It’s no secret that medical school is expensive. Students have to meticulously strategize how to pay their tuition and fees and research financial aid options, scholarships, and grants. But what about the time and money you have to spend before you can even apply to medical school?
Consider your time and money investments as a pre-med student: shadowing, clinical time, research, volunteering, tutoring, and countless hours of MCAT exam prep.
What if there was a way to get financial assistance for some of your medical school prerequisite activities?
We have great news for you — there is! Let’s take a look at some of your options so you can plan your financial aid as a pre-med student and beyond.was
The easiest way to understand financial aid is that it is any external contribution that allows you to pay for your education. Some of the most common types of financial aid include scholarships, grants, work-study programs, and student loans.
A scholarship is free money. Yes, literally! Typically, scholarships are awarded based on academic merit, though scholarships are as plentiful as they are varied. Scholarships can come from a multitude of benefactors, including the government, your educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and third-party organizations, like local businesses.
You’ll find in your search that some scholarships are niche and will define eligible applicants by a list of very specific requirements. Often, scholarships may be awarded based on certain hobbies, community involvement/volunteer history, specific demographics (for example, based on sex or race), family military involvement, college major, career goal, etc. Naturally, you’ll have the best chance to win a scholarship if you meet a list of unique criteria!
A grant, much like a scholarship, is free money you can use to pay for your education. Unlike some scholarships, however, grants almost always require that applicants have demonstrated financial need. Though grants can come from anywhere, the most popular benefactors are federal, state, and local governments. You can also obtain grants from your school and nonprofit or private organizations.
A work-study program is a federal system in which students with financial need are offered part-time jobs so they have guaranteed income while they study. The types of work you may receive differ by location. If you work on-campus, you’ll likely assist with administrative duties, library organization, or other jobs in which you’re helping your college. If you work off-campus, your work-study program will likely have a focus on community involvement, and your employer may be a nonprofit organization or a public agency.
Finally, though rarer than the other two options, you may be assigned a position in a for-profit entity if the position is relevant to your major and career goals.
A student loan is, you guessed it, a loan for students. However, unlike financial aid opportunities like grants and scholarships, student loans are simply a way to borrow money to complete your education, and they must be repaid alongside accrued interest.
Every student thinks about tuition, but pre-med students have additional prerequisites that other students don’t have to worry about. It can feel like a challenge, but you can find alternative ways to pay for everything listed below. First, let’s discuss what you may want to consider spending on, and then we’ll get down to the nitty-gritty of financial aid opportunities, saving, and budgeting.
If you want to ace the MCAT and ensure you get into medical school, you probably want to consider professional tutoring and application advising services. All medical schools have a minimum MCAT score and GPA they require, and if you don’t meet it, your application is automatically rejected. So it may actually save you money in the long run by paying for tutoring and advising, as you’ll avoid reapplication fees, additional MCAT exam expenses, or potentially having to take a gap year and additional coursework.
Pre-med experiences can be an incredible opportunity to strengthen your application and appeal to the school of your choice. Some of these experiences are free and simply require you to put in the effort to find and apply to relevant opportunities.
Others, like clinical travel experiences, are considered valuable investments in your education. Ultimate Med Immersion by MedSchoolCoach is a life-changing program that offers over 40 observation hours, real-world medical experience, and makes a stellar addition to your medical school application.
Types of pre-med experiences include:
If you need help paying for pre-med tutoring, advising and experiences, financial aid does exist! Bold.org is an excellent resource for finding scholarships and grants specifically to help students reduce their debt. In fact, MedSchoolCoach recently awarded a $1,500 advising/tutoring scholarship, and we’re planning to offer more in the near future.
If you’re struggling financially and considering how you’ll afford this process, the first thing you should do is apply for the AAMC’s Fee Assistance Program. The AAMC awards access to this program based on financial need.
Benefits of the program include:
Want money to spend on non-tuition expenses? Then make your tuition cost less! Here are some tips for finding financial aid opportunities to reduce your financial obligations and free up your expendable income.
Meet with your school’s financial aid department: Who would know better than your own school what they can offer you financially? Your financial aid advisor can also help you find other resources and scholarships, as well as personal finance resources. Keep the financial aid offices of potential colleges in mind as well, and reach out to them before you apply to see what they offer.
Ask local organizations: Especially if you will be attending med school in-state, look at scholarships offered by relevant organizations in your area. Local businesses, nonprofits, and public agencies have a vested interest in keeping students local and enriching the community in the long-term.
Check scholarship websites: You likely already know about the standard for scholarship websites: scholarships.com. But there are so many more! A few of the best include fastweb.com, collegeboard.org, myscholly.com, and of course, the aforementioned bold.org.
Tap into your 529 plan. If your parents had the foresight to set you up with a 529 college savings plan as a child, you’ll be able to tap into that money tax-free for qualified educational expenses.
Unfortunately, you can’t use 529 money for application fees, tutoring/advising, and extracurricular activities like clinical travel. But if you use it to reduce your tuition and other eligible college expenses, you’ll be able to save up to pay for non-tuition extras on your own.
You’ve probably heard about the “everyday millionaire” or the “millionaire next door,” which represents the fundamentals of effective personal finance: save, budget, and live within your means. But… How do you do that?
Fortunately, the AAMC has resources for this as well, thanks to their FIRST Program (Financial Information, Resources, Services, and Tools). When you filter the results to find financial resources for pre-med students under the ‘audience’ tab, the AAMC has collected priceless knowledge on budgeting, obtaining and paying off loans, cost breakdowns, and managing debt.
Studentaid.gov, home of all things FAFSA, also has invaluable information on financial management, including this piece on budgeting tips for students.
Finally, ProspectiveDoctor has several super-helpful, knowledge-packed podcast episodes on budgeting, student loans, and personal finances. Here’s the list — get a pen, paper, your favorite snack or beverage, and get ready to take lots of notes!
The road to medical school is not cheap, but there are many ways to lessen the financial burden if you know where to look. If you need tutoring or advising services to become a standout applicant, MedSchoolCoach is there for you. We’ve helped thousands of students achieve their med school dreams through our expert application advising and MCAT tutoring services. And if you’re up for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, we’d love to welcome you on our next immersive clinical travel trip!
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