Applying to Medical Schools Outside of Financial Ability

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New Member
Jul 12, 2016
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I'm a white, non-hispanic 25 year old female living in California. I'm finishing up my last classes this fall at community college with plans to transfer to California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB) to obtain a B.A. in Biology and apply to medical schools in-state.

I'm married and expecting a child with my husband. Our baby is due in February and I will bond with my child for several months before starting school at CSUSB fall of 2017 (hopefully graduating somewhere around 2019). I have a great support system with my husband and his family, and our plan is for me to be a full time student without working while I pursue my B.A. and M.D. degrees. I find this important so I feel I can focus all of my energy on school and my child.

Being that I have a family and cannot live in student housing I am trying to plan on what medical schools I can target without worrying about moving to an area that is above my family's current income. I really want to apply to Stanford Medical School and UC San Francisco, for instance, but the rent for us in those areas is definitely not in a range that we'll be able to afford anytime soon.

I believe my only chance is with scholarships, as far as I understand anyway. However, I am still a little confused on the topic. It seems like for many scholarships you cannot apply to until you are already accepted into medical school so how can I plan for something like that until I am certain the money would be secured?

I want to give myself every best chance to go to the best schools possible in my state, but student debt is high enough without not being able to afford the area.

Ultimately my question is: Is it smartest for me to only apply to schools in areas I can afford or is it entirely possible for me to apply to areas out of my price range and the school might help me with expenses somehow? What is the best use of my time and resources? Why? If it makes any difference, my greatest interests are in pathology, infectious disease medicine and anesthesilogy. I am not interested in primary care.

CSUSB has a healthcare career counseling department I will be taking full advantage and I will ask these same questions, but I cannot see them until summer of 2017. I am a planner and currently on restricted activity for my first and third trimesters. I'd like to use this time to get all the information I can.

Thank you for your input.


I Narcanned Your Honor Student
7+ Year Member
Oct 13, 2011
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It is generally assumed that a medical student has to survive solely on loans for four years. The loan packages that schools offer will cover both tuition and a certain max amount for living expenses. The total is called the Cost of Attendance or COA (which is why you see schools with 70-80/yr COA; this is tuition + max allowable extra loans for living). Some schools will obviously have a higher COA than others, based both on their tuition and the cost of living in that particular area.

Scholarships are generally awarded with or post admission, and there's no real way to know what you may get. You'll need to do what all of us have done -- apply broadly, to a wide range of schools, based on the strength of your academic performance, MCAT score, and any highly desireable life experiences. If you do get a scholarship somewhere, there's a chance you can use it to bargain with another -- it's certainly happened. But apply as though you're planning to receive nothing but loans and go from there.

If cost of living is a major concern then definitely look at schools outside of major coastal cities, as COL will be lower.
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Full Member
5+ Year Member
Apr 25, 2014
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Loans cover med school and some cost of living except for the very wealthy, but if you live in a higher cost area you'll struggle to make ends meet. California is tough for getting into med school. Do you think you'd like to go to school elsewhere? Do you have family elsewhere for support? There could be some advantage moving and getting established where you can survive when doing premed and then you get the instate advantage for some schools.

Good luck


has an opinion
15+ Year Member
Oct 31, 2006
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In order:
  1. Get A's, lots and lots of them. The more A's you get, the better your chances of being offered a free ride etc. You must crush most of your young classmates, in very hard classes, where everybody is there trying to get an A.
  2. Kill the MCAT. The better your MCAT score, the easier everything is. Take it by April or May before applying in June.
  3. Apply to as many schools as you can afford, after doing reasonable research. Cost of attendance should be on your list of priorities but you need to have another half dozen things that are as important or more. Med school will get paid for, but misery will end you.
  4. Interview at as many schools as you can afford, after doing more extensive research.
  5. If you get to choose between acceptances and aid packages at this point, you win.
After you start at a university and finish one semester successfully, start reaching out to the diversity offices at your favorite med schools. They can pave your road if your academics are clean.

Best of luck to you.
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