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How Much Does it REALLY Cost to Apply to Med School?

We’ve discussed the costs of attending medical school at length, but clearly there’s a lot that has to happen before acceptance letters are even sent. Getting into medical school is a full-time job and is almost as much work (and anxiety) as medical school itself…and true to form, every step of the way comes its own price tag. All costs listed below are as of the time of publication of this post (July 2018) and may change year to year.

Pre-Requisites. We talk about pre-reqs a lot here at Vet2MD and, while there are a lot of different ways to get them done, it could cost you. Everyone’s situation is going to be a little different depending on what kinds of education benefits they may or may not have, as well as what your life circumstances allow. Some can swing a low-to-no cost approach by doing courses at a local community college using their education benefits. For those doing a formal post-bacc, you can apply GI Bill or Yellow Ribbon benefits if you have them. And for some, like me, it’s just going to be a cost you have to eat.

Obviously, if you’re savvy and manage to get your coursework done for free, there is no cost ($0). At the upper end, expect to spend $35,000-$40,000 per year at a private, full time post-bacc program including supplies and fees.

The MCAT. There are two things to consider here: the exam itself and preparatory materials. Exam registration costs $315, and there are extra fees that may be incurred for late rescheduling or cancellation. That obviously doesn’t include any traveling and lodging expenses you have if you can’t take the exam locally. Also be mindful that some applicants end up re-taking the MCAT if they aren’t satisfied with their scores.

MCAT prep materials can vary in cost. If you’re doing a formal class or tutoring service, expect to pay a couple thousand dollars at least. (Kaplan, for example, offers an online self-paced program starting at $1,999, an in-person course starting at $2,499 and a tutor service that starts at $3,999). Official practice MCAT exams (highly recommended but not required) are $35 apiece, while other materials like flash cards, question banks and guide questions are also available from $10-$72 on the official MCAT site. Study books range in cost, and you can sometimes find a deal on Amazon or find used copies, but full sets of the most up-to-date books can run upwards of $500+. Those of you looking at post-bacc programs that have MCAT prep baked in, you’re in luck…the $35,000 price tag often includes MCAT prep sessions and materials, so it’s one less thing you need to worry about (yay).

Application Tools. Before we get to the application itself, you may also want to consider purchasing The Official Guide to Medical School Admissions ($20) and access to the Medical School Admission Requirements database (“MSAR,” $28). Both are optional, and if you’re doing a post-bacc that is guiding you through the application process, they may not be necessary. However, both are relatively inexpensive and have a lot of useful information that is of most benefit to those applying on their own. The MSAR, especially, is a must-read for anyone trying to decide which pre-requisites to take based on which schools they are interested in.

Application Fees. While you were probably prepared to pay application fees, be warned that they can quickly spiral into one of your most significant costs. While the AMCAS sends one, common application to as many schools as your little heart desires, it is $170 to apply to ONE medical school and $39 for each school added to your list. The number of schools you initially apply to is entirely up to you, but some students apply to 20+ programs…which gets really expensive, really quick. Applying to ten schools will set you back $170 + ($39 x 9) = $521. Twenty schools is $170 + ($39 x 19) = $911.

If you are planning on applying to any Texas public medical schools, the Texas Medical and Dental Application service (TMDAS) is separate from the AMCAS and costs $165.

Fees for Transcripts and Test Scores. As part of the common applications for medical school as well as any applications for post-bacc programs or special master’s programs, you will be asked to provide official transcripts from any US institution at which you ever attempted coursework, even if you never earned credit. A full list of qualifying institutions can be found here, but generally this is going to be anywhere that you took college-level or post-graduate courses. Each institution charges its own fees for official transcripts, running about $5-$15 per copy and may include a mailing fee. Be prepared to have to send high school transcripts as well for some post-bacc and special master’s programs–again, every school is different but mine charged $30 for an official transcript.

Oh, also be prepared to provide transcripts from any military education completed, like those completed as part of professional training–think DAU, CCC, ILE, etc (yes, really). I had a bunch of DAU credits as a medical logistician, and while they didn’t charge any fees, they were a pain to track down.

Finally, some post-bacc and special master’s programs will ask for test scores like the SAT or ACT. SAT score reports cost $12 and ACT reports are $37 for exams taken before 9/1/2015 and $12 for those taken after 9/1/2015. If you are applying to any combination medical school programs (like MD-MPH, MD-JD, MD-PhD, MD-MBA, etc), you will also have to submit scores for other exams as well like the GRE, LSAT, GMAT, etc.

Secondary Essay Fees. What? You thought that once you’d hit submitted your applications you were done? Not a chance. After schools review all applications, they will whittle down the pool of candidates and send out a request for secondary essays to competitive applicants. Those essays also come with their own, separate application fees. Each school is different, but expect to shell out $75-$150 per school.

The (sort of?) good news here is that you aren’t obligated to reply to all requests for a secondary essay. If you initially applied to a lot of schools and have gotten requests for secondaries from a large proportion of them, then you can decide to pick and choose which schools you are truly interested in and withdraw your application from others to save time, energy, and money.

Interview Expenses. After the secondaries are sent and reviewed, the pool of candidates shrinks again and the lucky few are selected for interviews. If you’ve gotten this far, you should be extremely proud of yourself but also prepared to pay for any and all travel, lodging, food, and clothing you need to get to the schools that invite you for interviews. If all or most of your schools are either local or places you can reach on day trips, great, but many people find themselves needing to take some flights and spending nights in hotels. You need to look the part, too, so if you don’t have any good quality dark-colored business attire, it’s time to invest in some.

While no one person will have the exact same combination of costs on their journey to medical school, this should at the very least give you an idea of what to expect. These costs are in no way meant to deter you from your dream of becoming a doctor–they are simply meant to prepare you for the costs of each step of that journey and allow you to do some planning and budgeting to make it as painless as possible! In coming posts, I will break down the individual components of the process in greater detail and discuss strategies to budget according to your needs and constraints. Trust me, I’ve been here, and it can be done.

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