blank'/> A LITTLE BIT OF LACQUER: Med School Random Topics

August 7, 2014

Med School Random Topics

Hello everyone!! I get asked tons of questions from you all about med school, many of which inspire my posts, but sometimes there are questions I just feel like I don’t know enough about (or have experience with) to address properly.

Today I thought I’d do a post addressing 5 of those questions, in a much shorter format that hopefully may help some of you. Again, these aren’t things I’m any type of expert on (not in the nearest), but if my experience can help even one of you then it was worth it!

Before we start- here’s a quick list of some of the medical school-related topics I’ve addressed already in full posts:




So now let’s jump into some of the topics!

1. financing medical school - financing childcare - financing a wedding
I get questions related to this so SO often and have never addressed it because I probably have the worst advice ever. So I’m warning you, if you want to be financially responsible you should probably scroll past this topic to the next one and listen to your financial aid advisor. Still reading? Alriiggghtt...

I’ll start by saying I went to undergrad on a full ride (full scholarship) so have absolutely no debt from college. But for medical school, the truth is that you cannot work while in school (some people do during first year), so loans are where all of my money comes from. I was lucky in that I was awarded large scholarships from my undergrad and from Harvard, but everything else is allll loans. I’m looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay back when I’m done. Paying for a nanny? Loan money. Paying for our low-budget wedding? Loan money and my parents. Just keeping it real.

At the end of the day though, none of us are going to be struggling once we’re doctors. One of my mentors gave me some of the best advice for those of us already in medical school - right now you might not have the money but you have the time, later when you have the money you might not have the time - so don’t put things off because of the money. Maybe not the best advice for everyone (and my financial aid advisor would not approve) but I liked it.

2. mcat
The MCAT was actually the weakest part of my medical school application so I’ve never felt like I should be giving advice on it - I scored a 30 (not bad, but by no means fantastic either) and wasn’t sure how much better I’d do re-taking it - so I didn’t. I would say take the test once you’ve completed all of your pre-reqs (I took it with only one semester of physics and that was definitely my weak area). The best time to take the MCAT is the early spring of your junior year so you can have your score back before the summer and apply right when applications open (if you're going straight through from undergrad). I used ExamKrackers and really liked the format - if I did it again I’d consider the review courses that a lot of my classmates used, but honestly I didn’t have the time while being a full-time student and working in lab, a medical office, etc. An important thing not to forget in your mcat prep is practice questions and tests!! This will apply to all of the standardized tests you take throughout your medical career - practice questions like it's your job. I discuss some more pointers in my post on applying to med school.

3. reapplying after getting rejected
I was blessed in that I only had to apply once, but for lots of this stuff it’s such a crapshoot that great applicants are having to re-apply after taking some time off all the time. I can’t really give too much advice on the subject, but I would say that if you want to reapply, make sure you spend your time off improving your application - if you need to re-take your mcat, re-take it and kill it. If you can, find a position in a research lab and try to get something published. If you have free time shadow some physicians and really confirm that you want to pursue medicine - it will help reassure you and can provide experiences to write about in your new and improved personal statement.

4. volunteer abroad trips
I never did any of these for a few reasons - the biggest one though, was that growing up in an incredibly underserved area I always knew that I wanted to do outreach work, but I wanted to do it here. I volunteered as a medical assistant and counselor in a family planning clinic and worked with spanish-speaking women who received free care. I also just didn’t have parents who could pay for me to fly to some country and work for free (or pay to volunteer). I’d say if you can and want to participate in one of these programs, though, make sure it’s through a well-established program that actually has a constant presence in whatever country it is. A lot of the people interested in global health here at HMS do work with Partners in Health.

5. couples match
We’re just getting to know this baby and we actually are going to have an, uhhhh,  interesting time applying for residency. There is such thing as a couples match so that a couple applying to residency at the same time can rank their lists the way they want to to stay together. Unfortunately for us N has decided he wants to go into ophthalmology (which is a really cool specialty), a specialty that for some reason has an early match, which means we can’t couples match - n will have to rank his list before I’ve even interviewed at places. We’ll figure it out but we definitely have a bit of a unique situation.

I hope this was a little bit helpful to some of you! As always leave questions or comments in the comments below - even though I no longer have the time to reply to every comment I promise I read each and every one and still get excited about each one. So keep them coming! 


  1. love your blog. I was wondering if you have any advice for someone who really wants to go to med school but does have a lot of debt from undergrad school and a masters already? is it still doable to go to med school coming in with 70-80k in loans?

    1. As I said above, I would take any of my financial advice with a grain of salt, but if you really wanted to go to medical school I wouldn't let previous educational debt hold you back. Anything is "doable." It will come down to how much debt you're comfortable dealing with when it all adds up. There is lots of great financial aid out there, though, as well as loan forgiveness programs depending on what residency/specialty you go into, so keep that in mind!

    2. I'm not in medical school, I'm in dental school but I would definitely agree with Laura. I was also fortunate enough to have a majority of my college paid for because I worked full time during undergrad and had scholarships, but plenty of my classmates have debt. If you are worried about it,you could possibly work first, but I love what Laura's advisor said about time vs. money. Maybe it's better to be focused on the bigger picture. Excellent post Laura

  2. I am not in medical school nor ever thinking about it, but I always enjoy your posts. It's so interesting reading a different perspective of school! And as someone who has both undergrad and graduate student loans to pay for and is now thinking about going back to get certified to teach school... I appreciated the loan question. Although teachers are in a different ballpark than doctors when it comes to salaries ;-)

  3. I appreciate how you use your blog to inspire others who would like to follow your path and attend med school. Very inspirational! Your genuineness and honesty shine through in your posts. Like your MCAT score, my GRE score was the weakest part of my graduate school application, but I got in and progressed through my PhD program in clinical psychology successfully! It is so important to share this information so that others are not discouraged from applying!


  4. Laura, I'm crossing my fingers (and toes), and sending a little prayer for N and you to end up at the same place/ or city for residency! It must be a very anxious period, but I have a good feeling it's going to work out. <3 <3

  5. Love your blog and thank you for all the med school advice! I also absolutely love the reason behind the name "a little bit of lacquer"! Good Luck on residency placements :)

    Lots of love from a pre-med hopeful! xoxo

  6. Hey Laura,

    I just found your blog a few days ago & LOVE it! I am currently an undergrad (nutrition science) pre-med & I honestly believe that God lead me to your blog to motivate me. I'm a minority student dreaming of going to Harvard med, hoping to start a family one day, & loving all things dealing w/ photography & fashion! I blog as well & you are such an inspiration to me!

    Anywho, I've shadowed several doctors over these past two years & i KNOW that this career is for me. I love every aspect of medicine; however this past year was extremely difficult for me. I hate to say it but I allowed for a lot of things going on in my life to distract me & ended up making bad grades. I went from being nearly a straight A student to having a low GPA, which is so worrying to me because I know that grades are so important! I know I can't gain that year back, but I was thinking of going into a postbacc program after I graduate to strengthen my application.

    Do you know any doctors that overcame obstacles or had similar experiences before being accepted into med school? These days they make it seem like you can't make any mistakes/ you have to be absolutely perfect to get into med school, which can be discouraging & makes it hard to keep faith but I won't give up!

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! One bad year is certainly not the end of the world! Was it your junior or senior year? Have you completed med school prereqs? I'd say if the bad grades were in pre-reqs (or if you'll graduate without having finished pre-reqs), most definitely do a postbacc program (N did one and has nothing but good things to say about his). If you still have some school left finish strong and just make sure the rest of your application is strong! You can definitely do it if you want to!!

  7. I'm not at the stage where I am close to applying for med school, but thinking about it makes me have a mini panic attack. I'm terrified of getting rejected, and the cost, and if I'll be able to afford it. I'm glad I found your blog because I needed to real about it with someone who's gone through it. I'm hoping that by the end of this road, I'll be a obstetrician.

  8. I'm not even in med school, but I can still appreciate this post (as loans are also financing my entire life right now) ... i also always find it admirable how driven you and N are. You guys are the cutest couple :)

  9. You should do a post on post bacc programs! (Maybe have N as a guest?!) it would be wonderful to hear about them!

  10. Laura, thank you so much for taking the time to do this! I just entered med school, and I especially loved your advice about keeping med school finances in perspective. I know you've talked about study tips before, but I was wondering if you have any advice on how to handle the sheer volume of information that is taught every day? I'm trying my best to stay on top of my studying, but I feel like I end up not completely absorbing what's taught during the huge chunks of lecture time.

  11. Very helpful, very real. Thank you! And congrats on the Scott party of 3 business - such an inspiring couple!

  12. Did you take out only Stafford loans or did you get a combination of federal and private loans to pay for medical school.. I am currently pre med (I know I have a long way to go) but my husbands most frequent questions is how will we afford med school for me while taking care of our two boys.. sorry I ramble a lot .. my question is

    did you only use financial aid federal loans or did you take out private loans as well??

  13. Good for you! I love seeing other bloggers who are in the health profession. Also, congrats to N on his ophthalmology interviews- I'm a bit biased being in the field as well, but he will love it!

    Xo, Ava

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  16. just read the part about financing and couldn't have read this at a better time. i'm applying for internships and a lot of them are unpaid...which means i might have to use loans for living expenses. was it an easy decision to go ahead and use the student loans for living expenses? how did you manage? having to take out more loans and just thinking about living an entire year without getting paid is giving me tons of anxiety. any advice would be much appreciated!

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