Friday, June 26, 2009

There Are No Words...

In his prime, he was amazingly talented, and supremely gracious.

The words at the end of this song say everything. I hope he is remembered for the songs such as this, We Are The World, Man In The Mirror, and others... not for the garish man he became at the end.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Student Loan Consolidation Update

Follow-up to financial aid post a few days back.

The federal government has come out with a new consolidation scheme for those stuck in higher interest rate loans. Which should sound awesome to many students. However, for those that already consolidated after July 1, 2006, you are stuck with whatever rate you got at that time.

The worst part about all of these loans is they reset to the relative same number of years.

For instance, if you are currently in year 3 of 10 years of repayment, your new consolidated loan could spread that out yet again, over 10 years. The actual interest paid COULD be MORE than what is currently going to be paid if the individual keeps on paying current rate for another 7 years.

One other note of interest, especially to medical school students, never under estimate the value of working in the non-profit sector while taking pre-req courses.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eeep! Bleep! And Physics, Oh My!

Organic, it is said, wears thick upon the pre-med heart and is known as a med school killer. Serial killer, stalking it's victims one carbon, one reaction, or one mechanism at a time. Ginkgo biloba notwithstanding, organic chemistry kills.

I embraced organic when I was in high school. My chemistry teacher taught us to make esters, polypeptides, and more. There were four mechanisms he required us to know ... I think I did then, not so much anymore.

My fear, beyond animals wearing scales sporting a forked tongue, is physics. I bought the book today, a full 2.5 months early, just to have some light reading, get my mind wrapped around a subject matter that has generally made my eyes retreat to the other side of my brain, neurons silently saying "Goodnight".

Here's to physics! It will not master me, I will master it...

Or die trying!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Financial Aid Post-Bacc

Questions have arisen elsewhere about how to finance the pre-reqs for med school if one already has a degree.

I can only say what has worked for me in the past, as currently, I'm paying out of pocket for my educational expenses.

First, check to see how much you borrowed, if any, as an undergraduate. Check to see the total amount owing. This amount will be used against the total amount allowed under federal guidelines. The difference is what you are eligible from a financial perspective only. This amount is NOT what WILL be paid, only what you are eligible to receive.

Second, check the guidelines. Subtract what you owe from the guidelines. Currently, that amount listed by

is $57,500. Therefore, if you currently owe $20,000 the top amount you could conceivably obtain in student loans to pursue the pre-reqs post undergraduate completion, is $37,500.

Third, you MUST be either a student completing pre-reqs for a professional degree (which some schools will say is not true for medical school) OR a degree seeking student outside your original degree/college.

For instance, an English major with a B.A. degree cannot get funding to the College of Liberal Arts to complete a second degree as a CLA degree seeking student again. However, if that same student becomes a degree seeking biology major within the College of Biological Science, the eligibility is kept intact.

Fourth, fill out the FAFSA form found here

For ALL federal financial aid this is a requirement. Submit the code numbers of the schools you are taking courses at.

Fifth, contact the school's financial aid office and let them know you've completed all the above steps and ask for any other types of funding available i.e. scholarships for disabilities, minorities, under-represented populations, athletes, social clubs, philanthropic organizations, etc. Many of those do not care if there is a former degree, only that there is an affiliation and/or a solid GPA.

Sixth, and this is critical: if med school is going to cost between $150,000 and $230,000 take a deep breath and think about how much it might be worth to NOT accrue any more debt before medical school. Can you pay the tuition required by downsizing your wants vs. needs and use that money for school? Can you stop going out on weekends and save the money? How about not buying more clothes until your medical school acceptance letter arrives and saving that money?

Last, take a deep breath and don't give up. There are numerous ways to fund classes required before med school applications.

Good luck!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Out Of The Blue...

An anonymous message comes, a tiny little reminder of support and answers I sometimes seek but don't always acknowledge.

Thirty-five years ago, I was staring at a lonely life of a student who's desk was not allowed in the classroom. Each day I'd come to school as a 1st through 3rd grader to find my desk in the hallway. The teachers were often cruel, and mean spoken. They told my parents often how horrible I was as a child, that I was problematic, inattentive, outspoken, could not sit still, and therefore, not allowed in the classroom setting except for movies, nap time, and phy-ed.

If I asked a question, I was ignored. If I needed help, I was told to figure it out.

My 3rd grade teacher who hated me, made me lead character, the donkey, in a play. While the play was being put on the entire elementary school jeered at me. I could hear the names most often associated with donkey being called out. The teacher did nothing but sit there.

That changed when I started 4th grade.

That teacher had a gift. He had the gift of caring about his students, wanting to help them, and my desk,

was in the classroom.

He put us all on gigantic, white sheets with a grid; our names along the side, the coursework across the top. The entire compendium of work to be completed to finish 4th grade was on the sheets. Those who needed his help could get it, those who did not were left alone during that time. He'd answer questions on anything at any time. His time was ours.

He tended to us as a teacher and as a mentor as well. His well-known Friday night hot dog and burger fests with his wife, were not to be missed. Segregating the boy's night from the girl's night, he was able to spend better time with each group in a non-teacher setting.

I finished math and science around December.

He bought me my first chemistry set, and gave me swabs to scrub salamander's backs to peer under a microscope. I took the chemistry set and started seeing what I could put into it and what reactions happened. Little did I know I was learning acid-base, redox, and precipitate reactions.

The salamander scales got put into petri dishes and looked at under the 'scope. Then he encouraged my parents to buy me my own microscope and slide set. My parents, with his advice, went further and bought me additional blank slides, books on how to use it, and stains.

He told my parents, I was not a bad child but bored and too smart to sit still. He told the future teachers to keep me engaged in more depth and tried to help me through my 5th and 6th grade years so that this child, me, would never again have to feel the loneliness and isolation of being ostracized not only by my teachers, but by my peers.

In a way, he probably saved my life. Unfortunately, his own was not so well.

Thirty four years passed.

The last week of my first semester at school was a doozy. For reasons I cannot and will not disclose here, it was akin to being kicked in the gut. People I thought I could trust, people whom I thought were looking out for me and helping me, were undermining my every move.

For the past three weeks, I've wondered what in the heck am I thinking. Do I have it in me?!

Last night, that same teacher through one of his children, answered my question.

Of course, I do. I did not start this to quit, I did not study like mad last semester for nothing. I can't quit, I can't give up.

He never did, and neither shall I.