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How to Apply to Medical School on a Budget

Everyone knows medical school is expensive. However, not everyone knows that the cost of applying alone can set you back about $10,000. From preparing for the MCAT to sending out applications, the costs rack up. As a prospective medical school applicant, these figures terrify me, which is why I put together a guide to utilize free, low-cost resources while applying to medical school.

AAMC’s Financial Assistance Program

The Association of American Medical Colleges offers low-income students reduced rates and free resources to ease the burden of medical school applications. If you’re approved, they’ll give you a discounted MCAT fee, complimentary access to the MSAR (a guide to every school), free AAMC/MCAT prep materials and one free application waiver sent to 20 schools. To see if you qualify for the program, click here. You can be awarded Fee Assistance up to five times, which means you have a lot of opportunities to give it a shot.

MCAT Prep

While an MCAT course may help you prepare for the test, they also have a hefty price tag, often reaching about $5,000 or more. Online options tend to be cheaper than in-person options. There are always deals that companies offer for whichever learning style suits you.

Also, some courses may offer financial assistance or reduced rates for lower-income applicants, such as Next Step Test Prep. However, you don’t necessarily need a course to get a high score on the MCAT. Below are some free resources that can help your study schedule:

Dr. Ryan Gray’s MCAT Podcast

This free podcast provides tips for making a study schedule, tips for test day and problem-solving walkthroughs, with the help of a Next Step Test Prep tutor. They specifically focus on CARS (Critical Analysis and Reading Section) and the Psych-Sociology sections since those passages require a different mindset than the science sections.

Question of the Day

Multiple companies offer a “question a day” where they email you a former MCAT question with a thorough explanation as to why that is the correct answer. Next Step, Varsity Tutors, Kaplan and many more can be found just by searching “free MCAT question a day.” I keep an excel spreadsheet where I copy and paste the question and answer, then analyze why all of the other answer choices were wrong. This helps to solidify my problem-solving strategy.

Khan Academy

If you are a fan of learning concepts through videos, then Khan Academy is your godsend. Its not just helpful for classes, but it offers a video series specifically geared toward MCAT prep. It covers the science concepts covered mostly on the MCAT, with visual concept reviews and practice problems worked out. If you are rusty on a topic from freshman biology, then just find the corresponding Khan Academy video on YouTube, and you’re set.

AAMC Content Outline

This AAMC, the company that makes the test, provides an outline of all of the concepts covered on the MCAT. This is an invaluable resource because sometimes testing materials offers too in-depth information. If you’re answering a question that seems too hard and the concept is not found on the outline, then it’s not going to be on the test (thank goodness).

Reduced Cost Study Materials

There is always the debate between choosing between different testing companies’ content review books. Kaplan or Princeton Review? What about Exam Krackers? Well, they all serve a different purpose. It seems that the Princeton Review offers the most thorough content review for those who are nontraditional applicants and need to re-learn concepts.

Exam Krackers provides a more brief review of content meant for students who have a good foundation of pre-requisite knowledge and need help with just practice. Kaplan is a happy medium, giving loads of information but not to the overwhelming extent that Princeton Review does.

When buying these books, my advice would be to go cheap on content review books and buy quality practice tests. The content covered on the MCAT since 2015 has not changed much, so the books published since 2016 are fine. Use Facebook marketplace or eBay to get cheap books. Buy practice tests from another source to make sure you’re keeping on track. These are just a few of the free MCAT resources, but these are just my favorites. The Podcast is especially useful since you can listen to it on your commute to school or while exercising.

UF’s Pre-Health Advising Resources

The Pre-Health Advising Office provides free assistance with personal statements, interview prep, resources and volunteer and research opportunities. It offers a free Canvas course that isn’t graded and split into different modules. The course provides helpful videos and links to resources on- and off-campus. They also offer walk-in, phone and by-appointment advising if you want one-on-one help. Click here for more information about the services the Pre-Health Advising Office provides.

The process of applying to medical school is already grueling enough, let alone worrying about how to pay for it. If money is holding you back from applying, don’t be afraid to ask test prep companies or other organizations for financial assistance. Many of them are generous toward hardworking students who have the grit to go through the process.

It may seem cliche and naive, but don’t ever let money hold you back from your dreams. It may be a more difficult road, but its possible to succeed by using free materials. Go forth and conquer!

Casey is a third-year biology major at the University of Florida and a Features Writer for Her Campus UFL. If she is not freaking out about school, then you can find her going to the beach, watching Ghost Whisperer with her BFF, or trying to find a new pin for her backpack.
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