The Cost of Applying to Med School (5 Digits)

Premedical classes, $29,348 (and growing because most of this is loans)
Most medical schools require one year plus lab each of General Chemistry, Biology, Organic Chemistry, and Physics. Some schools require more. I took some classes as an undergraduate, but not all, so I had to take Physics and Physics lab, Calculus, General Chemistry, and one semester of Biology in a post-baccalaureate program. It’s rather high because I did my classes at a private university in New York with good success rates for getting students into medical school—super expensive.

 

MCAT Class, $1,999
You certainly don’t have to take an MCAT class, but it definitely helps. I’m not sure what sort of back alley deal the College Board has with The Princeton Review and Kaplan, but there are a million tricks that you learn in MCAT class that I would never have known had I not spent two nights a week there for three months. To be fair, both Kaplan and TPR have financial assistance programs that you can apply to. TPR’s requires a bunch of essays about why you want to be a doctor, while Kaplan’s is need-based.

 

MCAT Registration, $240
Required to take the test, although there are fee waivers available.

 

AMCAS Application Fees, $1,196
$160 initial fee plus $37 for each additional school. I applied to 29 schools, which, I am told by my advisor, is fairly average. There is a need-based fee assistance program available through an application, to which I did not apply.

 

Transcript Fees, $14
My undergraduate institution charges $7 per transcript. I ordered two, as you’re advised to send one to AMCAS and to have one on hand yourself just in case.

 

Secondary Fees, $1,930
These are additional fees that you pay to each school to submit your secondary application and be considered as an applicant. I only submitted secondary applications to 23 schools, as one school screened me out before the secondary stage, and when push came to shove I couldn’t motivate myself to submit the remaining five for reasons of geography and time. Most schools will waive or reduce the fee if you have qualified for the AMCAS fee assistance program.

 

Interviews, $978.48
I was lucky to get a handful of interviews. With the exception of one school that provided me with overnight accommodation, I found that schools provide food while you’re at the campus and help to arrange lodging with a current student, but that for the most part you are on your own for transportation and other meals. I spent the following:
Suit: $300
Bus from New York City to Boston: $50
Rental car for three days to attend two interviews in New England: $199.74
Bottle of wine to bring my student host: $15
Rental car for two days to attend two interviews in New York State: $199.74
Airfare from New York to North Carolina: $169.00
Room rental in North Carolina (thanks, Air BnB!): $45
Vacation time to attend two interviews in New York City: two days (not monetary, but hard won!)

 

Acceptance Deposit, $202.75 An applicant is allowed to hold multiple acceptances until May, when you have to make a decision as to the school that you want to attend. However, to hold your place, many schools require a (sometimes refundable) deposit of around $100. I’ve made two, one for $100, and another for $102.75.

 

Total cost of applying, being accepted, to med school: $35,668.23

 

Rebecca Ross looks forward to tabulating the cost of going to medical school.

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43 Comments / Post A Comment

did you have any idea? i had no idea

ellabella (#1,480)

@Logan Sachon Ugh it’s the worst. I’ve (my parents) spent all that money, and I haven’t even gotten any interviews yet. Sad sad times.

Side note: Doctors absolutely make more money than they should, but the cost of education and applying and the opportunity cost of being in school for another 7 years should not be discounted… As long as it’s this expensive to apply/attend medical school, doctors should be sufficiently compensated to make it worth their while.

olivia (#1,618)

@Logan Sachon NO. GOOD LORD.

@ellabella The costs of med school are a problem, though, for the influence student loans have on the types of specialties people pursue. Primary care is paid much less than sub-specialties with lots of procedures (cardiology and GI being two money makers), but what we really need are more people to enter family medicine. Outcomes are much better for patients with a family doctor who oversees their care, but with $200,000+ in student loans no one wants to enter family medicine.

It is only one of the many problems in the American health care system that results in the US paying twice as much for health care with much worse outcomes than any other similarly developed country.

Anyway: good luck with your applications!

BreezyK (#770)

@newyorkscutestreporter I AGREE WITH THIS SO MUCH! Med school tuition is really astronomical and yet, there is no incentive to do anything about it, as schools can get up to 10,000 (!!!) applications for a class that might have 210 spaces.

Even though applying to Med School is expensive, I think applying to residency programs is even worse! All that flying around for interviews when you know you have at least 3-7 more years of minimum wage work before you can even get started on paying off your six-figure loans. So frustrating.

@newyorkscutestreporter I’ve always thought we should do for Family medicine practitioners what we should to for law grads who practice in the DA’s office; loan forgiveness after ten years.

@BreezyK It baffles me that residency programs and med schools don’t pay for interview costs. Like, my humanities grad program has no money, and we still pay to fly and house students for a visit. And med schools have all the money!

@Jacqueline Colognesi@twitter I totally agree! There are certain programs like that, like the National Health Service Corps for working in underserved populations. I don’t know much more about how it works though, and it isn’t specifically family medicine oriented.

cmcm (#267)

And to think I complained about the roughly $500 it cost me (application fees and GRE) to apply to PhD programs in NY! (I think mostly I just complain because it was a waste of money seeing as how I decided not to go even after getting accepted, and am doing my PhD in the UK for which the application process was completely free)

bgprincipessa (#699)

The total cost without the prereq courses is $6,320.23. Which is still an astronomical number. The courses are obviously what put it into skyrocket range, but I definitely understand why that was included because it is just as much a necessary cost.

This is so frustrating, especially with the knowledge that you won’t be making that money back for quite some years…

Curiosity23 (#3,464)

To Rebecca: Do you get to defer your post-bac loans while you’re in medical school? Also, did you mostly take out private or federal loans? Curious because I am currently in the position of deciding between doing my postbac at Columbia vs. Hunter (which is about $30,000 cheaper) and would like to not be drowning in debt before I sign myself up for $200K in loans for medical school. Wait. Why am i doing this again? As ellabella pointed out, this is not the smartest financial investment.

On a totally unrelated note, can we organize a frugal billfold meet-up?

rebeccar (#3,465)

@Curiosity23 You do get to defer your loans while you’re in medical school (although not during your premed glide year, at least for the federal loans). I ended up taking out a combination of federal and private loans – about half and half.

Beck (#2,269)

@Curiosity23 You can also defer as an intern, and a resident, and even as a fellow if your salary is less than a certain percentage of your minimum monthly loan payment (which it will be, trust me). Technically, this is not deferring but ‘forbearance due to financial hardship’. I did this for 6 years. Interest continued to accrue, but at least I didn’t starve.

@Curiosity23 GO TO HUNTER! Please. That’s what I did. I have no loans. I paid cash. Now I’m at Cornell med. It’s great. I could go on about various reasons, but trust me. All my friends here who went to Columbia wish they went to Hunter.

Curiosity24 (#3,472)

@Kyle Smith@facebook – this is @Curiosity23 (new username). Thank you so much for this information! I am dying to ask you a million and one questions. Like, did you work while you took classes? What exactly was your class schedule? Did you do the official post-bac program? Did you do the linkage to Cornell? I am so jealous you are at Cornell! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

@Curiosity24 Yes, I worked 9-5pm. Fortunately my job was low-maintenance and I did a fair amount of schoolwork there. Lecture was 5:30pm every day M-Th, then usually a lab after. The official post-bacc program did not yet exist when I did this (in 2007-09). There is one now and the lady who runs it (Karen Phillips, an orgo professor) is excellent. I did not do linkage but there are several linkage from Hunter people here now. Find me on FB if you want to ask more questions.

“But wait, there’s more!” Medical school itself – 45,000 dollars PER YEAR, not including books, required insurance, and general living expenses.
Then there’s residency – you pay more to apply to as many as you can and to “the match”, plus travelling to as many interviews as you get because as much as it costs, it’s still better than scrambling if you don’t match. My spouse is about to finish residency and take his step 3 boards and they are also over 2000 dollars, plus they are only given in one city (Tampa) at the time they specify so travel expenses (~$600 is what I’ve budgeted, but it could be more since it is two days, 3 nights at the InterContinental and they kinda have to stay there, and flights were a little more than I thought)need to be included as well. Getting to be a doctor is kind of a racket.

BreezyK (#770)

@Punk-assBookJockey I love how all of us spouses are here commenting, since they are off actually attending to patients. But yes, the residency/fellowship matching process is a freaking racket and the boards plus state licensing fees really take it out of you. I can’t WAIT till all this training is over with.

@BreezyK We’re almost done! We are really fortunate though, because my spouse got an Air Force scholarship that paid for SO much of his costs: tuition, books, health insurace during school, even his a basic living expense stipend during school that helped us to not have debt. We have paid for all application fees, liscensing and exam fees out of pocket though, and that alone has been a stressor because we didn’t have any loans we could use to cover those costs other than credit cards and with a residency salary and my grad school job salary we don’t have a lot of extra money. Now he’s getting ready to go pay back his time in the Air Force by working for them for four years in his specialty. It’s a pretty amazing program.

Winfield (#3,368)

@Punk-assBookJockey The military is a GREAT deal regardless. But especially for medical school. You get awesome training and OJT experiences that you won’t get anywhere else.

Beck (#2,269)

Plus $500 or more for licensing and professional dues, each year, FOREVER.

cjm (#3,397)

For law school, college, and med school, I feel like these costs and complexities are a huge barrier for low income/ first generation students. Yes, there are ways around them, but they require more forms and essays with additional deadlines. Once you are accepted people start to look out for you and there is financial aid, etc. I wasn’t very low income, but was a first generation college student and I specifically recall not applying to as many colleges because I didn’t want to ask my parents to pay $50 to 8 colleges instead of 4. I didn’t take SAT or LSAT prep courses because the costs just seemed unreasonable. Luckily for me I was privileged enough that I didn’t panic in the tests and did fine without the courses. But it was certainly luck and privilege that allowed that. It takes a student of extraordinary grit to be low income and “first generation” and decide to go to college or professional school and then apply for all of the waivers and scholarships on time and correctly.

professionalmess (#1,478)

@cjm This is incredibly correct. Not only are there huge barriers that come with the cost (or having to hustle to get the waivers), but being a first generation student comes with what I think is a huge lack of knowledge about pretty much everything associated with going to college or a professional school. I remember thinking that it was ridiculous to pay $1000+ for an LSAT class, so I just asked my parents to buy me a $20 prep book for Christmas, which seemed to work out fine, but when I told people at law school that I didn’t take a class, they were appalled.

Unrelated, I thought about writing something like this about how much it costs to take the bar exam, and really wish I had because this is a lovely post.

@cjm I have thought about this a lot and often wondered why there are not better counselling services at professional schools or even outside counselling orgs for first generation/low income students! It is a huge need and I am sure something that would be absolutely supported by first generation alumni. Those kinds of students that come from rural/underserved areas are more likely to go back to them and serve those communities, which is another huge need. And they can get additional loan forgiveness for doing so.

knittinginheels (#2,950)

@cjm OH YES to all of this. I am a first-generation college grad (grandfather: migrant farmer/3rd grade education; mother:high school diploma; me: most expensive college in the nation). I am so very grateful for all of the opportunities and aid and help and oh wow EVERYTHING that was available to me not only becuase of my geographic location and general bookishness as a child but because of people who were willing to work with me. I would love to add something else: Conversations about what college is *actually like*. I remember sitting on my dorm bed the night before registration for classes loosing my fucking mind because, I was in college! My whole goal for 6 years had been attained! What do I do now? How does this work? What is important and what isn’t? How do you know? Who is it ok to approach in the hirearchy and who do you need an invitation for? How do you maintain aid when they try to cut it later? I still feel like an outsider to the whole higher education club.

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

I applied to 29 schools, which, I am told by my advisor, is fairly average.

Your advisor is lying to you. Nationally, the average is 15 schools. 29 isn’t unheard of, but it’s definitely on the very high side.

EM (#1,012)

29 SCHOOLS??? That seems insane to me, maybe because Canada only has 17 medical schools.

siege91 (#1,738)

Cost of applying to a PhD program in biology:
$425 – application fees for 6 schools
$32 – GRE prep books, plus $0 for the free ETS practice tests
$210 – registration for the GRE and Bio GRE
$0 – 9 transcripts picked up in person (otherwise you just pay for the mail – state schools!)
$75 – beer and extraneous foods bought during interviews (the schools pay for flights and meals and set you up with a student host)

But, mid-career salary for someone with a PhD in evolutionary biology: like $70,000/maybe unemployed.

If you live in New York, please do yourself a favor and do the post-bacc classes at Hunter College. They don’t hold your hand like Columbia, but it’s ridiculously cheap and plenty of folks go on to excellent medical schools (Cornell, Brown, etc). That’s what I did.

Curiosity25 (#3,477)

@Kyle Smith@facebook Kyle! Thank you for all the information and answering all my questions (apologies to the other readers/Logan+Mike/you for clogging up the comment feed with this personal line of correspondence) – I just tried to find you on facebook, but was unable to. Are you by any chance on the Hunter Post-Bacc Yahoo group?

@Curiosity25 I just re-joined. After they approve my membership, I’ll send a message to the list with me email address.

charmcity (#1,091)

I’d like to do one of these for “cost of applying to/passing” a state bar exam. I was really surprised by how much it cost to take bar prep classes, apply to [one!] state bar, sit for the exam, etc. I really wasn’t prepared for it, and ended up having to take out a loan. Many law firms front this cost, but fewer people have those kinds of offers these days; my legal aid offer did NOT come with that benefit, naturally.

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

I’m going to regret posting this, but whatever.

I’m a premed advisor at a state school, and I’m sort of calling bullshit on this. My students don’t spend anything like $35000 applying to medical school. Their classes cost much less money, because they aren’t shelling out the big bucks to go to a “private university in New York City with good success rates for getting students into medical school.” (Most of my students complete their pre-reqs as undergrads, but I do have some students who come back to finish med school pre-reqs after studying something else in college.) I don’t think I’ve ever had a student apply to 29 medical schools, in part because they don’t have almost $4000 to spend on application fees. It’s still an expensive process for my students. Many of them really struggle to pay for MCAT prep courses, for instance. But what Rebecca is outlining here isn’t the cost of applying to med school. It’s the cost of applying to med school when you’re shelling out a bunch of extra money in an attempt to buy yourself an advantage over applicants like my students, many of whom aren’t from particularly elite backgrounds. And you’re going to have to forgive me if I don’t feel super sympathetic to the fact that buying that extra advantage is expensive.

rebeccar (#3,465)

@WhyHelloThere You’re absolutely right that there are less expensive ways to do this. I applied several years out of college, and my undergrad university would no longer provide any counseling services for medical school applications. In retrospect, I should have gone to a less expensive post-bac program, but I was following the advice of mentors, premed blogs, and my own insecurities, and this is actually what I paid. Especially as a non-traditional student, there’s a lot of fear-mongering about what med schools want to see in order to even consider your application.

My point is not to get sympathy (I mean, I did CHOOSE to do this) but more to point out how financially exclusive it can be to apply to medical school. I work full time and still had trouble covering all of these costs. Even if this is on the high end, the fact that it’s within the range (and that it costs about $6000 even without the premed classes!) says something pretty dire about the exclusivity of the medical profession.

rebeccar (#3,465)

@WhyHelloThere I’d also point out that aside from going to an expensive post-bac program and taking the MCAT class, I didn’t really pay for any “extras” — while you could take classes at a less expensive school or not take an MCAT course, AMCAS fees, secondary fees, transcript fees, interview-related costs, and acceptance deposits are all required parts of the application process.

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

@rebeccar Actually, your AMCAS fees and secondary fees were also unusually high because you applied to nearly twice as many schools as the average applicant.

I really take your point about not having great information, and I agree that the premed blogs really play into applicants’ insecurities. But that’s a different story than the one you’ve told, and it leads to different conclusions. Ellabella said in the second comment on this post that this shows why doctors need to earn so much money, and that’s not the conclusion I draw at all. What it shows to me is that because doctors earn so much, applicants feel like they can spend really outrageous amounts of money applying to medical school, safe in the knowledge that they’ll be rich someday and won’t have any trouble paying off their loans. And that’s a mess all around. It’s especially a mess for the students who don’t end up getting into medical school, because they’re probably not going to end up making the big bucks. So to me, the real question is how we stop the escalating arms race in professional school applications, where some students, like you, spend obscene amounts of money attempting to gain advantages, and then other students feel like they have to make equally irresponsible decisions to keep up.

rebeccar (#3,465)

@WhyHelloThere I agree with your last point about de-escalation, and I’m sorry that you feel like I’ve misrepresented something.

the rat lady (#785)

This is making me very, very glad that I chose to take my vet school prereqs at a state university rather than moving to Rochester to do their postbacc program (my first notion). I wonder to what extent the specialized postbacc programs make their money by preying on the insecurity of students who feel like they only have one shot, they need to pay more for the leg up, etc when they could get an equally good outcome from their state school.

@the rat lady Expensive post-baccs are 100% funded by preying on insecurities of their students. I go to a top medical school right now, and I have numerous classmates who were post-baccs at inexpensive public schools. A full five percent of my class, including me, took our classes at Hunter College.

rebeccar (#3,465)

@Kyle Smith@facebook Just wanted to say that I agree! If I was to do anything differently, it would have been to go to a less expensive post-bac program. There would be more flexibility (I had a lot of trouble finding classes that I could take while working 9-5), and the hand holding that you pay for at the expensive programs is not enough to justify the cost!

med (#3,492)

I’ll never forget having to come up with $1500.00 for my deposit for medical school once I was accepted. I paid for everything myself, as I applied a few years after undergrad, but I barely made it those few months. I don’t come from a wealthy family, I completely paid for my own undergrad with loans, working part time and scholarships.

Now, I’m in my third year, and traveling around for rotations, which has it’s own cost, I paid $1500 for board exams and this summer there is the cost of applying to residency programs. It truly never ends. And right now, I have no income.

Alvaro (#3,538)

“Elite sectors and centers of power want students to be passive and apathetic. One of the reasons for the very sharp rise in tuition is to kind of capture students. You know, if you come out of college with a huge debt, you’re gonna have to work it off. I mean, you’re gonna have to become a corporate lawyer or go into business or something. And you won’t have time for engaged activism. The students of the sixties could take off a year or two and devote it to activism and think, ‘Okay, I’ll get back into my career later on.’ Now, that’s much harder today. And not by accident. These are disciplinary techniques.”

-Noam Chomsky

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