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How Much Does Medical School Cost? Things You Need to Know

November 19, 2021
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Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. How Much Does It Cost to Apply to Medical School? Part 3. Yearly Costs at A Medical SchoolPart 4. Med School Exam CostsPart 5. Cost of Living Part 6. Yearly Cost at a Medical SchoolPart 7. Tuition Fees at the Top 15 Medical Schools in the USPart 8. How to Pay for Medical School Part 9. How to Pay for Medical School Part 10. How to Save on Your Medical School ExpensesPart 11. Medical School Cost FAQsPart 12. The Cost of Medical School: A Big Price Tag for a Huge Reward

Introduction 

What do you spend each month on food, accommodation, and transportation? Everybody knows that the first step to creating a successful budget is to tally your expenses. So, when asking yourself, “How much does medical school cost?” you must first factor in all the fees you'll be required to pay before and during your training. 

Sound overwhelming? Well, it doesn't have to be. In this blog, we break down all the medical school expenses into easy-to-decipher categories so you'll know how much you'll need to spend and at what stage of your four years you'll have to spend it. We've even included information on how to pay for medical school and tips for saving on your medical school expenses.

How Much Does It Cost to Apply to Medical School? 

The cost of medical school begins before you even set foot on campus: the application stage. The med school application cost is similar among application services, but there are subtle differences depending on whether you're applying through AMCAS, AACOMAS, or TMDSAS

AMCAS 

The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) is your one-stop shop for applying to most allopathic medical schools in the US. AMCAS makes the application process easy; you'll complete one application and have the option to send that application to as many medical schools as you'd like. The catch? You'll pay for each additional school you apply to beyond your initial school. The fees break down as follows: 

First, you'll have to pay $170. This is the AMCAS processing fee, and with it, you can apply to one medical school. For every medical school you want to apply to thereafter, you'll have to pay $41 per school. 

AACOMAS

Similar to AMCAS, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) acts as a centralized application service for students applying to medical school. The difference between the two services is in the name; AACOMAS is for those applying to osteopathic — known as DO — programs. AACOMAS' fee structure is similar to AMCAS, where you'll pay $196 for the first program you apply to and $46 for each additional program afterward.

TMDSAS

The Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Services (TMDSAS) is for students applying to participating medical, dental, or veterinary schools in Texas. Unlike AMCAS and AACOMAS, with TMDSAS, you only pay one flat fee of $185, which allows you to apply to as many schools as you want. 

This can make for big savings in the long run and is TMDSAS' biggest advantage over the other two application services — if only you had a choice of which application service to use. Unfortunately, it all comes down to the location of the schools you're applying to and whether or not you're pursuing an MD or a DO

Most students apply to 16 medical schools on average, so the cost to apply can add up quickly; that would be $785 for AMCAS, $886 for AACOMAS, and $185 for TMDSAS. If you’re struggling with the application process, as it can be complicated, get in touch with an admissions expert who can help make it easier! 

Fees associated with applying to medical school are twofold: the primary application costs outlined above and the secondary application costs. Most medical schools require applicants to complete a secondary application. These are sent to students directly from medical schools, independent of a centralized application service. 

As such, each school charges its own secondary application fees. These typically range from $50 to $300, with most schools charging around $100. If you're one of the students who applied to 16 schools, you could be looking at an extra $1,600 to complete all your secondaries. 

The cost of applying isn't complete without adding on the $320 MCAT cost, which is required by most medical schools. We hope you get a good MCAT score, but the test can be tricky; if you are struggling to prepare for it, consult with an MCAT tutor. Lastly, most universities and colleges charge a small fee to transmit your transcripts, and some also charge to send letters of recommendation. Your school's registrar’s office can verify these fees.

Interviews

If you're lucky enough to secure an in-person or video interview — or better yet, multiple interviews — this is another cost you'll have to factor into the equation. Flights, accommodation, food, and local transportation can be pricey. 

If you only have a few interviews and they are within your state, your expenses will be much less. However, many students have interviews across states or across multiple states, where they could spend between $500 and $1,000 for each interview. Because of the potential costs involved, it is worth preparing for your med school interviews by looking at example interview questions. Practice makes perfect!  

the high cost of applying to medical school

One student applied to 21 medical schools and created this illustration to depict his costs.


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Medical School Tuition Fees

Without a doubt, your highest cost when applying to medical school is tuition, so how much is med school tuition?

Every year, tuition rates increase. Just five years ago, the average tuition and fees for a resident to attend a public medical school were approximately $32,000 per year. Today, that same applicant has to spend around $41,000 on average per year. Multiply that by the four years at medical school, and that $9,000 difference becomes $36,000 — a substantial increase in only five years. 

But, how much is med school tuition for out-of-state applicants? 

If you're an out-of-state applicant, expect to pay much more. The average nonresident tuition at a public medical school is approximately $58,000 yearly. For those applying to private medical schools, the cost is around $60,000 a year – regardless of whether you are a resident or nonresident. 


Med School Exam Costs 

Everyone who wants to practice medicine in the US must pass the three-step United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). You will need to take the following exams: 

  1. USMLE Step 1 (Basic Medical) 
  2. USMLE Step 2 (Clinical Knowledge) 
  3. USMLE Step 2 (Clinical Skills)

The first two exams can be taken while you are studying for your medicine degree, and you can take the USMLE Step 2 (Clinical Skills) test afterward. 

If you are an international test-taker, you will be charged an additional fee, and for the USMLE Step 2 (Clinical Skills) assessment, you will need to travel to a designated CSEC Testing Centre in Georgia, Illinois, California, Texas, or Pennsylvania. Here are the exam costs: 

Table showing Exam costs

Cost of Living 

How expensive is medical school when you have to factor in actually living there? 

The cost of living is near-impossible to pinpoint, as it varies greatly from one school to the next and from one student to the next. Something as simple as whether you live on campus or off campus can affect your overall costs each year. Similarly, renting a room in a large city will be more expensive than renting in a rural town. 

If you own a car, you'll have to budget for parking fees, gas, insurance, and maintenance. If you don't have a car, commuter trains and busses or even local transportation fees to take you to and from school can also add up. It's essential to look at all the factors when estimating your cost of living; food, transportation, housing, books and supplies, and miscellaneous expenses like clothes and entertainment. 

As a ballpark, many schools estimate that you'll spend around $2,000 per month, meaning the average cost of med school per year totals close to $25,000 in living expenses.


Yearly Costs at a Medical School

So, how much is medical school per year? A lot, especially if you are attending one of the top medical schools in the US. For example, Harvard Medical School estimates the cost of attendance to be approximately $97,000 for just your first year. 


the cost of attending a medical school

Tuition Fees at the Top 15 Medical Schools in the US 

Let's take a look at the approximate tuition fees at the top medical schools in the US


  1. Harvard Medical School: $65,000
  2. NYU Grossman School of Medicine: $58,000
  3. Duke School of Medicine: $61,000
  4. Columbia University: $65,000
  5. Stanford University: $62,000
  6. University of California San Francisco: $49,000 (out-of-state)
  7. Johns Hopkins University: $57,000
  8. University of Washington: $69,000 (out-of-state)
  9. University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine: $60,000
  10. Yale University: $65,000
  11. Mayo Clinic School of Medicine: $58,000
  12. Washington University in St. Louis: $64,000
  13. University of Pittsburgh: $60,000 (out of state)
  14. Vanderbilt University: $61,000
  15. Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine: $64,000

How to Pay for Medical School 

As previously outlined, the cost to attend medical school is tremendous. While most doctors will earn a substantial salary — around $208,000 annually — 73% of all graduates, irrespective of whether they attended a public or private medical school, will graduate with education debt. How much debt are we talking about? $200,000 on average. In fact, 20% of graduates carry over $300,000 worth of debt. 

This information isn't meant to discourage you; it's to ensure you set realistic expectations for yourself, both in terms of the costs required to attend medical school and the amount of debt that may be waiting for you on the other end. Most students do not pay for medical school themselves, so let's look at some options available to help you fund your education. 

As a first step, be sure to register for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA application is used by medical schools when they are putting together financial aid packages to offer you during admission. By registering and completing the application, it will ensure that you will be considered for financial aid provided by the medical schools to which you are applying. 

Free Money 

The absolute best option to help you pay for your expenses are the options that don't require repayment. Medical school scholarships, grants, bursaries, and awards are plentiful and worth the time investment needed to find and apply to suitable options. There are many different opportunities available, depending on your background. 

For example, funding is available for students with impressive academic achievements, to those from low-income families, to minorities or disadvantaged students, and even to those who are part of certain clubs or committees. The schools that you apply to will offer grants and scholarships, but don't forget to look for outside opportunities — in your community from corporations, charities, and organizations.

Military Medical School Scholarships

The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) is offered by the United States Army, Air Force, and Navy, and a significant number of students apply for it each year. 

Qualifying students will not have to pay a single penny toward their tuition or supplies, as it is 100% covered by the scholarship, and will be granted a monthly stipend of more than $2,400. You will also receive a $20,000 sign-on bonus, a monthly allowance for food and housing, and officers’ pay during school breaks. 

The scholarship does have several application requirements

If you receive the HPSP scholarship, you will be sworn in as an officer in your desired branch. The scholarship operates on a “1-for-1” basis, meaning that you are expected to serve one year on active duty for every year of the scholarship received. However, this does not include civilian or military residency training. 

Another option is the Medical and Dental Student Stipend Program (MDSSP), offered by the National Guard. While the MDSSP requires a degree of time commitment during college and provides fewer perks than the HPSP, it is an excellent option for those seeking to maintain a civilian career and serve part-time. 

Educational Loans for Medical School

While free money is ideal, scholarships, grants, bursaries, and awards are usually not enough to pay for the entire cost of medical school. For this reason, most students have to take out federal or private loans. Federal Direct Loans are the better option of the two, as they offer flexible repayment terms and fixed interest rates. 

Private loans, such as credit cards and lines of credit, from banks and other financial organizations usually have much higher interest rates, and repayment terms are more strict. If possible, obtain the maximum amount of direct loans before moving on to private loans. 

How to Pay Back Med School Loans

It can be overwhelming knowing where to look for medical school financial aid options and opportunities outside of your institution. However, this is an important financial consideration, so you should spend a good deal of time researching how to pay back your medical school loans. 

The typical repayment plan for student loans is 10 years, but medical school students have to add on these 10 years to their time spent in residency. The amount of time it takes to pay off your medical school loans depends on which repayment plan you choose. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness 

The fastest way to pay off your medical school debt is to use the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) scheme. Under this scheme, PSLF forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans if you have worked full-time or a qualifying employer for 10 years and made 120 qualifying payments towards your loans. 

Qualifying employers include many not-for-profit organizations and governmental employers. The official website of the United States government defines a “government employer” as “Any U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government agency, or the Peace Corps or Americorps is considered a government employer for PSLF and TEPSLF. Federal service includes military service.”

Additionally, eligible not-for-profit organizations include tax-exempt organizations under the 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and other organizations that provide a “qualifying service.” 

REPAYE

Enrolling in REPAYE during residency and then refinancing your loan when you start practicing is the cheapest way to pay off your loans in the private sector. The advantage of using REPAYE is that the government subsidizes half of your accrued interest, and your monthly loan payments are only 10% of your discretionary income.

Unfortunately, once you become a practicing physician with a substantially higher salary, the benefits of REPAYE are nullified. However, if you refinance your student loan, you can stay one step ahead of the game. 

Paying off your loans while in residency is often a great idea because it can shorten your loan term and save you money. Many medical students face the problem that, while earning lower wages in residency, many begin repaying their loans once they are fully qualified. 

However, Debt.org suggests that “A better idea is to refinance with a lender like SoFi and pay more than the minimum $100 payment during residency. Then, when you begin practice, pay what the original monthly payment would have been to pay it off quicker.”

If you are still struggling to get to grips with repaying your loans, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has put together a few resources to get you started:

How to Save on Your Medical School Expenses

In addition to securing scholarships, grants, and funding, review these additional tips to help you save on some of your medical school expenses.

Review Med School Fee Waiver Programs

Fees are unfortunately part of medical school admissions requirements, and, if you feel that you're faced with the financial hurdle of merely applying to medical school, you're not alone. Depending on the number of medical schools you're applying to, this cost can get out of hand pretty quickly. 

Luckily, the AAMC offers a Fee Assistance Program. If you qualify, you'll enjoy MCAT prep products, a complimentary subscription to the MSAR, complete AMCAS fee waivers for up to 20 medical schools, and a significantly reduced MCAT registration fee. Consult the AMCAS website to determine your eligibility and to apply. 

AACOMAS also offers a fee waiver program to eligible individuals. While not as comprehensive as the AAMC program, the initial application fee will be waived, and applicants will also receive the AACOM's Big Interview Platform free of charge. 

TMDSAS doesn't currently offer a fee waiver program, but with a one-time, flat-rate application fee, it's much more affordable than the other application services. 

Consider Medical Schools with Fixed or Free Tuition

When you want to choose a medical school to apply to, tuition should be at the forefront of your decision-making process. Since tuition is one of the biggest expenses when applying to medical school, it's worth considering schools with lower tuition rates, those with fixed tuition rates, like the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, and especially schools that offer free tuition.

Here's a list of medical schools that offer free tuition or full scholarships:

Consider Applying to In-State Medical Schools

Some students can't wait to leave their hometown and explore a new city. In fact, some may be purposely looking for the furthest medical school to apply to for a completely new experience and a chance at a fresh start. While spreading your wings and becoming fully independent is noble, do not forget about the costs associated with traveling outside of your home state — namely, tuition. 

The average tuition costs for out-of-state applicants is $17,000 more than in-state applicants, and that's just over one year. Multiply that by the four years at medical school, and that's a whopping $68,000 difference. 

The same can be said for public vs. private medical schools. Public medical schools, on average, are roughly $20,000 cheaper compared with private schools. Remember, that is just the average cost; some private medical schools cost upwards of $60,000 a year.

Negotiate Financial Aid Offers.

Once you've been extended an offer of admission, you'll also be offered a financial aid package. This package will include any scholarships and bursaries you were eligible for, as well as the loan the school is willing to give you. Some students make the mistake of accepting their offer of admission without even thinking of negotiating their financial aid offer. 

While it's exciting to be offered admission, it's important to remember that you have the power to secure yourself a suitable financial aid package. Compare offers between schools and use this information to secure a package that will suit your financial requirements. 

As another tip, you don't have to accept the full amount offered to you. Instead, make sure you only borrow the amount you need. The more you borrow, the more you have to pay back.

Live Like a Student

While that Hugo Boss watch might be tempting, remember that you're a student attending medical school to get an education, not to make a fashion statement. To ensure you live within your means, work on first creating a budget, and second, sticking to it. Check out these money-saving tips courtesy of the AAMC's Budgeting Basics information:

Medical School Cost FAQs

1. Which Medical Schools Have the Cheapest Tuition?

Texas medical schools top the list for having the most affordable tuition — ranging from around $15,000 to $21,000. The catch? These schools are very difficult to get into if you're not a Texas resident. Texas works hard to protect the educational and community needs within its state walls by giving preference to applicants that live in-state vs. out-of-state.

2. How Can I Minimize the Amount of Debt I’ll Have when I Graduate from Med School?

Other than following the tips we outlined above, such as borrowing only what you need, choosing schools with cheaper tuition, and living within your means, another thing you can do is pay down any existing debt before you start medical school. Debt has a way of accumulating, and trying to juggle undergraduate debt in addition to medical school debt will be difficult. 

Instead, focus on paying down that debt in advance. Another good option for reducing your debt is to work throughout medical school. If you find your course load too heavy to work during the actual school year, try to work part-time over the summer or during breaks to help you bank some extra money. 

3. What Is the Average Cost to Attend Medical School for Four Years?

According to the AAMC, the average four-year cost of attendance is $259,347 at public medical schools and $346,955 at private schools.

4. How Much Are Medical School Interviews?

Depending on whether you have to interview in-state or out-of-state, you can spend between $500 and $1,000 for each interview.

The Cost of Medical School: A Big Price Tag for a Huge Reward

How much does medical school cost? Well, from application fees to tuition to living expenses, attending medical school is beyond expensive. The most important thing to understand is that this expense and the average cost of med school varies greatly between schools. In-state applicants will spend less than out-of-state applicants in the same way public school applicants will spend less than private school applicants. 

The best way to handle the mountain of expenses is to understand the costs at hand, secure financial aid, prepare a budget, and stick to it religiously. The end result of becoming the doctor you always wanted to be makes the financial strain worth it for most graduates.

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