The Bogeyman: Medical School

I went to a really solid public high school a million years ago, and was in the "smart kid" crowd. After graduating, I went off to school in the Midwest, but most of my friends were of old Southern stock and opted for schools like Duke and UNC. Several of my friends were people who must have come out of the womb with a stethoscope, because they (or their parents) knew they wanted to be doctors from freshman year of high school onward.

Who really decides what they want to do freshman year of high school? We belittle kids who are freshmen in college for coming onto WSO and posting about exit opps from JPM vs MS, but to claim to know what you want to do in your freshman year of high school??? Bizarre.

The really crazy thing about this is that I am thinking of 3 people in particular -- all three of them are going to top med schools in the next couple of months.

Now, I was the type of guy who changed his mind about everything in college at least a dozen times. I was dead-set on getting a PhD and being an academic...now I want to have nothing to do with academia. I was dead-set on being a congressional staffer...nope. I was dead-set on........well, you get the picture. Finally I feel like I have found my calling -- for two years now I have stuck with investment banking!

In any case, this isn't an article about me, nor is it an article about people who never changed their minds about what they wanted to do (read: people who had their parents make most of their decisions for them).

This is an article about how prohibitively expensive it is to apply to medical school, let alone how expensive it is to attend.

Mostly, I'm interested in hearing if applying to business school is at all comparable (as I write this, I am pretty sure it doesn't even come close, but we'll see).

I met up the other day with a friend who just graduated and is in the process of applying to med school, having decided to take a year off. She brought to my attention that she submitted 16 applications, also telling me that, on average, an application ran her about $150 bucks in fees.

$2400 in application fees.

She has taken the MCAT twice, at $250 a crack: $2900 total.

Her transcript fees (remember, you have to submit a "medical school" transcript during the process) ran another $200: $3100 total.

Now, she really blew my mind when she told me that she has to pay for her own interviews. Maybe I'm deluded, but having applied to PhD programs (for which I was flown out) and for a wide array of corporate jobs (also, obviously, flown out), this was _extremely_ shocking to me. Not only does she have to take personal time off from work, and a lot of it, but she has to pay for her own flights and accommodations for all of her medical school interviews.

Now, assume she gets 8 interviews, chooses to go on 6 (in reality, she would certainly attend them all, but let's be conservative). I would reckon that they don't give you a two-month period to order plane tickets, so you're already paying a premium: call it, conservatively, $400 round-trip. Hotel and transportation to and from the interview, again being conservative, $150.

That means that she is out $3100+$3300 = a whopping $6400 for one round of medical school admissions.

And 16 applications is _not_ uncommon for medical school applicants. Similar to JD applications, applicants are recommended to cast a wide net due to how competitive the process is these days.

I'm not sure of how it works for business school, but people must _at most_ apply to the entire M7 and a few safety schools and call it a day, maybe 10 applications at most. Do people have to pay for their own flight and accommodation during business school interviews? How about law school interviews? Is there even an interview process during law school admissions?

Now, I can see why some people cannot afford to attend medical school, but hell, some people out there can't even afford to apply! If you're spending $7000 to apply to medical school when you aren't even guaranteed admission since many applicants are on the "try again next year plan", how on earth, and why on earth, do people do this?! Funny, I asked my friend why she wanted to be a doctor, and her response was that she doesn't even know anymore..."but at this point, what else is there?"

#firstworldproblems for us all.

Discuss.

Comments (24)

Jun 27, 2012

They only charge these fees because they know people will pay them. Everyone has the exact same rationale, that this $7000 is small potatoes compared to the big bucks, prestige, and security that come from a medical career. People also tend to overestimate their chances and abilities at this stage, and since you've already invested so much time into a pre-med degree with little experience, its hard to change course or find another way in.

Jun 27, 2012

that 7000 dollar fee doesn't hurt most applicant's pockets.
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=8...

Jun 27, 2012
3176401:

that 7000 dollar fee doesn't hurt most applicant's pockets.
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=8...

I mean this isn't surprising at all. I wonder what the breakdown is like for kids who go into banking. I see far more people who are interested in finance careers and come from very humble beginnings (myself included) than kids from similar backgrounds who aspire to be MDs. Almost everyone I know who aspires to be a doctor is L-O-A-D-E-D.

Jun 27, 2012
Vontropnats:
3176401:

that 7000 dollar fee doesn't hurt most applicant's pockets.
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=8...

I mean this isn't surprising at all. I wonder what the breakdown is like for kids who go into banking. I see far more people who are interested in finance careers and come from very humble beginnings (myself included) than kids from similar backgrounds who aspire to be MDs. Almost everyone I know who aspires to be a doctor is L-O-A-D-E-D.

Depends on the school. I can say that at my school at least 70% of the kids with BB IBD SA/FT jobs went to elite private schools and are pretty rich. A lot of people who ASPIRE to be bankers are middle class (not poor or lower class by any means), but a lot of the people who actually make it tend to be pretty rich, but thats just my observation.

Jun 27, 2012

Yeah, I don't think b-school apps are anywhere near as crazy. I dated a girl while she was applying for med school and, a few years later, residency and she was a crazy person most of the time...and keep in mind that she is literally the most mellow med school student I ever met. She was genius level smart, so a lot of the material was pretty easy for her. She had fantastic recall ability so it was just a matter of going through all of the info at least one time, whereas other students that were far less confident would drill the material into their heads. Most of the time my gf didn't go to class, would get the taped lectures and then listen to them at 1.5x-2.5x speed...so it cut down on the amount of time she had to 'waste' studying, lol.

Anyways, my point is, she had it pretty easy compared to most but you are submersed in a super competitive environment where most people want you to fail if that means they succeed...I don't get that feeling when it comes to business school. We've all discussed how important network and prestige is for an MBA program, so we want everyone we work with to get the best jobs possible, because that will only make us look better...this doesn't seem to be the case for med school. The better our school places for post-MBA, the better we look. I believe that is relevant because finance is a relatively concentrated industry, so you have massive hubs (read: cities) where tons of these finance folks work. On the flip side, med students move all over the country for the best residency they can get into and then search for an open job someplace they can tolerate. That situation is exacerbated by the point that the OP's friend and hoodinternet pointed out...they are very specially trained and have a narrow application of those skills in most cases, whereas MBAs can find jobs practically anywhere and have a wide array of skills that can apply to accounting, corp fin, marketing, etc.

It also doesn't help that every med student that wants derm or rad onc applies to a derm or rad onc residency, which are very limited, regardless of what school they came from (as opposed to b-school where students from state school MBA programs typically aren't focused on PE/IB...though this point is a bit anecdotal.

As far as b-school interviews, I believe schools try to utilize their network of grads, so you can potentially interview in the city you live in assuming there is a alumus there that the school can contact...or at least this is how it works with certain top level undergrad programs. And even if you do have to pay, most people applying for b-school are working professionals that probably have some money to use, as opposed to fresh undergrad students trying to get to med school straight from undergrad. Additionally, I feel that most b-school applicants only apply to handful of schools, say 5 or 6.

Regards

Jun 27, 2012

Good write up, but lets take a step back and realize that they (med students) will be working on humans, while we (business grads) work on spreadsheets.

Jun 27, 2012
IRRelevent:

Good write up, but lets take a step back and realize that they (med students) will be working on humans, while we (business grads) work on spreadsheets.

Oh that's righttttttt, we add no value to society. Good thing we have everyone in this country to constantly remind us of that!

Jun 27, 2012
Vontropnats:
IRRelevent:

Good write up, but lets take a step back and realize that they (med students) will be working on humans, while we (business grads) work on spreadsheets.

Oh that's righttttttt, we add no value to society. Good thing we have everyone in this country to constantly remind us of that!

I wonder how many millions of lives have been saved by credit in general and modern day financial innovation by raising the standard of living....no, I'm not kidding.

Sure, it's not direct, but with growing wages comes improved health (generally speaking), yes?

Jun 27, 2012

My dad is a doc in a country with socialized medicine....the credit crunch may not as well even have happened. Not sure if this will continue with current health care spending eating up such a large portion of the budget but I can see why people fight tooth and nail to get into med school.

Jun 27, 2012
Ovechkin08:

My dad is a doc in a country with socialized medicine....the credit crunch may not as well even have happened. Not sure if this will continue with current health care spending eating up such a large portion of the budget but I can see why people fight tooth and nail to get into med school.

Can you elaborate a little bit? Medical school in the States is such an absurd up-front expense that it is becoming far less appealing for people who want to make some $. Maybe I am misinterpreting your statement. I know in other countries, people apply to "medical" school when they go to college and it's just an extension of the four-years you spend at university...at least, I believe this is true of Western European nations.

Jun 27, 2012
Vontropnats:

Medical school in the States is such an absurd up-front expense...

Isn't that part of the "weeding out" process?

Jun 27, 2012

And it does not end there. When you finish medical school you have to apply to residency programs through the NRMP ($50 to register), the first 20 programs are free after that is $30 per program.
20 programs may be considered enough but is not. There is a high level of competition at "elite" specialties. So if you are applying to Derm, Neurosurgery, Plastic Surgery (integrated) or Radiology it would be best to hedge your risk and apply to 2 different specialties or to a lot of programs. I've heard of people applying to 160 programs but on average it may be around 60-80 programs (~$1,200-1,800). And again, all the interviews you get will be paid by the applicant.
After you get accepted you will have a salary of ~$45-50 K per year. Some surgical subspecialties training (Plastic Surgery and Neurosurgery) lasts 7 years. So that means you will have to live with that salary for those 7 years.

Jun 27, 2012

I am a physician, so if anyone has any questions regarding a medical career, compensation, etc. let me know.

By the way, the level of competition is such that just to be an average applicant for neurosurgery you should have a 235+ on your USMLE Step 1, top 5% of your class, sub-internships on programs you'd like to attend and at least 3 peer-reviewed publications. Some applicants have PhD's or MPH's also.

Jun 27, 2012
NS-Fin:

I am a physician, so if anyone has any questions regarding a medical career, compensation, etc. let me know.

By the way, the level of competition is such that just to be an average applicant for neurosurgery you should have a 235+ on your USMLE Step 1, top 5% of your class, sub-internships on programs you'd like to attend and at least 3 peer-reviewed publications. Some applicants have PhD's or MPH's also.

How does all of this stuff work for family medicine? I heard it's a lot easier to break into family medicine after an MD program (the pay is comparatively lower, but...).

Jun 27, 2012

All doctors are is over payed computer with feelings.

The true heros in medicine is the researchers actually progressing medicine, not reguritating things they seen 1000's of times.

Jun 27, 2012
blastoise:

All doctors are is over payed computer with feelings.

The true heros in medicine is the researchers actually progressing medicine, not reguritating things they seen 1000's of times.

Actually, there is a greater tendency on producing physician-scientists. You'll get a better chance of getting an NIH grant approved if you are an MD PhD or MD with research experience.

This makes sense since you see the clinical context of the research you are producing.
Some of the newer programs are adopting this framework, look at HST (MIT & HMS) where they are exposing PhDs to the clinical side of the research. Stanford has a "research" fellowship for surgical residents where the focus is to come up with a product by the end of the year.

Research is expected from high caliber students competing for top specialties. Thus, what I mentioned on getting publications during medical school and is even better if you are a HHMI fellow or take a year solely to produce research in a lab.

Two of my friends (Johns Hopkins Medical School graduates) took a year after school to research neural stem cells before applying to Neurosurgery programs.

Furthermore, most of the neurosurgery residency programs have a 1 year protected time for research (still some do fellowships).

Jun 27, 2012
NS-Fin:
blastoise:

All doctors are is over payed computer with feelings.

The true heros in medicine is the researchers actually progressing medicine, not reguritating things they seen 1000's of times.

Actually, there is a greater tendency on producing physician-scientists. You'll get a better chance of getting an NIH grant approved if you are an MD PhD or MD with research experience.

This makes sense since you see the clinical context of the research you are producing.
Some of the newer programs are adopting this framework, look at HST (MIT & HMS) where they are exposing PhDs to the clinical side of the research. Stanford has a "research" fellowship for surgical residents where the focus is to come up with a product by the end of the year.

Research is expected from high caliber students competing for top specialties. Thus, what I mentioned on getting publications during medical school and is even better if you are a HHMI fellow or take a year solely to produce research in a lab.

Two of my friends (Johns Hopkins Medical School graduates) took a year after school to research neural stem cells before applying to Neurosurgery programs.

Furthermore, most of the neurosurgery residency programs have a 1 year protected time for research (still some do fellowships).

Let's be honest they didn't do jack. Their research was most likely 1 year of resume padding and a waste of government money don't act like there wasn't a motive behind it.

Jun 27, 2012

FM is fairly easy. If you fail the USMLE, but pass at the 2nd or 3rd time; you can still get in. If you have no publications; not a problem. You get my point.

As to compensation, expect 100K+ after finishing (3 yrs) depending on how you'll be basing your practice (group vs solo vs academic vs hybrid) and any supplemental income you produce (some FM docs would cover shifts on ER's and/or make Botox "parties", etc.)

Lifestyle again depends on your practice, but if you choose FM you are probably content by just clearing a low 6 figure income and living on a low COL place (underserved, less market saturation area).

Jun 27, 2012

Am I correct when I say that the military will pay a year's worth of medical school for every year you commit to serving? That to me would be the way to do it.

Jun 27, 2012
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