14 January 2009

Buying time

Time is money and not just in an abstract way. During the medical school admission process, if you want more time to think and decide, it costs you money. Holding my spot in the MD program until the end of the admission season cost me a $50 deposit. Holding a spot in the DO program for 30 more days cost me a $500 deposit. If I want more time after that, it will be another $1500 (this part is refundable until June).

Why am I interested in buying time instead of just making up my mind? Well, right around the time I was hitting the decision point, I got an invitation to interview at my top choice school. I know that doesn't eliminate the possibility of ending up at another institution and needing to make the choice, especially since it is likely I won't hear back from the top choice by the time the next deposit is due, but it took a lot of the pressure off and my preference between the two has actually swung back the other direction.

Funny enough, purchasing this education is approximately as expensive as buying a house but is way more stressful to me. I don't actually mind ending up in a house that isn't perfect, good enough is usually the only thing in our price range and we have some skills to help make a place more suitable for our needs. This flexibility is assisted by knowing that we aren't going to stay for the next 50 years, maybe just 4-6 years. It is also assisted by being able to get at least some of my money back (maybe more) when I leave. If medical school felt more like a short-term investment that I could recoup my costs in 4-6 years, I would probably just make a choice and move on. But realistically, education is a mortgage I'm going to have to pay in full and it is difficult to estimate when I might be able to see a cash return on my investment. When is my bank account going to return to current levels? When is there going to be enough money to support an increased lifestyle? How do I know whether spending extra $$ now will result in a bigger or faster return on my investment? We have a financial planner to help with these kinds of questions for our overall and retirement planning, I guess I just need one for medical school too.

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