Here's How to Financially Plan for Medical School
Admissions Advice from Regional Director of Admissions, Sam Mahra
You've realized your calling is to become a medical doctor. In addition to the academic drive, determination, and success, you'll need a way to pay for your medical education. All of these factors, none of which are easy in and of themselves, calls for a plan. More specifically, a financial plan which addresses the cost of your future medical school journey. There are a multitude of variables that will determine the high picture cost of your medical education. Will you attend a U.S. medical school? To sift through the cumbersome processes involved, we've asked one of Trinity's Regional Directors of Admissions, Sam Mahra, to help break down some of the essential parts that play a crucial role in determining your future financial needs to attend medical school.
Let's start with U.S. medical school statistics that any future doctor needs to know. First, there is a mounting shortage of medical doctors in the United States. Additionally, results of the 2018 Medical School Enrollment Survey conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), enrollment has increased by 31% since 2002. It is important to note that of the number of applicants to all medical schools in the U.S., 60% of applicants are rejected annually. This process leaves thousands of qualified applicants out of U.S. medical school programs. However, many of these applicants find alternative routes to achieve another path to earn their M.D. One of the most prominent outlets for rejected medical students from the United States becomes an international program or a Caribbean medical school.
To figure out your financial strategy, you'll likely need to plan for a U.S. medical school program's average cost and an alternate choice, such as a Caribbean medical university.
AMMC compiled data regarding medical school tuition for schools in the United States. On average, during the 2018-19 year, the cost of attending a public medical school averaged just over $36,700 for an in-state student. The in-state student's average cost to attend a public medical school per degree is roughly $147,200. On average, an out-of-state student pays close to $61,000 per year, with an estimated cost of around $243,200 per degree. It is essential to know these estimates are limited to tuition and fees and health insurance. Competition to land a spot with any state (public or private) medical school remains intense. Coupled with the competitiveness, with the cost, many students must rely on alternative paths, such as attending an international medical program. Depending on the school, the quality of education can be equal to, if not better, when comparing the cost-point and investment to the return on that investment (qualified medical graduates who practice medicine back in the states). Another measure of success, match rates, combined with alumni success stories from International Medical Graduates (IMGs).
Medical School is a Long Term Investment
It is critical to understand that graduating from M.D. school is an appreciative investment, meaning you should consider your potential future salary as a doctor and divide this out over time. Depending on the route you chose or the path that chooses you, neither should be a decision made lightly. Both require dedication and significant financial investment and assess the value you receive on the cost. You'll need to factor in each school's clerkship/rotation program – does it require you, the future student, to pay even more due to moving during each of the clinical residency programs? What type of clinical experience, support services, and student instruction will you receive as you compare programs?
Also, the little costs add up – textbooks, fees for primary and secondary applications, test preparation, etc. The small costs seem unnoticeable at first and add up quickly.
Factoring in the Cost of Living
Location, location, location. Suppose you end up going with a traditional U.S. medical school. In that case, the cost of living index for that school's location needs to be considered, as you try to calculate the total cost of your medical school education. Regardless of which institution you ultimately take to fulfill your calling to become a medical doctor, you will need to consider expenses such as rent, groceries, traveling to and from home as your schedule allows. According to Mahra, "cost can be managed effectively if tuition has inclusive components or having rotations done in locations with low cost of living expenses."
Mahra also explains that "all potential medical students should be aware of for pre-acceptance expenses like; campus visits, Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), residency, and the United States Medical Licensing Examination three-step process (USMLE) fees, attending conferences, all of which should be considered when calculating a big-picture budget."
Understanding School Loans
Many, if not most, students will require private loans to assist with the cost of attending medical school. For this reason, it's critical to know your credit score, and if needed, steps that can help boost your credit score to meet the overall prerequisites to obtain a student loan. Once you've been approved for a student loan, it is critical to "stay up to date on repayment of any previous loans, be timely on bill payments, and be prepared to boost your FICO score," adds Mahra. Pulling a free credit report identifies credit errors that can be disputed with appropriate agencies.
Also, the financial aid process is often confusing for many students navigating the process on their own. Utilize all aspects of a highly qualified admissions counselor. Admissions counselors who excel at their jobs take a hands-on approach in providing accepted students with a detailed budget and assistance in the financial aid process. Find out what kind of admissions process your preferred schools utilize. The rolling admissions process has advantages. For example, rolling admissions allows students ample time to prepare for the unexpected early in the admissions cycle.
Having the passion, drive, dedication, and education are several common characteristics future physicians share. Figuring out a financial plan, while learning the ins and outs as it relates to borrowing money, or securing funds for your medical school, will become a leading priority, no matter where you decide to earn your medical degree.
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