PMD 9: The Frustration of Balance as a Nontraditional Premed

Session 09

Today, we’re hearing from a premed who’s struggling with balancing time management and finances. It is hard to be a premed, but it is even more difficult when you have a full-time job a family to support, and your classes are not offered at convenient times.

[01:14] Caller of the Week

“I’m a little frustrated with the whole college experience. I am an older premed student. I’m 28 years old. I have a family. I’m getting married. I spent a lot of time at the community college, not really knowing what I wanted to do and thinking I was never smart enough to be a doctor even though I always wanted to. I never had the grades in high school. I was an average student. But then I started taking the courses at my community college. I started doing really well. I was getting 4.0’s in the sciences and the math. I was doing really well. So I’m like, why not give the premed life a shot?

And I did really well. I busted my butt to get out of this community college and transfer to a local four year and I picked this particular school because I thought that it would be more adult friendly. At a community college, it’s right next door to another community college that they accept a lot of transfer students from. I think 60-65% of their students are transfer students and adults, older students. So I thought it would be a more working and adult friendly, more friendly towards students and families. But I’m finding more and more that that’s not the case and I’m getting really, really frustrated with having to take these courses and take time off of work to do them. All of the sciences are early morning classes, three, four days a week and I just can’t take that time off of work and be able to support my family.

So I’m really struggling with the time management and the finances. I don’t have a way to keep going to school and work to support myself and my daughter. I’m really at a loss here. What to do? I don’t know if I should go back to the community college and take the courses there and they’ll take courses that the university and at least try to show to med schools that I’m not taking these courses at a community college because they’re “easier.” I’m taking them because I don’t have a choice. I’m doing what I have to do. I don’t know if it’s worth the risk to do that. And it may be a red flag on my application even if I keep doing relatively well. Or on the other hand, is it worth quitting my job and putting that full load on my wife to pick up the slack and make her breadwinner and I’ll be bringing home nothing. I really don’t know what to do – get a part-time job, working at a hospital or something. But even then, I don’t know if that’s enough to make ends meet. The cost of living is pretty high where I live. So I’m not really sure at all what to do. If anyone has any experience with this kind of thing or making this kind of decisions. Or if any of the Doctors Gray have an input, it would be great to hear from you. Thank you very much.”

[04:35] A Tough Decision and Every Situation is Unique

Anybody in your shoes would feel that way. It’s a tough decision what you’re facing. It sounds like you did great at a community college and then transferring to a four-year university because a lot of people say med schools won’t look fondly on community college courses. Now, it’s hard because it’s not working with your schedule and it sounds like you’re doing so much working a 50-hour week, providing for your daughter, and taking classes full-time on the premed track. That’s a lot!

'In general, in this life, do what works.'Click To Tweet

Every situation is unique. Some medical schools may look more negatively upon a student who has just community course credit. However, it’s a statement that doesn’t take anything else into account. While you are dealing with a very complex situation. You are caring for your daughter and working more than full-time to provide for her while also working as a premed. So your situation is different than anyone else’s because it’s a unique situation. Hence, it’s not fair to anyone saying that community classes are not that hard.

[07:08] Back to Community College

If you have the opportunity in your medical school application to talk about how you were trying to do what works to provide for your family and to also be successful on the premed track, I think many admissions officers would understand that decision. They would understand the decision if you went back to a community college.

If I were in your shoes, I would probably go back to the community college and take more of your courses there because you want to do what’s going to work for you. If it doesn’t work for your family and it doesn’t work for your schedule and for you to be able to make ends meet and to be taking these early morning classes at the university and there aren’t a lot of other options out there, then do what works.

Are there other four year schools that offer classes at other times? But that would mean transferring which is a huge deal. Realistically speaking, if you looked at all the options and you’re at this school where the only offer classes in the morning, it’s hard to argue that you should stay there. To be able to provide for your family and also be able to do the work you do, it makes a lot of sense to take a lot of those classes at a community college.

[09:09] Splitting Your Classes

One option is maybe there’s a class that you can take at a university instead of taking all of them at a community college. But at the end of the day, you want to do what works because you don’t want to be so stressed out, burned out, and miserable in this process. That alone will make it harder for you as an applicant and it will be harder not to burn out.

'Having to work and go to school at the same time, in and of itself, nevermind having a family, is really, really challenging.'Click To Tweet

[10:27] It’s Not Just About Grades, It’s About You

And just because you’re going to a community college doesn’t mean you’ll be receiving letters of rejections from medical schools. You will have an opportunity to talk about why you took a lot of your classes in community college. You have been successful and getting fantastic grades in your classes and that is huge. Ultimately, don’t forget that your application will be unique. It’s not just about your grades and the name of the school you went to. It’s you! And you will have the opportunity to shoe the best version of yourself and explain why you made the choices you did.

'Being able to provide for your family is a very basic thing.'Click To Tweet

Remember that you will have the opportunity to talk about why you made the choices you did and go back to those community classes and do well. Again, if you do, keep one class at the university if possible. But if you can’t then that’s fine too.

[12:50] Talking About Finances

There are always options and financial advisors in medical schools can provide you help. A lot of you are struggling, especially nontrads, when it comes to finances. And the price tag on medical school can really be daunting. There are loans and many of us have them. There are other types of things you can do as well. You can sign up for rural-based scholarships or programs that have you work for a certain place for a while and in exchange, you won’t have to pay as high a fee. There are a lot of options out there.

Many premeds don’t consider looking at the cost of living as a medical student. And that will change from where you are now unless you’re planning to apply to schools around where you now live.

[14:25] Go with Your Gut

None of these decisions are easy and you have to go with your gut. It sounds like you’re leaning forward to going back to that community college so don’t beat yourself up. You’re a caring individual and trying to make things work. So have faith in yourself as you’ve gone this far already. Your daughter will look up to you so much for having made a success of this and going through this process. Sometimes, it can feel you don’t have a lifeline but you’re strong and resilient. Again, go with your gut. If you think you have to take some of those classes elsewhere then just do it.

'Admissions officers are not just going to completely discount you if your classes are all at a community college.'Click To Tweet

[16:00] Listen to The Premed Years Podcast

In Ryan’s podcast, he talks all the time about how we, as premeds, are not a number. You’re not a grade. You’re not an MCAT score. You’re everything put together and everybody’s story is unique. He has a lot of insights in his podcast to share so please take a listen to it.

[17:30] Leave Us a Message

I would love to hear from you every week! Whether you’re having your high moments as well as your low times, if you just want to vent about anything, we’re here to listen to you. Call 1-833-MYDIARY and hit 1 to leave a message for Premed Diaries. You can leave a diary entry up to 30 minutes. Press 5 if you want to leave some feedback to any of our diary entries.


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