Ahhhh, the sweet smell of an acceptance envelope, or phone call or email and the happy man or woman that accompanies it:) B was fortunate to have several options on the table and I was fortunate to take many trips to check them all out! In fact, I believe B declared intent the day before the deadline. Surprising but true considering we are both “J”s on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. (Communication–nerd reference! High five!) Which leads me to…
Take a second look! Many schools offer a “second look” or a visit weekend where the med student can come back, talk to faculty, meet other acceptees, blah, blah, blah. But YOU get to explore the town! Check out the parks, the shopping, the restaurants, maybe some places to live. Oh, and if there is some sort of social gathering or something, you might want to go. These people will likely turn out to be your friends too.
Living arrangements. Be sure to check out housing options in the area. What are your options? Are you in a place where are ready to buy? What are the transportation options for getting to school? Do you want to be a hop, skip and a jump away or further so you have your own space? What neighborhoods are the best options for you? Safest, entertainment options, close to grocery stores, etc. Knowing that we were planting our feet for at least four years, we decided to buy a condo. It worked out to be about the same price or less per month than rent. We called a realtor and flew up for a whirlwind day of condo-shopping. The money spent on that trip was money well-spent as we knew we had our living arrangements secured far in advance.
Crunch them numbers. Oh, Lawd. This was my least favorite part of the process to date. It entailed two of my least favorite things: calculators and tears. A lot of tears on my behalf. “How much money with interest over the life of the loan?!?!?” Listen, it’s expensive. There will be debt. We tried to work out as realistic budget as we possibly could with the information we had. We were brutally honest. I negotiated for continuing to buy local and organic produce and hair cuts at a nice salon every 8 weeks . But you have to make concessions. I gave up J Crew splurges, Starbucks runs and I cut back on my iTunes downloads. We also agreed to dramatically cut back on the number of flights we would take a year. Our short list included schools that were within driving (albeit loooong driving) distance of home. Two people in a car and generally cheaper than two people on a plane. You get the drift; what can you do without being detrimental to your quality of life. Figure out a reasonable budget and cross-analyze it with the amount in loans you will need over the span of four years. Figure out if you can make it work and where.
Make a list of pros and cons. There were a lot of these lists floating around during the decision making process as well. Financially, socially, culturally, academically: what fits? However, just because one school has more tally marks than another doesn’t mean it’s the winner. Discuss how much weight you want to place on various aspects.
Converse, debate, yell, whatever. Take the time to talk through a host of scenarios, concerns, excitements. Then decide. We ended up just flipping a coin and calling it a day. Kidding! But the second look we took did finalize our decision.