Friday, January 16, 2009

Air Force HPSP

I thought I'd write this post to explain what the HPSP is all about. I know when I was applying to school and started to look at the high costs of dental education, I supplemented my time researching schools with looking at ways to pay for school. HPSP stands for Health Professions Scholarship Program which is offered by three branches of military which are the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Now there are many ways to get people or organizations to pay for your dental education. There are people in my class who come from undersearved states where their education is being payed for with the agreement that the student comes back to the state to practice for a given length of time. A popular rout in the south west is IHS, or Indian Health Services. Similar to many programs, the IHS trades tuition reimbersment for working on the reservation. I know that the National Guard also offers a tuition reimbersment to dental students who sign with them. There are many ways in which you can have your dental education expenses paid for other than out of your own pocket, these are the methods I am most familiar with. Of course, if you were one of those super applicants, you can always receive some sort of scholarship from the school to soften the blows.

I decided that I would apply for the Air Force HPSP. There are two ways to obtain the scholarship. First, you can be "matrix qualified" as an applicant which means you have a DAT score of greater than or equal to a 19 with a GPA of at or above a 3.5. I fell slightly short of the DAT qualification with an 18 so I was not qualified thus I had to go through the pleasant application process. I also applied to the Navy HPSP as a back up in case my Air Force application was denied. The good part about the Navy is they offer a $20k sign on bonus where the Air Force does not. I am no too fond of spending time out at sea so I pushed Air Force a little harder. Being on a ship might be cool for a week or so, but after several months I think it would become pretty old.

To make a long story short, The application process consisted of me jumping through hoops, and dancing around in a monkey suit. I finally got the call from my recruiter that I was in. I was so excited to get the scholarship I bought myself a new bike (a Felt F1 for all you bike people).

Now the scholarship pays for my tuition and school related expenses (to a degree) as well as pays me a stipend of just under 2k a month. This will all start next year as I have a 3 year contract. There are a lot of details to the contract but the bare bones of it all is that they pay 3 years, I work for them at an Air Force base for 3 years. I've always been interested in the military, afterall who wouldn't want to be surrounded by all the cool stuff on a military base. All I need to do is find out how I can get my hands on one of those F-16s.

Here I am just after getting sworn in by Col. Terry. He runs the dental clinic at Luke AFB. I have sworn to protect this country from enemies foreign and domestic, so if you do anything suspicious, it's my duty to split your lip.

Here is my "coin". I received this from my recruiter the day I was sworn in. I call it my "butter bar". This is the symbol for a 2nd Lieutenant. I am now a 2nd Lt and will be promoted to a captain after I graduate dental school. I really don't know what all of this means, military people tell me that it means people will have to salute me. As long as my school gets paid for, people can call me whatever they want. I guess there is a coin tradition within the AF. If you challenge someone to a "coin challenge" and they fail to present a AF coin, then they have to buy you a drink. You know you've made it in this life when you get to carry a butter bar coin around to win free drinks all day.


jon & kara said...

Such a smart move, I'm so glad we decided to go the air force route. But that 20grand would have been pretty sweet too.

Clark and Stefanie said...

congrats! this is very exciting. i hope clark can do something like that too. school is so expensive!

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see your posts 5 years from now when you regret your decision to join the AF - I sure do -

You won't think I am writing the truth, but half way through your pay back - you will wonder what the hell you were thinking when you signed up - GET OUT now if you still can.
Take out the loans and pay for school. After you graduate school and you still want to serve - sign up for the FAP - you will have more say in your assignments, etc

HPSP grads have the lowest priority in assignments, deployments, etc because they have you by the balls.

You should also read your contract – you will owe 3 years active and then 5 more in the individual ready reserve. I was commissioned July 1997 under HPSP – and will not be able to resign my commission until July 2014. – Funny how that time frame is not detailed in the contract but rather buried.

By the way, they give out those coins like beads at mardi gras – I have about 10 of them.

Jon said...

Thanks for the comments Mr. Anonymous. I have family members as well as friends who have done HPSP and have enjoyed their experience and recommended it to me. I trust their judgment. I am sorry you didn't enjoy your experience but I'm not worried about it in the least. You are right, I have not yet done my payback with the Airforce but if it is less than enjoyable, the experience will be temporary and I have accomplished many difficult things in life, I'm sure I can do this. I have read my contract carefully and understand the fine print. Good luck with your dental endeavors!

Christi W said...

I just found your blog while searching for the AFIT website and enjoy reading about the perspective of a student at another school. I'm a 4-year AF HPSP student at University of TX San Antonio between DS2 and DS3. This month I'm doing an oral surgery rotation (it's so fun to finally be in clinic!) and studying for boards. Best of luck with your board studying.

dazules said...

I was wondering if you could expand on this post. I will be applying to dental school after I graduate this May and the air force has always been in the back of my mind due to financhial reasons. What kind of training did you have to go through? How long? Are there any females that you know of in this program?

I'm afraid to speak to a recruiter in case they'll say anything to get me to join. Thought it would be better to ask someone who isn't actively recruiting! Thanks in advance.

Jon said...

Dazules, To answer your first question about training, I have not done any military training yet. I will not have to do any training until graduation. After graduation, I will go to COT (commissioned officer training) for about 5 weeks or so. After my training, I will then go to my assigned AF base. There are not any females in my class that are on the air force scholarship although there are a few who are doing the same program through the Navy. If you want to talk to AF dentists, I would get on and look at the military dentist forum and look for some answers there from some dentists who are already practicing. So far it's been a great program.