Can You Negotiate a Medical School Scholarship?

You can negotiate a medical school scholarship

When you receive a medical school acceptance, you are elated, and rightfully so! You’ve worked a tremendous amount to get to the point of being accepted and are now on your way to becoming a physician!

Except, there’s one potentially crippling hurdle in the way: tuition. You’ve probably seen the numbers: many medical students graduate with over $200,000 in debt. It’s certainly not easy to finance medical school nor to leave medical school with so much debt.

Luckily, most students qualify for some sort of financial aid. Whether those are grants from the government or scholarships, your initial tuition sticker shock may be lowered just a little bit. For a select few, there are honors scholarships that can almost pay your entire tuition.

A question that often comes up is if a student can use one scholarship offer to “negotiate” with another school. The short answer is YES, absolutely! Now, I’ve had a student who was actually been on the waitlist at a top 5 medical school, but got into another school (“lesser” ranked) with a full scholarship. Not only did he get off the waitlist at the top 5 school, he got a full tuition ride! How, a well timed and strategically placed letter or phone call to the powers that be can certainly get a school to rethink their offer to an individual applicant.

Bottom line, you absolutely can use one schools offer to talk with another school. You can send an email outlining something along the lines of:

“Dear Dr. _____,

Thank you so much again for the chance to matriculate at University of _______. I couldn’t be happier or more excited to have this opportunity!

As I make my final decisions for medical school, obviously cost is one of the factors I am considering. While I absolutely love your school, the X College of Medicine has actually offered me a full tuition scholarship (see attached).  While tuition costs is certainly not the only factor determining my decision, I wanted to understand where I stood for potential financial aid/scholarships at University of ______. I’d love to discuss more with you over the phone or even in person soon!

I hope to hear from you. Thank you again!


A simple letter like this can go a long way in a potential acceptance and a scholarship offer!

Medical Shadowing: What to Do When You Have the Chance

Doctor Shadowing

shadowing doctors

Every premedical student knows that shadowing is an important part of their medical school application. Shadowing is a great way to understand the profession, see what doctors do on a day to day basis and make sure that you enjoy it! However, oftentimes students are confused as to how to get the most out of medical shadowing. But if you follow these two simple tips, you’ll be able to maximize your shadowing time and eventually be able to talk about it intelligently on your medical school application as well as during interviews.

Tip 1: Do some homework!

For shadowing experience to be worthwhile, it makes sense for the student to do a little bit of reading before hand just to understand the terminology used. Often times, especially when shadowing a specialist, there are a lot of acronyms and names that are brought up and thrown around.

Preparing a little beforehand to know what types of procedures or what types of things may come up before that experience happens is important. If its going to be a regular shadowing experience, go home and do so some reading about what you saw that day to get a better understanding of what happened.

Tip 2: Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Questions are never something to be afraid of! In fact, as you move along in your medical education, questions will be how you learn! Don’t expect someone to always force feed you knowledge; you must be proactive in wanting to understand medicine. For example, if you are in a clinic and you have seen a patient with a doctor for 20-30 minutes, keep a mental note of questions that would be interesting to ask afterwards. Questions such as, “Why did you do that?”, “Why did you ask that question to the patient?” would be helpful. In addition, I think the key thing to any encounter with any patient is to figure out why the doctor decided to go with a certain plan of action. Each encounter with a patient is split up into two parts: the information gathering part, with questions such as, “Why are you here?”, “Where do you have pain?”, and the second part is the counseling: “Given what you told me, here is what I think we should do.” I think to learn the most you have to really try to understand from the doctor, why did he or she prescribe a certain medication, why did he or she decide on a particular diagnosis over another. I think asking questions around those pieces will provide more insight to what medicine is about and really help you get something out of the experience.

Military Scholarship and Medical School

military personnel yelling at cadet

Military Medical SchoolMany medical students consider a military scholarship for medical school and have many questions surrounding the process. Medical school is expensive, bottom line, and the anticipated debt after four years can be daunting. The average medical student graduates with just over $200,000 in debt. With a typical re-payment plan, the total repayment cost can exceed $400,000. With such a steep price, it is no wonder why applicants seek out alternative ways to finance medical school.

One of these options is the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) offered by the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The deal is full tuition through medical school, including all costs for books and equipment along with a living stipend in exchange for four years of military service once your education is complete. In this article we will briefly explore the path and day-to-day life of an HPSP student.

Signing up

In order to join the military you will have to be in touch with a recruiter and complete an application. Many branches still have an automatic acceptance program in which a certain GPA and MCAT score will earn you the scholarship as soon as you get your first medical school acceptance letter. A 1 year scholarship requires 2 years of service, everything after that is year for year. Most students end up taking a 4 year scholarship to cover all of medical school incurring a 4 year commitment to the military.

Medical School

Most students will complete their basic officer leadership course the summer before medical school or in between their first and second years. During medical school you will look and act just like your civilian peers with no other requirements. In your 4th year, the military will pay for you to do 2 audition rotations/interviews at programs you are interested in for residency. Room, board, and daily costs are covered for a maximum of 45 days.


                  Most students will end up going to a military residency program. There are exceptions for some of the more specialized branches of medicine but this gets tricky and is a larger discussion. During these 3-7 years, depending on your specialty, you will be active duty. This means you will be wearing a uniform and working in a military hospital. It also means you will be paid as an active duty service member.

Life After Residency

                  While some physicians will now go on to fellowship training, many will now begin their payback working in their field of specialty at a military hospital or clinic. This is now the first time you will be eligible for deployment. While deployments work on a rotating basis, it is safe to assume that during a 4 year payback you will likely be deployed at least once for 6-9 months. There are, of course, many exceptions.

All in all, the military scholarship is an attractive option. You can finish medical school with zero debt in exchange for military service as a physician which can be very rewarding in its own right. Military physicians receive extra training in leadership skills and adaptability which easily carry over into civilian life.

About the author: David is a board certified family medicine physician in the Army currently working as a flight surgeon. You can contact him at for more information about the HPSP scholarship or life as a military physician in general.

DO vs MD Schools – Understanding the Differences and Career Implications

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Dr Sahil Mehta from MedSchoolCoach, one of the nation’s best medical school admissions consulting companies, explores the DO vs MD debate. Deciding whether to apply to, and accept an osteopathic admission is a big issue in the minds of many medical school applicants. There are pros and cons to the DO/osteopathic route and we explore some of them here. Learn how your career maybe impacted by going to DO school versus MD school and what you should consider before deciding to apply to osteopathic schools.

MedSchoolCoach is the nation’s leading medical school admissions consulting company. MedSchoolCoach employs only physicians who have been on admissions committees. They understand the medical school admissions process inside and out and can help you with your personal statement, interview preparation, AMCAS application, secondaries and much more.

4 Things to Know Before Applying to Medical School

4 Things to Know Before Applying to Medical School

Any individual who wishes to become a doctor is likely sick of hearing about how difficult medical school is and how challenging it is to gain admission. If you’re the sort of person who sets lofty goals for yourself, you’re undoubtedly more interested in exploring what you need to do to get to where you want to be than you are in hearing that it’s not simple. Here are four key items to know before applying to medical school. Medical school is an arduous process that requires serious commitment, and if you aren’t sure it’s worth it, you may burn out.

What a doctor’s lifestyle is like

If your conception of what it’s like to be a doctor originates from Grey’s Anatomy or that medical outreach trip you took to Mexico, you may have a misinformed notion of the medical field. It’s important to know what you’re working toward, so locate doctors you can speak to about their careers. What do they like and dislike about their job? What is their home life like? What do they find rewarding about being a doctor, and what is challenging for them? If they had to do it over again, would they? Don’t be afraid to think honestly about the implications of their answers.
Why you want to be a doctor

There are a number of solid careers in the world, and medicine isn’t the right choice for everyone. Once you’ve developed an understanding of what you’re undertaking by pursuing an MD, spend some time trying to articulate why you wish to do so. What are the positive things drawing you to this field? What negatives exist? Why do the positives make it worthwhile, and how are you going to deal with the negatives? Why have you specifically decided you wish to be a doctor? If you intend to be involved in health care reform, what made you decide not to pursue a law degree? If you’re fascinated by anatomy and physiology, what made you decide not to pursue a PhD where you could possibly learn even more? If you’re drawn to the opportunity to develop relationships with people and aid them, why don’t you want to be a counselor or a therapist where you could potentially see them more often? Don’t be afraid to decide that you don’t have an ideal answer to these questions. There are plenty of strong career paths and not all of them involve medical school.

How you’ve proven you can handle the rigors of medical school

So, you hope to become a doctor? Making an informed, articulate decision about this involves a great deal of time. Once you’ve reached your conclusion, the next step is convincing a medical school to admit you. Institutions expect to fill their classes with students who will work extremely hard toward a long-term goal and who can handle the stress involved with such pressure. The obvious way to prove you can do this is by earning high grades and MCAT scores, but there are also other ways to demonstrate you’re a hard worker.

What about you personally would make you an exemplary doctor?

You need to prove to yourself and to the medical schools you’re interested in attending that not only can you survive medical school, you’ll make a great doctor, too. How will your personality mesh with the realities of a career as a physician? How will you strike a balance between home and work? How have you prepared yourself for this? Will you be able to empathize with patients? These are difficult questions, and you may not possess answers to all of them, but developing some sense of why you’ll do well will help you seem like a competent, well-informed applicant and will also garner you confidence as you work toward your goals.

Eric Secrist is a professional MCAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Washington and is a current medical student at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.

Webinar: How to Stand out with Your Extracurriculars

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Extracurricular Activities and Your Medical School Application: A Webinar from the Experts

Jan 23rd at 9 pm EST

Ever wonder what a medical school admissions committee member thinks about your application and the activities you’ve partaken in? Want an inside perspective of what makes a great candidate and what makes a lousy one? Join MedSchoolCoach advisors as they take you through the process of choosing extracurricular activities in this free webinar!

Register Today for the Free Webinar

  1. interactive connectionWhat extracurriculars should you be participating in?
  2. html cleanerLearn can you use your clinical activities to stand out
  3. Word to htmlLearn how to choose the right international experience
  4. Word to htmlHow many hours of shadowing/research/volunteering do I need!?
  5. replace textWhat makes a great application to medical school

Featuring MedSchoolCoach Advisors Dr. Marinelli and Mehta, plus others

Renee Marinelli, MD, former admissions committee member at UC Irvine Dr. Sahil MehtaSahil Mehta MD, Founder of MedSchoolCoach 

Dr. Marinelli Visits UCR Pre-SOMA and AMSA

MedSchoolCoach advisors often are asked to give talks at various schools around the country. After all, no firm is more experienced and more knowledge about the process of becoming a physician. With over 40 advisors with admissions committee experience at various schools across the country, there is no better place to turn to for advice than MedSchoolCoach.

Recently, Dr. Marinelli visited University of California Riverside to give a talk to the Pre-SOMA (The Pre-Student Osteopathic Medical Association at UCR was founded in Spring 2014) and AMSA@UCR groups. We were thrilled to share advice with over 50 students at Riverside on their path to medical school! If you are interested in having an advisor come to your college to speak, please contact us at so we can arrange for one!

Dr. Marinelli shared some secrets to being a successful medical school applicant with the students, including how to pick the right extracurricular activities and get an application in order that will stand out to medical schools!



Key Skills for Every Pre-Med

As a premedical student, you have a lot on your plate. Between difficult classes, never ending tests, pressures to maintain great extracurriculars and do well on standardized tests, it can be overwhelming. But there are a few key skills that every premedical student should have which will help you get through these years with ease:

Adaptability and Social Skills
You will be working with many different types of people in medical school, in your residency, and in your career. It is very important to be able to adapt to changes, as different people will have different clinical styles that may or may not agree with your style. Especially in medical school, you need to be able to adapt to these different situations. You need to be able to take constructive criticism as a medical student, but it is also helpful to be able to interact with the people around you.

Time Management Skills and Efficiency
Because medical school and residency are a lot of work, develop the skill to prioritize the things that are important and those that can wait until later. In your study strategy, prioritize the things that are most important and the things that are most difficult for you. As a Resident, efficiency is very important because you need to be able to list out and complete all your tasks, and find a way to utilize the resources around you, including delegating tasks to others, to be done on time.

Your Personal Study Strategy
The last thing that I think is important to develop while you’re a premed is a study strategy that works well for you as a student. The same study strategy you used previously won’t work when you are presented with such a vast amount of information in medical school. But I think if you figure out what kind of learner you are, whether you are a visual, audio learner or you learn by doing or reading, and if you are the type of person who needs to know the details, this will guide the way you study, because there is a large volume of material to learn in medical school.

Q&A with Dr. Alice Zheng, MedSchoolCoach Advisor

Alice-Zheng-MD-380x380Dr. Alice Zheng is a entrepreneur, physician, public health activist and MBA! She received her MBA from Harvard University and MD from University of Michigan. She is an incredible person who is an inspiration for all who want to become a physician, and maybe even more. We sat down and talked with her about her journey through medical school.

Q: What kept you going throughout your medical school application process, was there any specific motivation or any factor that constantly kept motivating you?

A: I think remembering the end goal, there are definitely many challenges along the way but I think it’s very important for all pre-med students to remember that this is a very long journey; so you start out very early, picking your course work and looking for research advisors. The application process is tiring but it’s just another part of the journey because when you get into medical school, you do a lot of soul searching; you are going to think a lot about what you want to do in your future life. I think sometimes pre-meds feel like medicine is an end to itself but it’s actually an entry way to a bigger path because medicine is not just one type, one path; once you are in medicine, there are so many choices and so many options.

Medicine is not an end to itself but actually an entry way to a bigger path; it is not just one type, one path, there are so many choices and so many options.”

You choose a speciality or choose what kind of practice setting you want to be in. Even beyond that, some people end up in jobs in medicine where they might do some journalism on the side, they might do some policy work. So there are just endless options.

Q: Along those lines, can you tell us a few surprises that you found out about when you went to med school? Was there anything that you feel you should have known about or anything you feel like you could have been better prepared for?

A: I think a lot of teamwork and leadership is needed in the career of medicine and it can be a difficult adjustment for some students because they spend their whole undergraduate career excelling in science or their chosen major, but mostly its individual work. So you study for your exam, you write your essay and it’s more or less individual, maybe some of the research is collaborative but you still have your own piece of work cut out. Even in the first two years of medical school there is individual work, so you are sitting in a lecture, you are in the anatomy lab and you are studying for an exam and you know the output you get is based on individual work. But you are in a team, with other medical students, other residents, attending doctors and nurses. So I think that can be an adjustment to some pre-meds who have never worked in the real world. You can’t do your job without the nurse doing his or her job. Make sure you understand dynamics and how to work well in a team and ultimately, one day you will lead the team and you will be the attending doctor. I think that is something that is overlooked when you are a pre-med because you are just focused on your individual achievement, because that’s how you get in. More and more medical schools now have essays on team work and questions about leadership; they do MMI interviews to assess how you deal with difficult situations because it’s no longer about how well you do in exams, It’s about using your skills in medicine but more importantly it’s about working in a team and being a leader.

Q: Great! That’s the perfect segway into my next question. What do you think are three skills that pre-med students should develop early on in their education? Are there any soft or hard skills you think they should definitely have?

A: Sure, one thing I would say is resilience. Medicine is very hard, the application process is very hard, so once you get in there you are constantly being tested, you are memorizing things and then you have to give the board exams. You have to literally study for twelve hours a day for six weeks to get through that and then when you are on the ward it is very challenging because you are learning medicine, getting graded, you are getting self-examined. So a common thing in all of this is the need for resilience in a way to deal with failures, because there are moments where you will feel like you have failed when you are studying for medicine. So you don’t want to drive yourself to a point where you are very unhappy or you are not succeeding because you are overwhelmed. There will be someone who is going to give you a bad evaluation that you will feel is unfair, or there will be that one exam that you studied so hard for but didn’t do well on but it’s important to bounce back and recover. You have excelled your whole life, but now you are going to be among other people who excel, so you will no longer be the best. Having the emotional capacity to handle that I think is really really important.

A key skill to develop is resilience. There will be someone who is going to give you a bad evaluation that you will feel is unfair, or there will be that one exam that you studied so hard for but didn’t do well on but it’s important to bounce back and recover.

The other category of skill is related to how medicine is changing, it’s not just about myopically being a doctor and caring about the treatments and diagnosis, but trying to understand how the world fits together, because in the future people will be asking you your thoughts about policies around the world and inequalities and things. It’s that ability as a doctor I feel that has expanded beyond the clinical. Doctors can be advocates for their patients, doctors also play a big role in health economics, because they are the one prescribing treatments so being kind of aware of how the different parts society fits together I think is really important. One can get that by being well read on current affairs and health care, taking some time off before medicine and getting some work experience. I think those are all great things that develop maturity as well as a broader understanding of the world.

Q: So when you actually get down to the process of applying and writing your personal statements, is there anything that you suggest students not do when they are applying or when you are in the process of application?

A: Sure, so one thing you should never do, is never talk about academic failures or not getting into medical school. For questions about adversities, overcoming your failures, or challenge, you should never write about those things. Although those are often sometimes very formative experiences that were very difficult, I completely understand that can be very top of mind, but that should not be the topic of these questions. Now, if that does happen to you where you had academic problems or difficulties, you didn’t get into medical school in the past, that’s totally fine. Many people reapply and they succeed, but there will be a place in the application to write about it separately, where they specifically will ask whether you have had any academic difficulties, you’re a re-applicant and there, that’s where you can be very honest about what happened and you can appear very vulnerable. You can be like that and then write about how you have changed and grown, but you don’t want to write about that unless they ask for it.

Q: Alright. Is there anything else? Maybe that you can think of now at the top of your mind?

A: Yes, so something I tell my students when they write their personal statements is that to think big and be visionary, so when you are writing your personal statement you want to say why medicine, you want to talk a little bit about yourself, your values, your background but what you are really trying to convey is that you will be a leader in healthcare and maybe your interests are in primary care, maybe it’s in global health, maybe it’s in research, whatever it is, when you conclude your essay and throughout your essay, you goal is convince the admission committee that you have this burning passion to change things, to be the best physician possible and that you have a bigger vision that you want to be some sort of leader. This is especially true for the students who want to get into the very top schools, it’s not enough just to do research, just to do volunteering, and then kind of list them methodically, on your application. It’s about why you did those things, and how you grew from them and how that contributed to you being a leader in the future with this expandable world view and this repertoire of experiences.

Q: You put that really well. I think it’s all about commitment towards a certain service or just about how you are dedicated towards serving people in general and what clearly motivates you. So then again, is there anything in particular that you are looking for in prospective students?

A: Yes, similar to what I just mentioned for the essay. When you are interviewing you are also trying to convey your broad vision, your visionary thinking about the future. So when you answer questions about, tell me about yourself, you can start with something meaningful, your prior background but you always want to end it with something about what you hope to accomplish, or what you hope to do. You know again, with the theme of medicine not being the end to itself but a means to something greater.