How To Offset Med School Application Costs (Fee Assistance Program)

How To Offset Med School Application Costs

Applying to medical school itself is hard enough, and just when you were about to pay for the MCAT, you realize–it costs $320 to take one test?

You’ve probably already spent money on study resources for the MCAT, so you’re already familiar with this pattern. Unfortunately, we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of all the expenses associated with medical school applications. But don’t fret, AAMC’s Fee Assistance Program provides assistance to those without the financial means to cover the costs of applying to medical school.

Here, we’ll summarize the essentials of AAMC’s Fee Assistance Program, and provide the appropriate links all in one place, so you don’t have to hunt for them!

Table of Contents

How Much Does it Cost to Apply to Med School

Before we delve into the program, let’s first review what the application costs entail:

The first step is the primary application, which is what you send to every single school you choose through AMCAS. Make sure the school you intend to apply to participates in AMCAS.

Application Cost*
Primary Application
$170 for the first school, $41 for every school afterwards
Secondary Application

Varies by School (see our list here)

College Service Fees
Varies by your college
MCAT Exam

$320 (initial registration at least 15 days prior)


$95 (rescheduling at least 29 days prior) or $160 (rescheduling at least 15 days prior)

MSAR (optional)
$36

 * Please note that numbers and figures are based on information provided by AMCAS for 2021

Other expenses unrelated to the application include interview clothes, traveling to interviews, MCAT preparation resources, and so on. Even if you limit yourself to 10 schools, you already surpass $1000 in costs with exams, primaries, secondaries, and fees combined.

What is The Fee Assistance Program (FAP) 

In a nutshell, the Fee Assistance Program (FAP) helps some students handle the financial burdens that come with applying to medical school. Although a medical career may be rewarding many years down the road, students may find it difficult shelling out a few grand in one go.

In order to ensure that finances don’t become a barrier to applying, AAMC implemented the Fee Assistance Program to alleviate those pressures. This program can help even out the playing field by making the application more accessible to all applicants. In the end, it will also help with increasing the diversity in medical education, so that physicians can meet the needs of the increasingly diverse patient population. 

Benefits of the Fee Assistance Program

You need to be approved before you can use the Fee Assistance Program to cover the eligible benefits. In other words, it isn’t retroactive and won’t cover expenses you’ve spent before approval.

Benefits of the program include fee waivers for up to 20 medical schools, reduced registration fee for the MCAT, free subscription to MSAR, and free official MCAT prep and materials (this last one is given out only once per lifetime). Some schools, like Harvard, waive the secondary application fees for those with FAP.  Better yet, you can be awarded up to five times throughout your lifetime. 

Make sure to double-check application information (like the specific cutoffs for income) provided on the AAMC website each year, which we’ve linked in this article as well.

Lastly, benefits expire on December 31st of the next calendar year, regardless of when you are approved during the year. 

Who Qualifies

Before embarking on the application, figure out whether you qualify for the program.

Do you qualify to apply?
  • You are a U.S. Citizenship, or have otherwise qualifying status (see below)

  • You and your parents reported family income last year is equal to or less than 400% of the prior year’s national poverty level for your family size. 
    • Even if you are independent from your parents, each household should meet the stated requirements.

  • You haven’t received the fee assistance award 5 times yet.

Citizenship Status (Qualifying Status)

If your status fits any of these, even if you are an international student or on any other visa, prior to completing your application for the Fee Assistance Program, then you are eligible: 

  • US Citizen
  • US National
  • US lawful permanent resident
  • Refugee status in the US (granted by US government)
  • Asylum status in the US (granted by US government)
  • DACA status (granted by US government
  • Waiting for refugee or asylum status, and have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card

Here’s a quick chart provided by the AAMC on eligible status:

Source: https://aamc-orange.global.ssl.fastly.net/production/media/filer_public/d7/5e/d75ef7b1-32a1-4e58-b3b9-e0a5c68f2ae0/aamc-2020-fee-assistance-program-essentials.pdf

Your or Your Parent’s Income from Last Year Is At Most 400% of Last Year’s Poverty Guidelines

1.The AAMC requires financial information from your parents in order to apply for fee assistance:

  • “Parents” refer to biological parents, adoptive parents, and/or stepparents. Foster parents, grandparents, legal guardians, and other relatives are not considered. 
  • Regardless of:
    • Your marital status, age, or tax filing status 
    • Your parents’ country of residence, or their willingness to provide information
  • For more specific parental information, refer to the AAMC Fee Assistance handbook

2.The poverty guidelines are based on the ones provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. There are separate guidelines for:

  1. 48 stages, the District of Columbia (the capital), and the US territories
  2. Hawaii
  3. Alaska

For cutoffs based on 2019 poverty guidelines for the 2020 calendar year, go here.

We’ve calculated the cutoffs for the 2021 calendar year (based on 2020 poverty guidelines) below in red. So, if your 2020 total income is equal to or less than what’s red, you may be eligible.

Based on 2020 Poverty Guidelines for 48 States, Washington D.C., and US Territories:


Person in household


2020 Poverty Guideline


Fee Assistance Program Poverty Guideline

1
$12,760


$51,040

2
$17,240


$68,960

3
$21,720


$86,880

4
$26,200


$104,800

5
$30,680


$122,720

6
$35,160


$140,640

7
$39,640


$158,560

8
$44,120


$176,480

*For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,480 for each additional person

Based on 2020 Poverty Guidelines for Alaska:


Person in household


2020 Poverty Guideline


Fee Assistance Program Poverty Guideline

1
$15,950


$63,800

2
$21,550


$86,200

3
$27.150


$108,600

4
$32,750


$131,000

5
$38,350


$153,400

6
$43,950


$175,800

7
$49,550


$198,200

8
$55,150


$220,600

For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $5,600 for each additional person

Based on 2020 Poverty Guidelines for Hawaii:


Person in household


2020 Poverty Guideline


Fee Assistance Program Poverty Guideline

1
$14,680


$58,720

2
$19,830


$79, 320

3
$24,980


$99,920

4
$30,130


$120,520

5
$35,280


$141,120

6
$40,430


$161,720

7
$45,580


$182,320

8
$50,730


$202,920

For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $5,150 for each additional person

How To Apply 

You’re eligible to apply for the Fee Assistance Program! Great, now what? It’s time to collect all the necessary information and supporting documents. Make sure that your information is correct, as false information may lead to an investigation from AAMC.

The FAP application usually opens late January, but familiarize yourself with the process outlined here beforehand. A new “Fee Assistance Program Essentials” handbook comes out each year to assist with your application. (For the 2020 copy, go here)

The Fee Assistance Program application is made up of four mandatory parts:

  • Your AAMC Profile
  • Applicant (Your) Information
  • Applicant (Your) Financial Information
  • Parents’ (Your Parents’) Financial Information

The AAMC profile and section on your information may require sensitive information including but not limited to social security numbers, birthdays, phone numbers, and so forth. Here, make sure your citizenship status is correct.

For your financial information, the application asks for information including:

  • Marital status
  • Family size
  • Taxable income
  • Financial aid*
  • Housing and food allowance
  • Income earned while living in a country outside of the U.S. 
  • Social security benefits, federal, state, and local welfare programs
  • Child support
  • Alimony/spousal support
  • Financial gifts 
  • Other sources of income.

*Only financial aid used for living expenses is considered for the application. AAMC provides a calculator within the application for you to figure out what it is.

Source: https://aamc-orange.global.ssl.fastly.net/production/media/filer_public/d7/5e/d75ef7b1-32a1-4e58-b3b9-e0a5c68f2ae0/aamc-2020-fee-assistance-program-essentials.pdf

Make sure to use the appropriate documents to prevent delays in your application. A list of required documents will be shown on the application. These include but are not limited to:

    • W-2/1099 or IRS 1040 Federal Tax Form
    • Financial Award Letter and Cost of Attendance (not a 1098-T form!)
    • Other financial documents

Your parents’ (biological parents, adoptive parents, and/or stepparents) financial information is a must-have, regardless of your status, as noted earlier. Parental information needed on the application is similar to what you provide, but refer to this for a more specific breakdown.

Some other things to note:

  • You don’t need to submit a new application if you’re applying within two consecutive years. 
  • You can re-apply any time during the second year of your award benefits—no need to wait out a whole calendar year.
  • Typed signatures are not accepted by the Fee Assistance Program

How Much Can You Save With The Fee Assistance Program

It might seem like a hassle to apply to the fee assistance program on top of the actual medical school application. Let’s do little quick math to see if the benefits are worth it!

Regular Costs⥡ Fee Assistance Program Award
MCAT Registration fee
$320
$130
MCAT Official Prep
$260.80
FREE*
MSAR (Medical School Admission Requirement) Subscription
$36
FREE
AMCAS Primary Application⥁ (up to 20 schools)
FREE

Total:

$1565.80

$130

*MCAT Official Prep is given only once regardless of how many times a student is awarded FAP
Numbers are based on 2021 costs
Check with each school to see if they may waive secondaries for applicants with FAP.

Just based on these items alone, the program should save you at least $1435.80–that you may spend elsewhere, like MCAT resources! Waived secondary application fees can save you an additional several hundred dollars.

Medical school is a wonderful experience for those who are passionate about medicine, and no one should be deterred from taking the first step to getting in. Applying to medical school is a tasking enough effort, so the Fee Assistance Program should give some students a sense of relief. Tell us what you think by dropping a comment below, or share this article if you think someone else might benefit from our overview of the Fee Assistance Program!

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