The Expensive Road to Becoming a Physician
There are many capable physicians who receive admission into medical schools, but trying to pay for it can be difficult, especially for marginalized people. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), the cost is the primary reason that many minority students decide not to attend medical school. Additionally, a lot of students of color don’t have as much knowledge about scholarships or other forms of financial aid compared to their white counterparts. In 2018, 21% of students in medical school stated they had a debt of $300,000 or more. Attending just undergrad is very expensive, so applying for and attending medical school racks up even more debt.
In the 2022 cycle, applicants can spend about $170 for their first choice of med school and $42 for every other school following, not including the costs for transcripts and letters of recommendation. There can also be a secondary application after being accepted, which can cost up to $70 to $100. People can apply to up to 20 schools, which can be around $800 in total for just medical applications. Traveling for interviews can be up to $500 to $1000 depending on where the medical school is located. Just applying for and attending interviews before med school can rack up thousands of dollars. After getting into medical school, deposit fees can be up to $500 which are there to hold one’s spot in the program. People of richer backgrounds can often spend thousands for spots at multiple schools as they figure out which medical school to attend.
Once starting medical school, there’s an issue of how one will pay for the costs while studying. Even spending a few hours working can impact one’s performance on medical licensing exams and match a good residency. Loans are often a necessity for medical school. In 2022, the debt that an average medical student can owe can be up to $200,000 and more.
There is a lot to consider when one wants to be a physician with the increasing costs of medical school and residency. With many physicians often being from upper-income families or having physicians in the family, the path to becoming a doctor is not as financially strenuous compared to people who have no upper hand of physician family members or the money to easily get through college, medical school, and residency. Becoming a physician becomes plausible for those who can afford it and not for people of a lower socioeconomic status. There should be much more support and financial aid offered for those who will not be able to afford all the tuition costs.
While it may seem impossible to even afford medical school, there are options available. As mentioned before, scholarships can aid medical school costs. There are local, federal, and merit options. Based on if one has excellent grades and experience, merit scholarships can be worthwhile to apply to and should be looked into for each school that applicants plan to apply to. General federal scholarships can cover tuition for service while applying to many local ones will give u a chance to win some of them. There are also public service programs such as the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) that covers expenses for students in exchange for them working in high-needs areas and the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) that covers costs in exchange for some years of military service. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) ensures loan forgiveness in return for working for a qualifying nonprofit or government organization.
Another factor to consider is between public and private. Public medical schools within the US can be around $32,000 on average per year while private medical schools in the US can be averaged around $50,000 for yearly tuition. This difference might not be a lot but once medical school is done, the total costs can be way higher and harder to deal with in private medical schools. If loans are the only way applicants are able to afford medical school, do your best to pay loans off quickly. Doing it during residency can be a good start to a promising career as a physician.