Is it possible to go to medical school for free? Not many people are truly aware of how much medical school costs. Tuition costs are so high that most applicants wonder if it is even going to be possible for them to aspire to a career in medicine. Student loan debt numbers are extremely high and they are a burden to bear for years after graduating. Fortunately, medical school aspirants have options to minimize the costs of their education, including loans, grants, and medical school scholarships. The cost of attendance to medical school doesn’t only involve tuition, but also rent, study materials, food, and miscellaneous expenses. Removing the cost of tuition is a game-changer for applicants. That’s why several schools started offering tuition-free programs. Some of them even contemplate the additional costs of attendance, giving students the possibility to focus on their studies without having to worry about student loan debt. If you want to find out more about debt-free medical school programs and how to land a spot in one of them, keep reading!


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How Much Does It Cost to Study Medicine? 

Everyone knows studying medicine is pricey. Besides tuition, there are numerous additional costs associated with medical school that applicants must also consider, such as study materials, application fees, and living costs. Most medical school applicants rarely land interviews in medical schools in their own cities, so the cost of interviews also adds up.

Let’s start by discussing the potential costs of an application process. In order to get into medical school, you will have to go through a series of interviews. Depending on how far your interview is, you might have to book a flight and a night or two at a hotel, as medical school interviews usually last the whole day, making it necessary for you to spend at least one night in a different state. So, taking into account plane tickets, hotel stays, meals and attire, and considering short notice trips are significantly more expensive than planning them with anticipation, we could easily estimate a cost of around $1,000 per medical school interview.

Needless to say, moving to a different state to attend medical school involves much higher costs than studying in your hometown. The average monthly cost of rent plus utilities is US$1,400, plus around US$800 of vehicle and parking costs, not to mention contingencies or other expenses associated with the lifestyle of a college student.

Now let’s discuss tuition costs. In-state medical students in the US spend an average of $37,556 to attend public schools, while out-of-state residents spend $62,000. Annual tuition costs for private medical schools in the US add up an average of $60,000. Even though Canadian medical schools are more affordable than American ones, the costs are still high. The cost of medical school in Ontario can be up to almost $30,000 per year. 

Depending on your choices, these numbers can vary considerably, but one thing is for sure: going to medical school is not cheap. No wonder student loan debt numbers are staggering! According to the AAMC, the average medical school debt adds up no less than US$207,003. For this reason, medical school aspirants are desperately looking for more tuition-free opportunities. 

Depending where you are in your applications, you might also want to consider the cost to apply to medical schools as well:

Is It Possible to Go to Medical School for Free?

There are several ways to minimize the costs of medical school. The first and most common are student loans. There are 3 kinds: federal, school and private loans. Federal and school loans are much more convenient than private ones, as they offer lower interest rates and better terms in general. Private loans should be regarded as the last resource.

Another alternative are scholarships and grants. In addition to meritorious scholarships, there are many scholarships for minorities and students coming from underprivileged backgrounds.

Last but not least, some medical schools offer tuition-free programs that allow students to graduate debt-free. As previously mentioned, tuition is not the only cost associated with medical school, so even if you are able to enter such a program, you would still need to figure out how to pay for medical school fees and other related expenses, although the total amount will be considerably lower and affordable.

Certain schools, such as Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, offer free-tuition to its first five classes as a way of testing their new program.

Other alternatives, like Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences even offer an annual salary of around US$70,000 to those students who are commissioned officers in the U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army or U.S. Navy, including housing and allowances, in exchange for seven years of active-duty service commitment after finishing their residency, so if you aspire to become a military doctor, the USUHS might be the perfect option for keeping medical school related costs down!

Want to learn more about the military doctor path? Check out this video:

We will discuss what other options you have for attending medical school for free further down in this blog, but before we provide a list of tuition-free med schools, let’s discuss how you can get a spot at these highly coveted institutions. 

How Do You Land a Spot in a Tuition-Free Medical School? 

If any medical school admission process is competitive, imagine how competitive a tuition-free medical school program can be. Some applicants might question the quality of a school that doesn’t charge tuition in contrast with a school with an expensive program. The truth is that tuition-free programs are legitimate and offer the same certifications and accreditations as schools with full tuition, allowing graduates to have the same opportunities as their counterparts.

Apply Early

One of the most important things to keep in mind when it comes to applying to these programs is timing. Become familiar with the medical school application timeline and learn how to prepare your medical school application accordingly. Even if you were the most qualified of applicants, applying too late in the cycle will place you at a disadvantage compared to earlier applicants. Interviews are usually limited, so if you apply later in the cycle, most spots will have already been taken by the time your application is processed.

Tailor Your Application

After all, it is usually not only applicants with financially disadvantaged situations who seek this kind of opportunities, but students of all backgrounds. Learning how to make your medical school application stand out can be a serious challenge for some. Besides having a great GPA and high MCAT scores, there are many ways of convincing an admissions committee that you are a highly competitive candidate. Research the programs that interest you, their mission statements and what kind of applicants they tend to admit. Use your personal statement and secondaries to emphasize why attending these schools would be important to you. If you come from an underprivileged background, use the secondary to discuss this.

Emphasize Your Extracurriculars for Medical School

Include those that would be impressive for that school in particular and explain how they have provided you with valuable personality traits, such as leadership, teamwork, and communication skills.

Even though admission committees will not expect you to have any experience treating patients, they do greatly appreciate if you have spent time getting familiar with your potential future job. Therefore, clinical and shadowing experience should be included in your application. Getting some sort of medical experience in your resume is a great way of showing that you have realistic expectations of what a career in medicine implies. Consider activities such as volunteering for a local health campaign or taking part in a research project.  

List of Tuition-Free Medical Schools 

1. New York University School of Medicine 

NYU is the only top-ranked medical school in the US to cover tuition costs for students regardless of merit, background, or financial situation. The idea of offering full-tuition scholarships was initiated as a way to battle the issue of unaffordability and prevent aspiring doctors from pursuing other careers.

Even though tuition costs of around US$55,000 per year will be covered for all admitted students, they will still have to finance additional costs of attendance, starting at US$30,000 per year.

For first-year students, NYU estimates the following expenses:

Total yearly cost of attendance: US$30,110 

2. Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis 

Aiming to reduce concerns about student loan debt, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis provides full scholarships to allow half of its students to attend their program tuition-free, and the other half to receive partial tuition support. While similar tuition-free programs offered by other schools rely on donations, this school’s program receives funding from its own departments and affiliated training hospitals.

Additionally, tuition costs are frozen each year for the entering class, meaning they will remain the same for the four years it takes students to complete medical school, thus minimizing debt. The authorities of this school believe that carrying the financial burden of attending a full-tuition medical program prevents students from focusing on becoming the talented and dedicated professionals they have the potential to be. This program will benefit not only students with disadvantaged financial situations, but also students with impressive academic backgrounds and merit. 

3. Cornell Medical School

Weill Cornell Medicine is another tuition-free option in New York City. What is interesting about this school is that its tuition-free program doesn’t only cover the costs of tuition, but also of other expenses such as study materials, food, and lodging. Considering the elevated costs of living in New York, which is one of the most expensive cities in the world, such a generous scholarship can be a game-changer for applicants. However, unlike NYU, this scholarship opportunity will only be available to applicants who can demonstrate financial need.

Historically, about half of Cornell’s medical students could apply for need-based scholarship to partially cover the cost of attendance. Given that the cost of attendance for first year students without the financial aid is US$90,000, offering tuition-free opportunities really makes a difference. This wonderful initiative was made possible thanks to this school’s several benefactors, who added up an amount of US$160 million, making it possible for aspiring doctors to pursue a career in medicine without the pressure of an enormous financial burden. 

4. Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine 

Located in Cleveland, Ohio, this school offers full-tuition scholarships for all students. Having a limit of 32 students per class and offering a solid curriculum, this program is quite competitive. Every year, more than 2,000 applicants compete for one of those 32 spots, making its acceptance rate 1.6%.

CCLCM is actually a partnership between Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic. This school was originally founded in 1843 and was one of the first ones to offer the MD/Ph.D. program before the introduction of the medical scientist training program, and has been ranked among the 25 top universities in the country. 

5. UCLA Medical School  

About 25% of medical students at UCLA can receive the David Geffen Medical Scholarship. Unlike Cornell’s tuition-free program, this school only offers this benefit to students with outstanding academic merit, excluding financial need as an eligibility criterion. The good news is that all applicants are considered for this scholarship, so there is no need to send separate applications.

This school provides financial support for the complete duration of the program, plus additional attendance costs such as accommodation, books and study materials, medical insurance and transportation. International students are also eligible, although transfer students are not. UCLA also offers other need-based scholarship programs such as Leaders of Tomorrow, another full-tuition merit-based opportunity for aspiring physicians and scientists. 

Other Tuition-Free Medical School Programs Around the World

Conclusion 

Pursuing a career in medicine doesn’t necessarily mean drowning in medical school debt. Nowadays, tuition costs are so elevated that many potential medical school candidates decide to renounce their dream of becoming dedicated professionals. But you shouldn’t be discouraged by not being able to take on hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt to pay for your education, as there are options for attend medical school for free. Tuition-free medical school programs are rare but legitimate, and they represent valuable opportunities for candidates who can prove to have the potential to achieve academic success. If you feel passionate about medicine and work hard enough on your application, one of those spots can be yours!

FAQs

1. How long does it take to become a doctor?

Wondering how long it takes to become a doctor? Medical school in the US lasts 4 years and it is followed by a residency and potentially a medical fellowship. Both residencies and fellowships can usually last from 3 to 8 years. While fellowships are completely optional, they are highly recommended if you plan on becoming a specialist. You must have completed a residency program to apply to a fellowship.

2. What’s the average tuition fee?

The average tuition cost in the US is US$53,185.

3. What’s the average medical student loan debt?

According to the Association of American Colleges the average medical student loan debt is $207,003.

4. Is it possible to attend medical school for free?

Yes, there are medical schools that offer free-tuition programs. Please refer to our list of such schools in this blog.

5. What countries have free medical schools?

Several countries around the world have solid public education systems offering the possibility to pursue a career in medicine completely for free. If the language barrier doesn’t scare you, you will literally have a world of possibilities. Among European countries, Norway, Germany, Denmark, France, Sweden and Finland are the most popular amongst American medical school aspirants. In Latin America, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina offer some of the most solid tuition-free programs in highly sought-after commercial languages such as Spanish and Portuguese. As per Asia, China and Philippines offer incredible opportunities for international students at a very affordable cost.

6. Do med students get paid?

No. Aspiring physicians only get paid once they graduate from medical school and start their residency. There are a few exceptions to this, as in the case of USUHS students who receive a yearly salary for being commissioned officers in the U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army or U.S. Navy.

7. Are tuition-free programs as good as paid-tuition programs?

Yes, tuition-free programs offer the same certifications and accreditations as paid schools, allowing graduates to have the same opportunities as their counterparts.

8. What other costs should be considered besides tuition?

Even if you have your full tuition covered, you still have to finance other expenses such as rent, food, transportation, additional fees, health insurance, study materials and miscellaneous expenses (laundry, leisure activities, clothes, etc.)

9. What are the requirements for scholarships?

Medical school scholarships are often merit-based, but can also benefit students from all kinds of backgrounds, such as disadvantaged financial situations or certain ethnic groups. Other schools, like UCLA or CCLCM, don’t really have specific requirements, as all their applicants are considered for their scholarship programs.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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