a goal and saw its successful completion. In a like manner, my education has carried similar feelings of accomplishment. Knowing from a young age where I wanted to be and shaping my life to get me there has been a rough ride.

With medical school only a couple months away, last week I made the final $1000 deposit reserving my position in Touro University's College of Osteopathic Medicine. Medical school is no longer a possibility, but now a reality.

In a couple months I will be making new goals and finding new 'mountains' to hike. The process will begin again taking me one step further than the last, starting the adventure all over.

This has been my success. Sure it may be expensive, have long hours, and stretch me beyond my current capacities, but it could not be more satisfying than seeing the achievement of my dreams become reality.

According to the definition used above, the recipe calls for a little effort, courage and skill. The first step is usually the hardest, often leading to the greatest rewards.

Set a goal for yourself and don't give up short of success. A big thanks to all those who have helped me along the way by means of support, education, encouragement, and understanding. You made this journey possible.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Moving

Is it already time to pick up the house and move? It can definitely be one of the most stressful events of the year. With a little planning, a lot of cardboard, and helpful hands, your move can be rather painless. As my hands will be full the day of my move, I decided to discuss the topic early.

Plan Ahead
Some medical schools offer relocation allowances for new students. Unfortunately, TUNCOM is not among them. Before finalizing reservations, contact your school to determine the allowance they offer, as they may require the use of a particular service.

Although my move is not planned for another two months, it was necessary to ensure a vehicle would be reserved for the big day. Depending on the time of the month, rates will change according to demand. Commonly the busy days are Fridays or Weekends near the end of the month. Agencies will rent moving space or trucks with little or no prior notice, but be prepared to pay significantly more. A reservation can usually be canceled with no penalties if your service is given 48 hours notice.

Movers
In searching for a moving company, there are many options and it is wise to shop around. Compare some of the major companies, their offered discounts, and options. Below are some notable commercial movers and a few pros and cons:

  • Ryder- 15% discount when reserved online, few locations
  • U-Haul- 3 days, 500 miles included, poor customer service, old fleet
  • U-Pack/ABF- they drive, gas price included, 10% discount
  • Budget- 3 days, 10% online discount, limited miles
  • Penske- 4 days, unlimited miles, ~20% discount (online only), new fleet
What Size Mover?
Knowing how much space is needed may be difficult to determine without a little help. Penske has a great tool they call the Truck Loading Wizard, which helps calculate the appropriate size truck for your move.

Insurance
Some auto agencies will cover you during your move. Contact your agent to learn if this is the case, if not, you may consider purchasing moving insurance. This is often provided as a service through the moving company.

Timing
Give yourself adequate time to pack your belongings and load the truck. Start early packing boxes, dismantling furniture, and discarding unwanted objects. If you intend to sell furniture or other items, list them well in advance to ensure they are sold by the time of your move. The more you have packed before your truck arrives, the less stress you will have to incur.

Here's to happy moving!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Graduate of Higher Education


Certainly, one of the more significant accomplishments of my younger life, has been the completion of my undergraduate studies. This last week I participated in my University's graduation ceremonies and to my surprise, my good friend and I were featured the following week on the front page of the campus newspaper! My education at Brigham Young University spanned almost a decade, cost a bundle of money, and sadly moved me from my Chicago home. The experience was wonderful and definitely worth the effort.

Going the Distance
Just when it seems that my educational career has come to an end I am about to embark on even higher education, that will cost even more, and take almost as much time. It seems that the end of the road is so far from reach, but once again, the experience will be worth the effort. Of course I wonder if this is the right decision, or if there is another route to take. The calming thought comes when I remember that this road is one that fulfills a dream.

Work
Let's face it, being employed is very nice as it allows us to have fun when we want. Once finished with medical school, we will be working, a lot. It is easy to drowned ourselves in overtime now, but due to the inevitable burn-out it will cause, we must consider other activities for our "spare time."

Vacation
What to do then with my educational "layover?" You know, the time after undergraduate graduation and before graduate orientation. There are a few options that can better prepare for medicine that I would like to explore. As always, suggestions are welcome in the comments section.

Experience
Gaining more experience in your field will undoubtedly build confidence, character, and/or technical skills. Bellow are some possible opportunities to be explored in the medical field:

Some of these positions take a small amount of time to become certified or licensed. Start early and remain in the position for a significant amount of time. Keep a record of the dates as medical schools will want to know how long you have been there in addition to your responsibilities.

Fun
As medical school is known for its rigorous demands, time with loved ones and friends would be well used before matriculation. Whether a week-long trip to a novel destination or simply a night out on the town, your mental health depends on it. Enjoy a hobby, learn a new skill, or read that book you have always wanted to read but couldn't because you were studying your textbooks. Here is a small list of ideas to get you started:
Sure it may cost a little, but relatively speaking, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the years ahead. Get out there and have some fun.

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