The Cost of Applying to Medical School: Secondary Applications

Published on
2021-02-28 16:00:00 +0000

For the sake of estimating costs, we can say that Secondary Application Fees average roughly $100 per school. According to my Postbac advisors, the average “General Admission” applicant is applying to approximately 20 schools. This adds an additional $2000 to your medical school application bill! If you’ve opted to “cast a wide net”, this could cost even more. Here’s what your additional costs might look like depending on how many schools you apply:

Secondary Expense Breakdwon

If you’re truly worried about price, it’s worth reevaluating the schools on your list, making sure you would truly be happy there if accepted to each school. Alternatively make a plan to save and pay for the secondary applications for as many schools as you want to apply to. You don’t want to pay to add a school to your AMCAS application, only to find out you can’t afford the secondary in the end. You can end up losing quite a bit of money this way.

If you qualify for AAMC’s Fee Assistance Program, you will be spared a lot of heartache. If approved, many schools will waive secondary application fees.

If you don’t qualify for the Fee Assistance Program, and you still need help paying for secondary fees, don’t be afraid to reach out to your schools and ask for help. It’s not publicized for obvious reasons, but if you are struggling to afford the fees, some schools really are willing to help.

My Experience

Learning about secondary application fees was the most frustrating part of the whole my application process, not to mention the single most expensive component overall!

My program did a great job of preparing us with the understanding that secondary applications were time consuming and it was a good move to get started early. However, I got a rude awakening when around August the secondaries came pouring in. In the matter of a week, I received secondaries from all 20 schools I applied to. They did not “trickle in” as I expected.

I know, it’s a classy problem to have, but the bigger surprise came when I saw the price tag. The first school wanted $130 just to ask me to confirm that I had no controversial social media before they review my application. And this was just the beginning! I had 20 secondaries to complete, with fees ranging anywhere between $85 and $135 depending on the school.

I remember being so angry! Literally NO ONE had told me there was a fee associated with secondaries. When I double-checked AAMC, it had vaguely mentioned fees, but made no specific price reference, just that “fees range in cost”. I sent a scathing and demoralized email to my advisor, the overarching message being “how am I supposed to pay for this?” I remember being near tears, realizing that after how far I’d come (MCAT taken, AMCAS submitted), I might have to wait to reapply next year, so I could save up for secondary fees. It was devastating.

I spent a while trying to figure out where to go from there. Ultimately, I made a prioritized list of my top choices. Starting from the top, I worked through completing my secondaries, paying for each submission with my credit card, just as I had my AMCAS application. I got through about 5 or 6 schools before approaching my credit limit. Then I was stuck again—I didn’t have the money to continue submitting my secondaries, but at that point, I still only completed a quarter of my applications.

Thank god for my dear friend and coworker who encouraged me to reach out to individual schools about my circumstances, advocate for myself, and to ask for help. The worst that can happen, she said, is that they say no. It was the best advice I’d got during the process, practically life saving, and I am still so grateful for it.

I looked up the emails for Deans of Admission at my remaining schools online. I reached out to them and explained my situation. About half of the schools agreed to waive, reduce, or reimburse the fee, while the other half would only accept a Fee Assistance Program waiver. Some required a W2 or Statement of Hardship, others waived it no questions asked. Ultimately, this resulted in an additional 3 interview invites and 2 acceptances. Easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

In the end, I only ended up completing secondaries for 11 of the 20 schools I originally applied to. One or two I realized that I didn’t actually want to go to (a common product of the “cast a wide net” approach), and the rest I simply couldn’t afford. Overall, my lingering frustration with this process is that had I known about the cost up front I would have saved up. Because by not being able to complete those last 9 applications, I essentially lost the $40 I put into AMCAS for each of those schools—a loss of $360, which hurt much more knowing how much I was already struggling to afford the application to begin with.

Major Takeaways

  1. Secondary Fees average $100 per school
  2. If you’re going to, apply to Fee Assistance early, to give yourself time to save in the event you’re not approved.
  3. Estimate your applications costs and start saving
  4. Don’t apply more to more schools than you can actually afford. You end up losing money in the end.