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An Engineer...in Med School?


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An Engineer...in Med School?
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MBHockey
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Join Date: May 2005
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2008-02-16, 16:45

Somewhere in the middle of getting my BS in Mechanical Engineering I knew it wasn't for me. I got good grades and all, but knew this wasn't what I wanted to do. With the help of others I decided it'd be best to just stick it out and get the degree. I graduated last May and I'm creeping up on my first full year of work as an engineer and I'm convinced now more than ever that I do not want to pursue a career in engineering.

I have been thinking about going to medical school for the past 3 months or so. I think pursuing a career practicing medicine or doing medical research would be extremely interesting, fulfilling, and important.

Engineering can be all those things -- if that's your "thing". But it's not my thing. I'm glad I rode it out to get the degree and that I tried it for about a year...but i think i've given the major everything I've owed it. So my question is this:

Am I crazy to want to give up this job (which is paying me well above average), with ample opportunity to move up in the company (albeit still doing the same work) to start a medical career essentially from scratch at the age of 23?

I'd have to take a year of bio/chem classes to catch up before even applying to med school (I'm in the process of a correspondence with the pre-med advisor from the school I got my BS from to find out exactly what I'd need to do)...but I think I would genuinely enjoy it.

Right now, it's too early for me to even be leaning one way or another. It seems like a good idea but I will reserve judgement until I have all the information in front of me. But in the interim, i'm curious what you guys think.
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billybobsky
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2008-02-16, 16:58

You have to ask yourself if you actually want to do it. It is recklessly irresponsible to become a physician who doesn't want to be a physician.
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Chinney
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2008-02-16, 17:05

You are not crazy at all. Engineering can be great, I'm sure, if that is your calling, but you seem to have doubts that it is yours. While it can be natural to have career doubts, your seem very strong. You use terms like "convinced now more than ever".

I think you should 'listen to yourself'. If med school seems to be calling you, then I do think you should seriously consider pursuing it, without thinking that you are 'crazy' for doing so. Medicine is obviously a great profession in its own right. We need more good doctors.

Regarding your qualifications, I know there is at least one med school in Canada that is a bit more open than others in terms of science prerequisites. I.e., they let in some students without having all the required courses (some even with general arts degrees), it they otherwise seem to have what it takes (they rely a lot on interviews, overall academic results, and other testing). I don't know if there are med schools like that in the U.S., but it might be worth checking out.

Good luck, hockey guy.

When there's an eel in the lake that's as long as a snake that's a moray.
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JohnnyTheA
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Join Date: Feb 2005
 
2008-02-16, 17:25

Quote:
Originally Posted by MBHockey View Post
Am I crazy to want to give up this job (which is paying me well above average), with ample opportunity to move up in the company (albeit still doing the same work) to start a medical career essentially from scratch at the age of 23?
If you are not married and don't have kids (i.e. no responsibility to anyone other than yourself) then its the BEST time to consider changing directions. The world is full of people that are stuck in what they do because they have mouths to feed. For them, the family becomes their focus so its not such a sad thing, but for you, you should consider everything. Why not?

Quote:
I'd have to take a year of bio/chem classes to catch up before even applying to med school (I'm in the process of a correspondence with the pre-med advisor from the school I got my BS from to find out exactly what I'd need to do)...but I think I would genuinely enjoy it.
Chances are the bio/chem will not be as hard as your Engineering classes were. Well, I have heard horror stories about Organic Chem.. I think most of the pre-med and med courses focus on LOTS of memorization rather than analytical skills. You cram lots of material in your head. You should do fine. Its the Humanities people that have trouble if they try to switch over..

Put it this way, if you decide mid-way, you don't want to go through with it, you can go back to Engineering. The nice thing about an engineering degree is that it sets you up for all kinds of jobs. While the job you have now may not be to your liking, you might be able to get a job in something else that requires the Eng degree but is totally different. I know people who got BSEE's and they went all kinds of different directions (circuit design, testing, QA, sales, management, etc....). You might even find opportunities in places where they want engineers with more Bio/Chem courses... Who knows?

JTA
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Windswept
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2008-02-16, 17:59

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyTheA View Post
Its the Humanities people that have trouble if they try to switch over..




Hey, thanks, Johnny.
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tomoe
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2008-02-16, 18:06

My buddy did EE/CS for his undergrad, applied to both med school & grad school, got into his top choices for either path, but ended up taking the latter. I don't think you'll have any trouble. O-chem is actually a lot of fun, a lot easier (at least for me) than those obnoxious intro bio classes where you have to memorize a shit ton of information. At least chem & engineering have rules..biology often strikes me as anarchy.

Seen a man standin' over a dead dog lyin' by the highway in a ditch
He's lookin' down kinda puzzled pokin' that dog with a stick
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Windswept
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2008-02-16, 18:11

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomoe View Post
At least chem & engineering have rules..biology often strikes me as anarchy.


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Partial
Stallion
 
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2008-02-16, 18:12

If you're willing to put in the work and take it very seriously, than yes it'd be worth it. Keep in mind if it takes you two years to do course work, you still have 7 years including residency. However, you'll make plenty of money eventually in anything that you do if you love it, so I wouldn't worry too much about that. Most importantly I would make sure it whats you really want to do because it is a huge financial commitment and it isn't for everyone.

...and calling/e-mailing/texting ex-girlfriends on the off-chance they'll invite you over for some "old time's sake" no-strings couch gymnastics...
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Windswept
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2008-02-16, 18:48

I think it would be wise to seek out as much information as you can about the satisfaction that doctors have wrt their careers.

I bet such info is hard to find, because no one likes to publicize the fact that people who have worked so long and hard, and spent such vast sums of money, to have a career, turn out not to be very happy in their occupation.

I don't know if you ever saw the movie 'Gross Anatomy'. It's about various people in their first year of medical school. On their first day, in a welcoming lecture, the doctor on stage has words written on a blackboard: "divorce, depression, alcoholism, addiction, suicide". She says to the assembled students, the profession you are about to enter has the highest rates of these life problems.

I imagine that might be true, but if it is, the rest of us hardly ever, or even 'never', hear about it, do we? But, if there *is* information available about doctors' unhappiness in their profession, I think it would be wise for you to seek it out at this juncture in your thoughts of a career change. At least you will be able to give consideration to any negative information you might find, and will be able to make your decision fully informed.

I seriously thought about applying to med school, and then asked myself if I wanted to spend the rest of my life looking at other people's hemorrhoids.

One thing I notice at my doctors' offices is that they seem under a lot of stress, and I get the feeling that they spend a lot of time worrying about lawsuits, or rather, making patient treatment decisions partly based on avoiding any possibility of lawsuits.

I don't have a doctor friend that I could ask about such things, but think that all these issues would be worth looking into.
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Sauvblanc
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2008-02-16, 19:16

FWIW, the woman in my lab who helps me out with experiments has a BA in theater, and she's been accepted into a couple of med schools. Having worked with her I find this prospect spectacularly frightening. She has zero science background. She could be a great physician for all I know. But I really think that a theater major does not give you the problem-solving skills that scientists and engineers draw on so heavily and are a real asset in medicine. Another guy I worked with, a MD from Australia, was previously working as an engineer before he went to med school.
I've worked with MD's from a variety of specalties. I think the key thing is finding an area of medicine you really like, everything else is gravy. As long as you enjoy what you're doing it will make all the hard work seem worth it.

Specialists are people who know more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing. Generalists are people who know less and less about more and more until they know nothing about everything. I'm somewhere in the middle.
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MBHockey
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2008-02-16, 20:33

Quote:
Originally Posted by billybobsky View Post
You have to ask yourself if you actually want to do it. It is recklessly irresponsible to become a physician who doesn't want to be a physician.
Couldn't agree more. This is why I'm giving this months of thought.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnnyTheA View Post
If you are not married and don't have kids (i.e. no responsibility to anyone other than yourself) then its the BEST time to consider changing directions. The world is full of people that are stuck in what they do because they have mouths to feed. For them, the family becomes their focus so its not such a sad thing, but for you, you should consider everything. Why not?

I thought about this fact. And yes, I have zero obligations. I'm as free as a bird and only about a year out of school, so I figure this is the best time to make such a decision.

Chances are the bio/chem will not be as hard as your Engineering classes were. Well, I have heard horror stories about Organic Chem.. I think most of the pre-med and med courses focus on LOTS of memorization rather than analytical skills. You cram lots of material in your head. You should do fine. Its the Humanities people that have trouble if they try to switch over..
I thought about this fact. And yes, I have zero obligations. I'm as free as a bird and only about a year out of school, so I figure this is the best time to make such a decision. I also think pre-med classes wouldn't be as difficult as my partial differential equations and fluid dynamics classes


Quote:
Originally Posted by tomoe View Post
My buddy did EE/CS for his undergrad, applied to both med school & grad school, got into his top choices for either path, but ended up taking the latter. I don't think you'll have any trouble. O-chem is actually a lot of fun, a lot easier (at least for me) than those obnoxious intro bio classes where you have to memorize a shit ton of information. At least chem & engineering have rules..biology often strikes me as anarchy.
Haha. I'm sure i would enjoy organic chemistry -- I was a chemistry major my first year of college prior to switching to ME. I absolutely LOVED inorganic chemistry (I know they're quite different areas of study...but it's still chemistry).

Quote:
Originally Posted by tensdanny38 View Post
If you're willing to put in the work and take it very seriously, than yes it'd be worth it. Keep in mind if it takes you two years to do course work, you still have 7 years including residency. However, you'll make plenty of money eventually in anything that you do if you love it, so I wouldn't worry too much about that. Most importantly I would make sure it whats you really want to do because it is a huge financial commitment and it isn't for everyone.
Yeah -- HUGE financial committment. I probably won't see a real paycheck again until I'm 30. But i'm pretty satisfied with the lesser things in life (aside from my iPhone <3).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Windswept View Post

I seriously thought about applying to med school, and then asked myself if I wanted to spend the rest of my life looking at other people's hemorrhoids.

One thing I notice at my doctors' offices is that they seem under a lot of stress, and I get the feeling that they spend a lot of time worrying about lawsuits, or rather, making patient treatment decisions partly based on avoiding any possibility of lawsuits.

I don't have a doctor friend that I could ask about such things, but think that all these issues would be worth looking into.
Yeah, I don't plan on being a proctologist . I'm sure they worry more about how they are going to pay their malpractice insurance every year rather than getting sued. I met a guy in NYC a few months ago when I was in town who was a doctor and pays $180,000 a year in malpractice insurance.
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joveblue
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2008-02-16, 20:54

Are you sure med school is actually your calling? You must have thought this about Eng before you started doing it, so what makes you feel differently about Med?

Not saying don't do it, but, it would be a big huge waste if you went down that path and decided it wasn't worth it.
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tomoe
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2008-02-16, 20:59

Though, if the med school thing were to not pan out, the combination of both an engineering and medical background would place one in a good position to be a patent agent...</not trying to prove a point, I'm just sayin'>

Seen a man standin' over a dead dog lyin' by the highway in a ditch
He's lookin' down kinda puzzled pokin' that dog with a stick
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MBHockey
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Location: New York
 
2008-02-16, 21:56

My current job is with patents -- I wouldn't want to be a patent agent. You'd want to go to law school if you were going to go down that road.

Joveblue, there's a few reasons why I think going into medicine would be good for me:

1) Aside from possibly the cosmos, nothing fascinates me more than the human body -- specifically how organs function at the cellular level.

2) I liked my engineering classes, but I loved chemistry and biology. I decided to go with engineering because in high school I did well in a bridge design contest and won a butt load of money and a laptop so i figured that was my calling.

3) It would be fundamentally more fulfilling than engineering, where most of the big paying jobs are DoD contractors (especially now) or other design work which is so stifled by established codes that it shouldn't even be called "design". Of course, it makes it safer -- but it's certainly a trade-off.
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Koodari
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2008-02-17, 00:35

I recall someone enrolling in my school to begin (six-year on average) studies in architecture at 28. You're 23. I don't even have my BS together yet at 25. No matter how old you feel, someone out there always feels they're older.

If you do medical research, you can be both a doctor and an engineer. One of my neighbors started with med school when his CS degree was just about done (he finished that on schedule too). I understand he now works in genetics research. Neither of his degrees were wasted. Someone needs to design, test and evaluate mechanical medical implements too.

With the background of already having a degree and having done "real" work, if you need to, I'm sure you can find odd jobs that pay decently in the middle of med school. Medical industry is very concerned with patents and even if you do not want to work directly with patents, there is a need for people (e.g. leading research teams) who know enough to communicate with the specialists, the law guys, who actually handle the patents.

But really, it sounds to me like you possess all the answers already. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks.
Quote:
Ayn Rand: The Fountainhead

"You've made a mistake already. By asking me. By asking anyone. Never ask people. Not about your work. Don't you know what you want?"
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MBHockey
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2008-02-17, 08:57

Ah, I love the howard roark quote. He is my hero. I actually just got done reading that...what a coincidence!
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Dorian Gray
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2008-02-17, 09:03

I wouldn't worry at all about starting a long course of study at age 23. However you're right to spend some time mulling this over, because medical school is a lot of work, and you'll not make it through the entire course on an initial flash of motivation.

Good to see another Uomo Universale. I did physics, mathematics and more mathematics at A-level, only to go read law at university. I find it impossible to declare my exclusive allegiance to any particular area of study (well, er, let's rule out chemistry!). It's all good.

… engrossed in such factional acts as dreaming different dreams.
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curiousuburb
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2008-02-17, 10:01

I recall stories a few years ago about crossover talents in a serendipitous way...

Knowledge from a completely different field allowed him to revolutionize tool making for medicine.

Leonard Lee

Sometimes a blended skillset allows you to see solutions that one-track training doesn't reveal.

Perhaps your ME background would make you a better MD?

All those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.
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LudwigVan
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2008-02-17, 13:20

Yeah, interdisciplinary research and knowledge is all the rage in academe these days. I'm sure it's a plus in industry and commerce as well.
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MBHockey
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2008-02-18, 07:58

I sure hope so curiousuburb!

I spoke with a few of my aunts today. Two were nurses, and the other works as a nurse for a cardiologist. 2 out of the 3 said it's a good idea, and the one that works for the cardiologist said to think it through.

Her main point was that if we are moving to a more "socialized medicine" (for lack of a better term) then doctor's incomes will drop. I'm not at all convinced that's where we're headed, but it's something to think about. Now I'm not doing this to get rich (although that would certainly be a welcomed surprise)...i just want to be reasonably sure I'd be able to pay off the debt that I will undoubtedly find myself in after med school and be able to make a career out of it without going broke.
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veryamusing
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2008-02-18, 08:50

Have you given any thought to a specialty, or do you think you'll go down the general practitioner route?

If I thought I could hack the required courses for entrance into medical school, I'd do it in a heartbeat. There's nothing so fascinating as the human body.
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MBHockey
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2008-02-18, 19:38

I haven't thought of a specialty, it's way too soon for that. But possibly something with bones (ie, orthopedist) would be in order because of my structural engineering background. But who knows!
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apple007
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2008-02-18, 21:57

I just read the thread quickly and maybe I missed it, but how do the finances look? Are you still paying off the engineering degree? Are you banking (i.e., saving) good money from the current job?

If the answer is "yes" to either of these, especially the former, I'd say ride it out for a year and reevaluate. A little burnout is natural after finishing college and heading out into the "real" world. This might be a temporary urge, and/or might be cured with a change of scenery within the engineering profession.

In any event, good luck.
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MBHockey
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2008-02-19, 06:08

I have saved a good chunk from this job. I have absolutely zero debt (my parents paid my way through undergraduate). So, all the money I don't spend on rent (which is SO much down here in the DC area) and food I have in my savings account.
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MBHockey
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2008-03-02, 20:24

So I've been doing my homework the past few couple of weeks. I need to take at least three (but I'd probably take a couple more) semester-long classes to catch up on pre-requisites.

I would take the MCATS around Feb-March of '09 and apply to med school in June '09 for admission in Fall 2010.

I'm definitely considering it very heavily. I've been trying to contact as many people "in the know" as I can. Pre-med advisors, actual doctors, people wiser than me that can offer some life advice, etc.

By April 15th, I want to have a decision. By that time i'll have figured out which university I'd be taking my "catch up" classes at. I'll have everything ready to go and then make the decision. If i go through with it that would mean moving back to New York (yay!) but back in with my parents (ehh). I'd likely volunteer at this children's hospital that is about 20 minutes from my house and try to get involved in being a research assistance (bitch).

When all is said and done, I would be a legitimate doctor around 6 years from today. Sounds long, but time has a way of passing quickly even if it feels like it's moving slowly.

So we'll see.
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apple007
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2008-03-02, 20:59

I guess I misunderstood part of this scenario ... You're going to quit the current (apparently well-paying) job in order to take the three catch-up classes, etc.? I thought the catch-up part of the equation was going to be done while you were still working the day job, e.g., by taking night and/or weekend classes.

Personally, I'd try to wade into this move as opposed to diving headfirst. In particular, I'd try to bank as much money as possible before quitting my job and heading back to school on a full-time basis. (Either way, good luck.)
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MBHockey
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2008-03-03, 06:14

well it's more like 6-7 classes (of which only 3 are required, but the rest are needed to "look good").

I'll also need to volunteer and do research. The thing with staying at my job is there is no job security at the moment. For the first two years you are a probationary employee and they can come in and fire you with no notice at the end of the week. It's already happened to 2 people I know within the 15 people that started at the same time with me.

I'd like to avoid a potentially horrible scenario where I'm in the middle of a 12-month lease and in the middle of classes and get laid off. It's not that I think I deserve to get fired, it's just the reasons they cited for laying off the other two people were flaky at best. Seeing how mercurial they are with these administrative decisions makes me think it might be best to go for these classes and volunteer work full steam instead of trying to cram it in and squeeze a few thousand more dollars (net) out of them when there's no guarantee that I'll have a job there in 6 months.

I've weighed the positives and negatives heavily and this is what I've come to this far. I'd love to hear other input.
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apple007
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2008-03-03, 17:20

Okay, but a Fall 2010 start date for med school would give you three or four semesters (counting summer sessions) to get 6-7 classes and the research done.

To me, it sounds like you're looking to get away from your current job as much as you want to attend med school. I certainly understand wanting a career change and all that, but the only thing worse than being stuck in a job you don't like would be to completely quit said job to return to school, only to decide that 6-7 more years of school just isn't the great idea it seemed like. That's why I recommended a slower transition as opposed to the all-in move.

Again, just my two cents' worth. Feel free to request a refund.
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Capella
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2008-03-03, 17:33

I think that you're in a good spot, age-wise, financially-wise, commitment-wise, to go ahead and change to med school, especially if you really think you won't be happy as an engineer. I think apple007 is right that it might be a good idea to take the required classes at night/on weekends and try to work while doing the classes. Maybe you shouldn't stay at your current job, especially if you run the risk of spontaneously being laid off, but then you should try to find another temp job you can work at to earn side money while you're schooling. Any bit you can earn towards living expenses or even some of the tuition helps!

"A blind, deaf, comatose, lobotomy patient could feel my anger!" - Darth Baras
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MBHockey
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2008-03-04, 06:15

Oh absolutely. With going home to take courses I would be finding some odd-job to lessen the hit on my savings (which won't be much, though, because my parents are awesome).
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