Sunday, July 27, 2014

Enjoying Family, Fun, and Stress-Free Living before Med School!

There are only a couple more weeks to go before orientation, and I am leaving no stone unturned in the relaxation/fun department! The number one priority this past week and next is making sure my daughter gets to enjoy her final days of summer, since she only has one more full week to go until she starts school, and I think this weekend was yet another success :-)

I'm not an alcoholic, I promise LOL!

On Friday, I had the chance to meet with one of my future classmates who is a parent as well. We found this really cool in-door playground place not too far from our homes and brought the kids along to have some fun. It was a win-win situation for everybody! Our kids got to play and tire themselves out for the night, and we got a chance to socialize and get to know each other. Outside of the school’s brief meet-and-greet, I had not met any of my classmates yet, so it was really nice being able to chat with someone who will literally be in the same shoes as myself for the next four years. The best part of the day though was a visit from one of my sisters. She drove in all the way from Louisiana AND brought me a daiquiri! To say I was happy was an understatement, LOL!

She loved the Georgia Aquarium!

On Saturday, we made it a family day and took a trip to the Georgia Aquarium. My daughter loved it, and it was so cool learning about the different types of marine life. She freaked out a bit during a storm scene in the dolphin show, but other than that, we had absolutely no problems. Afterwards, we weren’t ready for the day to end, so we also took a trip to the movies to see Transformers. Yes, I know it had its sexist moments (for all you critics out there), but sometimes a girl just wants to see some sexy cars and watch stuff get blown up! The movie met all my expectations and then some.

A very happy and eventful day :-)

I’m going to try to plan more fun things to do this week, but today is a relaxation day. This is the first time in a long time where I haven’t had to worry about work responsibilities or anything major, and I’m really enjoying it. I don’t know what med school life will bring, but at least I’ll be relatively stress-free going into it!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Living the Good Life

Happy Friday! This week has given me plenty of reasons to smile, and I am just beyond grateful for just about everything right now. When I reflect back on the past few years, I can’t help but smile over how far I’ve come and how far I am going to go. I really have no complaints, and blessed is the perfect word to describe how I am feeling at this moment. I was going to post a picture of the word “blessed”, but then I came across this quote and had to post it. Life truly is what you make it, so I hope all my readers are living the “good life” right now, because I know that I most certainly am.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Excited to Join the PCOM Family!

Less than a month to go until I'm officially a medical student!!!!

Yesterday my school held a friends and family event for its incoming students, and I was happily in attendance. I had planned on attending this alone, since we were told that children weren’t allowed, but my S.O. drove from New Orleans and surprised me with a visit on Sunday, so I brought him along.

The event only lasted about three hours, with the first hour consisting of walking around different table set-ups. There were quite a few tables that had local restaurants in the area (and free food!), tables with information about a few on-campus organizations, and there were even local apartment representatives, dentists, and other community representatives available to help make the transition a little easier. It was also during this time that I met a current medical student, who is also a single mother as well. I had the chance to speak to her about what her schedule is like and how she manages raising a child while attending school full-time. It was definitely reassuring hearing that it is doable from someone in similar shoes as myself. During the second hour, we were taken into a lecture hall and given a presentation on financial aid and the resources that are available to students. There was also a bit of an ice-breaker game where we went around the room with introductions and answered questions based off the color on our name tags. My favorite part was the final hour where we were given a tour of the school. We were originally given a tour during the interview, but it did not include the anatomy lab. We finally got a chance to tour the anatomy lab this time, although we weren’t able to see the cadavers due to patient privacy issues. Being in there really made me excited for classes to start. I just hope I don’t lose the excitement once I’m knee deep in anatomy lab, LOL!

Overall, it was a good event and I had the chance to meet a few of my classmates in person. I also brought home a goodie bag full of free stuff ranging from t-shirts to some really cool Netter’s Anatomy playing cards, so I was extra happy. Orientation is only three weeks away, but I’m already starting to feel like a member of the PCOM family J

The coolest deck of playing cards ever!!!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Post-Bacc, SMP, or Another Degree: What's the Best Choice?

If you’re a non-traditional student who has been out of school for a while, or you are looking to bring up a low undergraduate GPA, then you’ll need to explore all your options for becoming the most competitive applicant possible. There are many options available to prove to schools that you will be able to handle the heavily course load that comes with medical school. The following will be a discussion of some of these options, so that you can best decide what will work best for your situation.

Post-Baccalaureate Coursework

A popular choice among many non-traditional students is to take undergraduate courses as a non-degree seeking student. This is commonly referred to as a post-bacc. Most medical schools will count these courses as part of the overall undergraduate GPA, so this could be a good way to boost your GPA. This method is also particularly useful if you were a non-science major during college, because it can be used to take all the required science pre-requisites in addition to increasing your science GPA. The science GPA is weighed most heavily by medical schools, so if you do decide to go the route of taking post-bacc coursework, make sure that it mostly consists of science coursework. Also, if you a non-traditional student who already has an undergraduate degree in the basic sciences, pursuing a post-bacc will only be beneficial if you take upper-level advanced science courses.

For some students, pursuing a post-bacc might not be as beneficial. If you already have an undergraduate degree with over 130 hours, taking more classes may do very little to increase your overall GPA. Also, as a non-degree seeking student, you will not be eligible for any federal financial aid, so you will have to either pay out-of-pocket or take out private student loans. When the high interest-rates associated with private loans and course fees are taken into account, this can prove to be a very costly path. (Note: There are now some post-bacc programs that offer federal financial aid, so make sure you ask the school you plan on attending about this.)

Special Masters Programs

Another great option for proving that you can handle the heavy course load of medical school is a special masters program (SMP). These programs typically last between 1-2 years, and they generally cover advanced science coursework. A few SMPs are linked to medical schools, and as a student you will be taking the same classes as first-year medical students. Some of these programs also take place at medical schools, and allow you to take the courses right alongside current medical students. This is an excellent way to prove that you can handle medical school, and if you are interested in attending the medical school of the program you attend, then it is also a great way to network and get to know the professors. Furthermore, these programs are also covered by federal financial aid.

The only downside with SMPs (and pretty much any program) is that if you do not do well it can greatly diminish your chances of gaining an acceptance into medical school. SMPs are also a popular choice among many pre-medical students looking to increase their GPAs, so acceptance into some of the programs could be very competitive. Also, while there are many SMPs throughout the United States, there may not be one in your area. This may mean that you will have to relocate to pursue the program, and this may not be feasible for some non-traditional students.

A Second Bachelors Degree

Some students decide to getting a second degree is a better option for them. A second bachelors degree is probably most beneficial to students who previously obtained a non-science degree and previously did not perform as well. In this case, a second bachelors degree would not only give them a science GPA to work with, but it would also work to increase their non-science GPA as well.

Unfortunately, pursuing a second bachelor’s degree can prove to be very costly out of all the options due to the fact that you will essentially be paying for another four years of school. If you’re a non-traditional student who has been out of school for more than a decade, this might not seem like a bad choice, but this commitment does not come with a guaranteed acceptance into medical school and it will take longer to complete than all of the other options listed here. If you have been in the workforce for a while, and you’re looking to get an advance in your career as a plan B option, another bachelors degree just might not be useful as most companies require a masters degree or higher in order to climb up the ladder.

A Masters Degree (or higher)

Obtaining a graduate degree is another viable choice for making yourself a competitive applicant, but unfortunately it is not a common path for pre-medical students. Obtaining a masters degree was the path I chose to take in order to boost my competitiveness as an applicant, and it is what I credit to my acceptance into medical school. Typically it only takes 1-2 years to complete these programs, and a thesis-based program is not required if your only goal is to go onto medical school.

Some non-traditional students are career-changers, so they might already have a graduate degree when they decide to apply to medical school. If the degree is recent, then it may help boost your chances of gaining an acceptance, but in some cases you may still have to have current coursework that will prove your ability to medical schools. Also, if medical school is your main goal, then you will have to seek out programs that do not require the added time of completing a thesis. For non-traditional students who have more advanced graduate degrees, such as a PhD, there are medical schools with pathway programs specifically for non-traditional students of this type, so please do your homework.

So What’s the Best Choice?

Whenever somebody asks me this question, my response is almost always “whatever works best for you.” You have to decide how much money and time you want to invest in pursuing an alternate path, and it will also be important to take into account your current lifestyle. Ultimately, the decision rests on you, but I hope this post will help you make the most informative decision. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Night to Remember!

Getting ready for Jay-Z and Beyoncè!
Last night was epic! If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you already know that I crossed out attending the Essence Music Festival from my bucket list, and I added the Jay-Z and Beyoncé “On the Run Tour” in its place. The switch was definitely worth it!!!!

I was going for a '70s retro look

Since one of my sisters lives less than an hour away from me and I hadn’t seen her in a while, I went ahead and brought her along. We were dressed to kill and ready to party LOL! Being that I’m a huge fan of Jay-Z, I don’t have to tell you that I was super hyped whenever he was on stage. Beyoncé did her thing as well and didn’t disappoint! These two definitely know how to perform and put on a show, and I really got my money’s worth.

Having fun with my little sis!

Outside of the show, the highlight for me was having Kandi Burruss walk right past me, along with her husband Todd, daughter, and a few other known friends. The Real Housewives of Atlanta were definitely in the building, and they were literally sitting only a few rows in front of me. I even spotted Miss Lawrence for those of you who are familiar with the show.

Real Housewives of Atlanta in the building!

But all-in-all I had a wonderful time, and was glad I had the opportunity to experience such an awesome show. This was my last final splurge before starting medical school, and now I’m ready to buckle down and enter the world of medicine. Only one more month to go!

Here are some more pics from the show:

The On the Run Tour was awesome!

Beyoncè killed it!

The smaller stage was next to me so I got a few good pics :-)

The final part of the concert

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Pre-Meds: Don’t Get Taken Advantage of!

Finding a good mentor shouldn't cost an arm and a leg

Lately, I have been receiving a ton of e-mails from individuals/companies wanting me to list them as a resource for pre-medical students. Most of these resources have a fee attached to them, so I typically decline and keep it moving. One message I received recently involved mentoring services for pre-medical students at a price between $20-40 per hour, and I felt compelled to write this post.

If you are currently a pre-medical student, there is absolutely no need to pay anyone to help mentor you in your journey to becoming a physician. Mentors can be found for free all around you. There are professors, current medical students, pre-medical forums on the internet, and a multitude of other free resources. While I don’t knock these services if you have the money to blow on them, if you’re anything like me, then these services can be a huge financial burden. I have made posts regarding ways to obtain help with the medical school process in the past, but here is a brief recap:

Help with Personal Statements

One of the greatest resources you can use for help with your personal statement, is the forum section of Student Doctor Network. This forum has current medical students, school administration members, and fellow students who are willing to look over, revise, and offer suggestions to improving your personal statement completely FREE OF CHARGE! In my opinion, there is no reason not to take advantage of the resource.

If you are someone who does not want complete strangers to read your personal statement, then there are other options as well. Even if your school does not have a writing center, you could still take your personal statement to any English professor and ask them for help with grammar and such. Also, if you have a physician who you shadow, don’t be afraid to ask them for help in looking over your PS. They can be one of the best resources because they know how the game works. I remember having an ER appointment a few years back, and randomly asking one of the residents if they would take a look at my PS. The person didn’t even hesitate to give me their e-mail address, and they provided great feedback after I sent them my PS.

Finding a Mentor

When it comes to medical school, finding a mentor is not as hard as people like to make it. Again, SDN has many forums where you can ask questions and get advice from current medical students, members of admissions committees, and attending physicians. If you’re applying to osteopathic schools, the AOA went out of its way to make a website dedicated to making physician mentors available to both pre-medical and medical students alike. I previously did a blog post on this, which can be found here. As far as I am aware, a program like this does not exist through the AAMC, but finding a physician mentor can be as simple as looking through a local physician directory and making a few phone calls.

You could also utilize professors as mentors, and contact the medical schools that you’re interested in and set-up an appointment to discuss the ways in which you can become a more competitive applicant. Once you have found a mentor, they can help guide you through the application process and be a source of encouragement. Many individuals will do this for free, so again, I see no point in paying for this.

Put in the Effort

Basically, this post was just my way of saying that I do not promote high-cost companies as a resource to pre-medical students. I was not in a position to afford these companies when I was going through the process, and I do not want my readers to feel that they need to shell out cash in order for their applications to stand out. Even if you do not personally know anyone who can help you with your application, or if you have been out of school a while, all it takes is a little effort to find the help you need. Don’t be afraid to reach out of your comfort zone and find the individuals who can help you achieve your goals. Applying to medical school alone is a very expensive process; Finding the help and support you need shouldn’t be. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Paying for Medical School (Loans, Loans, and More Loans!!!!)

GA-PCOM 2014-2015 Cost of Attendance Breakdown

Attending medical school is expensive! Sure there are public medical schools where the tuition can range from $10-20K per year, but if you’re not lucky enough to get an acceptance or be a resident of the states where these schools are located, you’ll be embarking on a very expensive journey. Most medical schools have tuition in the range of $25-50K, but there are quite a few that have tuition considerably way higher than this. When I was applying last cycle, I encountered a school where the tuition alone was over $80,000! So if you are reading this and planning on applying to medical school, please be aware of the financial commitment that you will be making.

One of the most common questions I get asked when people find out that I will be attending medical school is how I am going to pay for it. My response: loans, loans, and more loans! I do not come from a family that can afford to help pay for my medical education, and as a single parent, I have the added expense of caring for a young child. I also do not plan on working while I am in medical school, because working throughout my undergraduate years took away from time that I could have been focusing on my education. This is literally my last shot to achieve my dreams, and I do not want anything to get in the way of it. If I feel that I can manage school and work down the road, then things might change, but for the first year of school, I’ll be all in.

So to answer the question of paying for medical school, I have taken out subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, along with GradPlus loans to cover the rest. All of my loans are federal loans, and I strongly encourage everyone to avoid private loans at all costs! (I took out a few as an undergraduate, but I’ll save that rant for another post.) I have also applied for a few scholarships, but I won’t know the outcome until later on.

As you can see from the above picture, most schools factor in a “cost of living” that will allow you to take out loans for room and board, supplies, transportation, etc. Basically, once my loans have taken care of tuition and school costs, I will receive a refund each term that will be used to cover my living expenses. This means I will have to carefully budget each term for around three months at a time, but for me, the amount is doable. If you are a fellow non-traditional student with a large family, you will have to take into account what your living expenses will be, and contact the school to see if they can increase your cost of living.

In a nutshell, if you really want to become a physician, do not be discouraged by the price. Federal loans are readily available, and if you’re willing to write a few essays, there are scholarships as well. Thinking about repaying loans can be overwhelming, but there are also a ton of programs that can help you pay down your loans when you graduate and even some that offer loan forgiveness. Also, everyone who I have spoken with has assured me that paying off medical school loans is possible within ten years, but it may require frugal living for a while. If you’re like me, then medical school will probably be the biggest investment that you ever make in life, so I hope this post helped make the decision a little bit easier. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Au Revoir, Louisiana! Hello, Georgia!

Our last night in Louisiana :-)

The past week has been super busy and even more stressful, but I’m back!!!! On Thursday, I said goodbye to life in Louisiana and hello to a new beginning in Georgia.

Last Monday, I moved out of my apartment in Baton Rouge and spent a few days in NOLA. This was supposed to be a relaxing time, but I still had some goodbyes to make and there were a few places that I just had to visit before I left. On my last night in Louisiana, I was super excited because I had the chance to have dinner with Dr. Angela Green and get some last minute advice from her. I love meeting people, and talking to her really reassured me of my ability to do great in medical school. (If you haven’t checked out her Minority Women in Medicine interview yet, then CLICK HERE!)

Over a decade of friendship!

On Thursday morning, I started the drive to Georgia extra early, but I couldn’t leave without seeing a very good friend of mine since childhood. She didn’t even mind that it was six in the morning, LOL. I was back on the road a few minutes after that, and the rest of my drive was fairly smooth until I reached the downtown Atlanta area. I had previously lived close to Atlanta during my high school years, but for some reason I completely forgot about the traffic! It held me up for a bit, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Unfortunately, when I arrived at the house, my S.O. was still an hour and a half behind me with the truck, and he left before me! I had also assumed that the people I knew would be available to help, but that turned out to not work too well since I asked the day before and they had work obligations. I was so tired from the drive that I was just going to move the beds in and worry about the other stuff the next day, but a neighbor saw us struggling and asked to help out. We had everything moved in the house in less than an hour! I was so happy! The best part of the day though was the box of anatomy, pathology, and microbiology flashcards left on the counter for me by the student I am renting from. It definitely got me pumped for school, and I am sure I will be using them frequently.

What better housewarming gift than med school flashcards?!?!

Other than that, the rest of my time here has been pretty peaceful. My internet wasn’t set up until the weekend, so I have not responded to any e-mails, but I will be doing so shortly. My daughter is also happy with the move and adjusting pretty well. We spent the 4th of July shopping, and today I took her to her first dine-in movie theatre. She has been having a blast, and tomorrow she will be going to spend a week or two with her cousins who don’t live too far from me. That will give me enough time to get her registered for school and take care of all the stuff I need to do before classes start. My S.O. had to drive back to NOLA to take care of his mother for the next month or two, so that means I will have the next couple of weeks to myself. I’m looking forward to relaxing and really enjoying the last few weeks I have to really be free. Only a month and a half left to go!

Her first dine-in movie theatre experience

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