By: Alessandra Santiago
A very important—but infrequently discussed—component of applying to medical schools is how much that process costs. With so many purchases both large and small on the way to applying, it’s a good idea to have an estimate of what you might expect to spend. As you go along, you may find that your costs differ from what we estimate the cost to be, so keep in mind that this is merely a budgeting exercise and not gospel.
To begin, let’s take a look at the costs associated with applying through AMCAS itself. Registering for an account is free, but there are several other costs associated with the primary and secondary applications to take into account. Here’s a short (non-exhaustive) list of expected costs:
- Initial AMCAS Application (includes submission to one school) — $170
- Each additional school submission — $40 per school (e.g. 25 schools)
- Secondary/Supplementary Applications — $85-125 per secondary (e.g. 22 secondary requests received)
- Medical School Application Requirements Registration — $28
- College Registrar Services — ~$10 per school to access transcripts
- Interfolio Letter Delivery Service — $48 annually for maximum 50 submissions
- Travel costs to/from interviews — ~$1,500, depending on the number of interview offers received
- Medical School Deposit Costs — $500-3000, depending on the school
Total Cost: $170 + 25($40) + 22($100) + $28 + $10 + $48 + $1,500 + $500 = $5,456
And these application costs are hardly the only expenses you will encounter. Account for the cost of registering for the MCAT ($315), enrolling in an MCAT preparation course (between $1,200-2,500, depending on the degree of individual instruction desired), downloading AAMC full-length sample tests ($25 each), etc.
This can put the overall cost of applying to medical schools at over $8,000! This sounds like a staggering number for a full-time student, but fear not: there are ways to reduce these costs, including signing up for low-cost and/or no-cost MCAT prep resources like Khan Academy and the AAMC Section Banks/Question Packs. It is also possible to contact medical school admissions departments directly to see if there is a possibility to waive the fee of the secondary applications based on merit or need.
All told, your best money-saving move comes down to your application strategy. Reducing the number of schools to which you apply will make this figure go down. Choosing a smaller number of schools that are a better ‘fit’ for your academic metrics than those reach schools can serve you well, financially-speaking. Some pre-meds apply to upwards of 50 medical schools, which means the costs of additional applications rack up quickly.
That said, if you intend to use a ‘wide net’ approach to applying, you can consider some financial planning to accommodate this strategy. Some advisors may recommend opening a low interest or first-year 0% APR credit card to help qualified students absorb the expense of applications, but if you elect to go down this road, you must be sure to pay off that debt within the promotional period (anywhere between 12-18 months, usually). Otherwise, expect to pay much higher credit card interest rates on that debt if you are still paying it off a year and a half after you incur the debt (these rates can be anywhere between 15-23%, depending on the card). A great resource for students applying for their first credit card is Mint.com. You can find suggestions as to which cards can best suit your needs, as well as learn some of the implications of building credit and opening a credit line.
For students that are unable to qualify for a credit card and who are still in school, it may be possible to take out additional Stafford or Parent PLUS loans from your school to apply to your living expenses, allowing you to apply your per diem earnings to your application process if you work part- or full-time. This strategy, of course, comes with its own costs down the road—i.e. higher monthly loan repayment when you graduate—so it is wise to speak with your family and your financial aid department to see if this course is best for you.