Resources for Parents
Students' families are often inundated with questions and concerns about the medical school application process, preparation, timelines, and finances. Understanding how to best support students through the preparation and application process for medical school can be a difficult task. To this end, the Association of American Medical Colleges has developed a Parent's Guide to Medical School that provides valuable information for the parents of medical school applicants. Parents can also utilize the following answers to frequently asked questions about the medical school application process.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does medical school cost?
The cost of attending medical school varies extensively depending upon whether the school is a public or private institution and the location of the medical school. For medical students who graduated in 2020, the median cost of attendance (four years of tuition, fees, and living expenses) was $255,517 for public schools and $337,584 for private schools. (Data from the October 2019 Debt Fact Card from the AAMC)
How long does medical school take?
In general, students spend four years completing a medical degree. In recent years, however, a few medical schools have established accelerated three-year degree programs. (See the Family Medicine Accelerated Program at the Penn State College of Medicine and the Three-Year MD Pathway at the New York University School of Medicine for examples.)
What are ways to support students who want to pursue a premedical path?
The transition to collegiate level academic work, combined with Drexel's quarter system, can be very challenging for students. To become a competitive medical school applicant, students need to excel in rigorous science courses while also demonstrating motivation for a medical career through clinical volunteering and community service. Meeting these challenges requires persistence, resiliency, and determination.
It is important that first year students make a solid transition to college and take advantage of the many resources at Drexel including faculty, academic advisors, peer mentors, and resident assistants. They can offer advice on adapting study strategies, improving time management skills, and making new friends and connections in the Drexel community. Many high-achieving high school students encounter academic difficulty for the first time in college, and they may feel overwhelmed. By listening to students' concerns and encouraging them to seek support, families may help students to manage their stress and to focus their energy on supportive and productive activities.
The student's grades do not seem to be competitive enough for medical school, but the student is still set on being a doctor. What are the options?
For some students, pursuing additional academic work after college, such as a post-baccalaureate academic record enhancer program, may provide a way to strengthen their credentials for applying to medical school. The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) has a web directory of "postbac" programs across the United States. Many of these programs are master's degree programs that may direct a student on an alternative career path if the student is not accepted to medical school upon completion of the postbac program. Note that the postbac programs generally do not offer grants or scholarships, and thus financial aid for many postbac programs may be limited to educational loan programs.
Throughout their time in college, students should consider career options in addition to becoming a physician. For example, students may want to consider patient-focused allied health professions, research careers in academia or the biotech/pharmaceutical industry, or public health. The web site Explore Health Careers is a great place to start learning about the wide range of career opportunities in the health care field.
The student wants to take a "gap year" before medical school. How do medical school admissions committees view "taking a year off"?
At the national level the percentage of students taking a gap year before medical school has been steadily increasing, and the average age of the entering medical school student is 24. Medical schools appreciate the additional experience and maturity that students may acquire during a gap year. In fact, the AAMC has two information pages on gap years: "Making the Most of Your Gap Year" and "What to do during a gap year(s)." As noted in these pages, it is very common for premedical students to take a gap year(s) between college and medical school and, according to a recent AAMC survey, in 2019 nearly 65 percent of entering medical school students took gap year(s) prior to starting medical school.
It is important to be aware that the medical school application process takes more than one year. Applicants submit applications in the early summer, and then medical schools start reviewing completed applications in late July to early August to choose applicants for interviews. Interview "season" extends from late August to March, during which time medical schools will interview about 10 percent of their applicants. Some medical schools send out admissions decisions on a rolling basis whereas others wait until March to send out their first acceptance notices. Orientation for entering medical students and classes usually occurs in early August
In order to go to medical school directly from college, the student would submit applications at the end of junior year, and therefore the senior year activities, i.e., grades, extracurricular activities, research experiences, etc., would not be included in the application to be reviewed by the medical school admissions committees. For students who need additional courses to improve their science GPA or additional time to gain clinical volunteer experience or study for the MCAT, taking a gap year might help to improve the strength of their medical school application.
What other resources are useful for learning about medical school admission?
- Preparing for Medical School and Aspiring Docs Fact Sheets – The AAMC provides many information sheets and videos about preparing for and applying to medical school.
- AAMC FIRST (Financial Information, Resources, Services, and Tools) – Information on costs of applying and attending medical school and information about loans.