Piggy bank beside stack of coins depicting high medical school costs

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

October 9, 2021
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Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. Application CostsPart 3. InterviewsPart 4. TuitionPart 5. Cost of LivingPart 6. Tuition at the 10 Top Medical SchoolsPart 7. How to Pay for Medical School Part 8. How to Save on Your Medical School Expenses Part 9. FAQsPart 10. Conclusion

Introduction

If you've considered applying to medical school, you've probably thought "how much does medical school cost?" at one time or another. There are many factors such as tuition fees, food, accommodation, and transportation that you need to take into account.

As far as tuition and fees go, public medical schools cost around $40,000 per year on average. For nonresidents to attend a public medical school, tuition runs closer to $58,000 each year. The cost for private medical schools is approximately $60,000 per year for residents and nonresidents.

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.

Application Costs

The cost of medical school begins before you even step foot on campus: the application stage. The fees to apply are 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 around $170. This is the AMCAS processing fee, and with it, you can apply to one medical school. For every med school you want to apply to thereafter, you'll have to pay approximately $41 per school. 

For a complete guide on the AMCAS application, click here.

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 med school. The difference between the two services is in the name; AACOMAS is for those applying to osteopathic – known as DO – programs.

The AACOMAS fee structure is similar to AMCAS, where you'll pay around $195 for the first program you apply to and about $45 for each additional program afterward. For information on how to fill out the AACOMAS application, click here.

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 around $180, which allows you to apply to as many schools as you want.

This can be a big savings in the long run, and is TMDSAS' biggest advantage over the other two application services. If only you had a choice 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 med schools on average, so the cost to apply can add up quickly; that would be around $780 for AMCAS, about $880 for AACOMAS, and approximately $180 for TMDSAS. 

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

As such, each school charges its own secondary application fees. These typically range from $50-$300, with most schools charging around $100. If you're one of the students who applied to 16 schools, you could look 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 med schools. 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 office can verify these fees.

Interviews

If you're lucky enough to secure an 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-$1,000 for each interview. One student applied to 21 med schools and created this illustration to depict his costs.

the high cost of applying to medical school


Tuition 

Without a doubt, your highest cost of medical school is 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. If you're an out-of-state applicant, expect to pay much more.

The average nonresident tuition costs at a public medical school is approximately $58,000 yearly. For those applying to private med schools, the cost is around $60,000 a year – regardless of whether you are a resident or nonresident.

Cost of Living 

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 such as clothes and entertainment. As a ballpark, many schools estimate that you'll spend around $2,000/month, totaling close to $25,000 yearly in living expenses.

So, how much does a medical school cost each year? A lot. 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 at the 10 Top Medical Schools 

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

how much does medical school cost

How to Pay for Medical School 

As previously outlined, the cost of 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? On average, $200,000.

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 wait 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 med schools when they put 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 med 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. Grants, bursaries, scholarships, and awards are plentiful, therefore, 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.

Educational Loans

While free money is ideal, scholarships, grants, bursaries, and awards are usually not enough to pay for the total 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 stricter. If possible, obtain the maximum amount of direct loans before moving on to a private student loan(s). 

Where to Start?

It can be overwhelming knowing where to look for financial aid opportunities outside of your institution. The AAMC has put together a few resources to get you started:

How to Save on Your Medical School Expenses 

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

1. Review Fee Waiver Programs.

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 med schools you're applying to, the total 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, complimentary subscription to the MSAR, complete AMCAS fee waivers for up to 20 med 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. 

2. Consider Schools with Fixed or Free Tuition.

When deciding how to choose a medical school to apply to, tuition costs 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 med schools that offer free tuition or full scholarships:

3. Consider Applying In-State.

Some students can't wait to leave their hometown and explore a new city. In fact, some may purposely look 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 med schools.

Public medical schools, on average, are roughly $20,000 cheaper compared with private schools. Remember, that is just the average cost of medical school; some private medical schools cost upwards of $70,000 a year.

4. 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 student 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.

5. 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:

FAQs

1. Which medical schools have the cheapest tuition?

Texas med schools top the list for having the most affordable medical school tuition – ranging from around $15,000-$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 debt I'll have when I graduate?

Other than following the tips we outlined above, such as borrowing only what you need, choosing schools with cheaper medical school tuition and fees, 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 for four years of medical school?

According to the AAMC, the average 4-year cost of attendance for medical school is about $260,000 at public med schools and around $345,000 at private medical schools.

4. Do you get paid during medical school?

Unfortunately, you don’t get paid during medical school unless you have a part-time job or you’re receiving a scholarship. However, after you graduate medical school, you’ll get paid during your residency.

5. What is the next step after medical school?

The next step after medical school is residency. Students will apply to residencies during their fourth year of med school and can expect to spend at least three years in a residency.

6. How much does medical school cost in the US?

In the US, the cost of attendance for public med schools is between ~$40,000 and ~$58,000. The cost for private med schools is around $60,000 per year.

Conclusion 

How much does medical school cost? Well, from tuition and fees to living expenses, attending medical school is beyond expensive. The most important thing to understand is that this expense 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 mound 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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