Three Things to Consider Before Applying to Medical School

You probably already know that the application process can be lengthy, time-consuming, and expensive, with no ironclad guarantee of admission — even with a stellar GPA and MCAT score. And, no matter how much work you put into the process, there are no guarantees about the outcome.

So, before you start, what should you be thinking about before you apply?

Before applying, savvy applicants should consider three key things that affect all applicants — not to mention medical students, residents, fellows, and even doctors currently practicing in the field:

1. The Landscape of Healthcare is Changing
While the future of healthcare reform as it stands is currently unclear, it has the potential to have a significant impact on not only medical education, but also residency training and practice. The next decade could likely usher in a new era of medicine in the United States; for those in medical school or training, dealing with long working hours, this could mean having a surge in the volume of patients with a potentially dwindling number of options with which to treat them (due to proposed cost containment).

On the upside, this could also mean that with an increase on the emphasis on preventative care in this legislation, patients may be in better health in the long-term. Because patients would have increased access to care, pursuing medicine could be potentially even more rewarding for aspiring physicians if they know their patients can access the resources they need.

2. Medical School Tuition is Rising
Everyone knows medical school is a substantial investment both in time and cost. Though the time commitment has remained steady — the time from entering medical school to finishing training can range from 7 to 15 years depending on specialty — costs are rising much faster than inflation. During your 4 years of medical school, you’ll be responsible for tuition costs that are reported to have risen by 165 percent for private schools and 312 percent for public schools since 1984.

Once you graduate from medical school, you’ll also most likely need to begin repaying any debt; as of 2003 the median debt was $100,000 for public medical schools and $135,000 for private medical schools – a 150 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1984. Approximately 5 percent of medical school graduates had debts totaling $200,000 or more in 2003.

Fortunately, there are multiple resources for financial aid through grants, and federal and private loans; given that aid is typically given in loans, it’s best to know and plan in advance.

3. Physician Compensation is Falling
It seems to defy logic; aspiring doctors must find a way to pay escalating medical school costs (in many cases upwards of $50,000/year) to pursue a career that’s widely expected to endure a decline in overall pay. A May 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal estimates that physicians can expect their incomes to fall 15-20% based on reduced insurance reimbursements. An earlier study reported in the New York Times states that components of this trend predate current reform proposals.

Unfortunately, it’s with these declining salaries- healthcare reform or not- with which you would need to repay loans. Though loan repayment burdens in proportion to income are rising – to about 9 percent of average physician income – loan consolidation after graduation can mitigate this burden, reducing repayments to an average of just over 3 percent of income. Some graduates of lower income specialties, such as pediatrics, can expect to pay an average of 16 percent or 6 percent of income in repayments, before or after consolidation, respectively. Regardless of your motivation in pursuing a medical education, repaying debts remains an important consideration for many.

Making a decision on applying to medical school can be difficult. Knowing the logistics, as well as the direction in which the field is heading, is the best way to make an informed decision.

Are you applying to medical school this year? Give us a call at (800) 925-7737 and speak with a Veritas Prep medical school admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!