Q: Iíve always wanted to become a doctor, but just getting me and my siblings through college left my family strapped for money. Long story short, I graduated with a loan balance that prohibited me from obtaining my diploma and my transcripts, which I need to apply to med school. Iíve spent two years paying that off.
A few months ago, I was hired at a prestigious institution offering invaluable medical and research experience. Itís a great job for someone with my interests; I work with surgeons every day. The institution likes its employees to verbally commit to staying two years. I was initially fine with that, because I didnít expect to be able to apply to med school this year.
However, a fortuitous turn of events has allowed me to pay off my balance in full (though not all my school loans) and obtain a transcript. I could apply to school this summer, in time for the 2014 term. After the struggle it took to even get to this point, the idea of putting off school another year pains me.
My problem is the two-year job commitment. Unfortunately, medical school is usually an all-or-nothing deal; most med students canít work while attending school.
Everyone says in this economy you have to do whatís best for you, but my honor means a lot to me.
A: Honor is all well and good, but my thoughts on this have more to do with pragmatism.
Of course you have to do whatís best for you, but ďwhatís bestĒ may mean finding your professional and financial footing first. The experience and referrals you stand to gain from your job should set you apart from younger, greener applicants. Also, donít discount the awesomeness of simply being employed; it might allow you to sock away some mattress money.
And donít immediately reject the idea of working part time; itís grueling but not unheard of. You also might be able to thread the suture needle by applying for deferred acceptance, if your desired school offers it.
Not sure this advice is right for you? Ask a doctor. Chat up your colleagues about their career paths, how schooling affected their other life goals and whether theyíd do anything differently. You might even confide your aspirations to a knowledgeable co-worker whom you trust to be discreet.
I realize that medical school, more than most postgraduate degree programs, demands a significant time commitment, so itís not a decision you can dither over forever.
However, thatís all the more reason to pause and reexamine what youíve ďalways wantedĒ before you charge headlong into more years of study, sweat and debt.
ü Miller has written for and edited tax publications for 16 years, most recently for the accounting firm KPMGís Washington National Tax office. You can find her on Twitter, @KarlaAtWorkCopyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.