Total Cost of Applying to Med School (Low to High End)

Total Cost of Applying to Medical School

Medical school is an investment for your future, yes, but you actually need to invest a bit just to get into medical school.

When I applied to medical school, I remember accruing more and more costs as I went through the process. All I remember was taking out my credit card for “a little more each time.” Now, I wished I knew how much I’d need to spend so I could plan accordingly. In this article, I’m going to break down and analyze the costs so you can get a clearer picture of how it costs to apply to medical school.

Typically, applying to medical school is going to cost you anywhere from around $3,700 to $5,500, depending on a variety of factors. Our calculations does not include MCAT prep courses, which can add an extra couple of thousand easily into your total. So if you plan on taking a prep course, add $2,000 into the total above

In this article, we will discuss the various factors that will go into calculating your cost of applying to medical school. 

Table of Contents

MCAT and Application Costs

The first financial roadblock you encounter will be the AAMC application. We’re talking about the MCAT, the primary applications, and the secondary applications. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of costs. 

  • For MCAT preparation costs, I just based it off my own experience: Kaplan Revitew books and NextStep practice exams. 
  • For secondary applications, I’m going to average $65 per school based on my personal experience of 27 east coast medical schools. 
  • Depending on the competitiveness of the schools you choose to apply to, you can apply to up to 50 schools meaningfully.  The median number of applications per student according to AAMC is 15 schools. 
Item Cost* (15 schools) Cost* (50 schools)
Application
First School
$170
$170
Additional Schools
$574
$2,009
Secondary Application
$975
$3,250
College Service Fees
$10↕
$10↕
MCAT Exam^
$320 (initial registration at least 15 days prior)
$320 (initial registration at least 15 days prior)
MCAT Official Prep
$268.80
$268.80
$242.99
$242.99
$249
$249
MSAR (optional)
$36
$36
Total (before taxes)
$2,835.79
$6,555.79


*Costs are subject to change. At the time of this article, all prices are reflected as per the linked websites.

^$95 (rescheduling at least 29 days prior) or $160 (rescheduling at least 15 days prior) on top of the original price.

Fees (i.e. sending transcripts to AAMC) vary depending on your own college

Calculating the costs here is pretty constant and simple: just think about what resources you want to buy and how many schools you want to apply to! Plug the prices into an excel sheet to easily calculate and track how much you need to pay now and later. 

Expensive right? Check out our article on how to drastically reduce AAMC costs, so you can have more dough for later.

Cost of Interviews

After you apply, now you have to think about interviews. There are a couple of ways to approach this since costs vary depending on your preferences. We’re going to focus on three main buckets: interview clothes, traveling to interviews, and housing for interviews. Of course this all depends on how many interviews you end up getting, but let’s look at specific costs.

We’re going to illustrate a spectrum of prices for similar items.

Interview Clothes Aren’t Cheap

They say you should dress the part you want, not the part you have. Medical school is still a conservative institution: so the classic business suit is often encouraged, even over business casual outfits, for both men and women. Opt for classic colors like black, blue, or grey. The price tags for these outfits are pretty hefty, but in the end, it’s a good investment because you’ll be wearing it on many occasions, even beyond medical school.

Lower End Mid Range Higher End
Men's Suit


Walmart:
Full suit

Men’s Wearhouse:
Full Suit


Charles Tyrwhitt:
Full Suit 

(They sell nice non-iron button-downs, perfect for traveling!)

Men’s Wearhouse: Full Suit

Brooks Brothers: Full Suit

Women’s Suit

Express:

Women’s Dress Pants

Women’s Blazer

Women’s Button Down

Nice dress shoes, dress shirts, and other accessories make the outfit. A good pair of shoes to invest in usually costs between $50 to $100. (I snatched the first pair of black heels I found at DSW and found out it was $90 at the register) 

The table is not entirely comprehensive, but we just wanted to show you how quickly costs add up. Shop around to find good deals for shoes and other accessories. 

Smart Tips when Shopping:

  • Coupons are your best friends. Also, sign up for stores’ newsletters for promotional discounts! I bought my first full interview outfit in the second year of college with a $120 coupon from my research mentor. Four years later, I am still wearing the same outfit (with some additions).
  • Buy separate pieces of a suit if it is cheaper but make sure the colors and textures match
  • Shop online: some deals are available online but not in-store

Traveling and Lodging Expenses

In-person interviews require you to travel to the school which may or may not be easily accessible by public transportation. When I interviewed for the school I go to now, it was just a $2.75 train fare each way. Otherwise, I had to book a few bus trips (and for some people, plane rides). Also, anytime I had to travel elsewhere, I had to average approximately $20 for Lyft rides ($10 one way from your place to the campus and $10 back) per interview.

Tip: Try to arrive the evening before so you spend just one night, then leave right after your interview the next day. Don’t worry about luggage–schools will let you store it somewhere!

Besides getting there, you need to find a place to spend the night before your interview. Options for that range from AirBnb’s to inns to hotels. These all depend on where you are interviewing: options in New York City for instance are more expensive than in some other cities. 

Lower End! Mid Range Higher End
Travel (One-way)
$10 - 50 (Bus)
$50 - 120 (Bus/Train)
$120+ (Bus/Train/Plane)
Lodging for One Night
AirBnB: $35 - $60
Mid Level hotels and inns (ie Days Inn): $60 - $100
Hotels (ie Marriott Residence): $115+

!These values are based on my personal experiences

Before choosing cheap lodging options, also factor in your level of comfort and other amenities like WiFi, cleanliness, free continental breakfast (interviews give students lunch and sometimes breakfast), and so forth. You want to save money but also be on your A-game for interviews.

Lodging expenses always end up being the most variable in my experience, so budget in $100 leeway just in case. You never know when you need food, toothbrushes, and other essentials or when you might get stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Total Cost of Applying to Medical School

All the costs we’ve mentioned above are compiled in this table here to visualize how much you could spend when applying to medical school. For this table, let’s say you apply to 20 schools, and interview at 5 of them.

Itemization Low End Mid Range High End
Application
Primary Application: First School
$140
$140
$140
Primary Application: Additional Schools
$779
$779
$779
Secondary Application
$1300
$1300
$1300
College Service Fees↕
$10
$10
$10
MCAT Exam^
$320
$320
$320
MCAT Official Prep
$268.80
$268.80
$268.80
$242.99
$242.99
$242.99
$249
$249
$249
MSAR (optional)
$36
$36
$36
Interview
Clothes (Suits Only)
$100
$270
$500
Interview: Travel
Travel (two-way)
$300
$850
$1200
Lyft
$100
$100
$100
Interview: Lodging
One night stay
$47.50
$80
$115
Leeway for Expenses
$150
$200
$250

GRAND TOTAL

$3,743

$4,846

$5,511

*Costs are subject to change. At the time of this article, all prices are reflected as per the linked websites.

^$95 (rescheduling at least 29 days prior) or $160 (rescheduling at least 15 days prior) on top of the original price.

Fees vary depending on your own college

The grand total depends on how many more schools you apply to or when you mix and match different sections of given low, mid, and high-end estimates. These are just ballpark estimates of how much the entire journey may cost you, so keep track as you go. (Side note: the amount I spent is comparable to the range of grand totals listed here!)

 

How to Save Money On Application Process

Knowing how pricey applying to medical school will be is nerve-wracking, so let’s go over some ways to save money throughout it all! We’re going to cover how to invest smartly through credit cards and to be thrifty in other ways.

 

Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses

This sounds off track but hear me out: a credit card with reward programs can start saving you money BEFORE you even apply so you can charge all the expenses on it. Applying for credit cards with generous sign up bonuses can save you tons of money by crediting you money back that you spent. You can literally earn $1,000 to $2,000 just with sign up bonuses. Credit card rewards also come in handy throughout your application year for the following reasons:

  • Cashback for any purchase, so earn points while you apply to medical schools and daily living! (Coffee anyone?) Without the fee assistance program, applications and MCAT resources are upward $2,000 already.
  • Promotions that require you, a new cardholder, to spend a certain amount within the first three months
  • Points for travel purchases and/or earn miles or redeemable travel points

We’ve analyzed some examples to illustrate our points:

Card Annual Fee Perks Beneficial for Med School Apps Other Perks
CASHBACK OPTIONS
$0
  • No tiered cashback: 1% back on all purchases, and 1% on all purchases paid back for a total 2% cashback
$0
  • Earn unlimited 5% cashback on purchases up to $1,500 and then 1% on unlimited purchases thereafter
  • Promotion*: $200 cashback on first $500 spent in the first 3 months
TRAVEL REWARDS OPTIONS
$95
  • 60,000 points on $4,000 spent in first 3 months
    • That’s $750 redeemed in travel through their rewards website
  • 2 points per dollar for dining and travel
  • 1 point all other purchases
  • 2+3 points for certain Lyft products -- good for interviews!
  • Complimentary DashPass subscription for 12 months ($0 delivery for orders above $12)
  • 25% more redemption value of travel points through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Website
$0
  • 20,000 bonus miles when you spend $1000 in the first 3 months
  • Unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar spent on any purchases
  • Rewards don’t expire for the life of the card

*Promotions are based on what’s current when the article was written

If you have to spend money, you might as well get rewarded for it! These are a glimpse of possible options out there, feel free to check out other options.

Other Money Savvy Tips (Based on Personal Experience)

First and foremost, eliminate most of the application charges by applying to the fee assistance program (if you qualify)! Head over here to see if it’s worth it.

For Travel and Lodging:

  1. Find out if someone you know (a friend, a relative, etc.) lives nearby and crash:
    When I interviewed at a medical school just outside of Scranton, I luckily had a friend who lived in the dorms at the sister undergraduate college. All I had to pay for was bus fare! 
  2. Otherwise, search for AirBnB options a bit farther from the school and Lyft to campus:
    In my experience, this was often cheaper than staying at a slightly closer hotel for a night. Cue credit card rewards programs.
  3. Spend a night with a medical student host:
    Schools often invite you to spend a night with a medical student host. Mainly, this is for you to get to know the campus and student community better. It’s an added bonus that it’s a free stay near campus! Don’t be scared, hosts are volunteers who love to show prospective students the ropes.
  4. Book your trip ahead of time no matter what you’re taking:
    A classic travel rule, look at itineraries early for the best deals and search on cheap fare websites (ie Trivago). Sometimes the deals are actually within the original websites, especially for buses (ie Peter Pan, Bolt Bus). Book trips with your rewards credit cards for points!
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