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Medical School Financial Aid – Cont’d

Wu suggests students consider the example of a simple pizza. If they buy pizza every night using their student loan disbursement, they wind up paying not just the $20 for the food, but also the interest on that $20, spread out for years after they graduate.

“That pizza tends to get pretty expensive,” Wu said.

Suggestions for stretching your aid dollars include careful budgeting. Calculate your cost of living, which should include not only the total cost of school attendance but also extras, including travel, social activities and the like. Don’t forget to include “luxuries” like food and utilities, which are often overlooked by budgeting students.

In order to stretch every dollar, Wu suggests turning to other, “non-financial” sources of support. If your family can provide you with a car or a place to stay, it could help to greatly defray the cost of school. Consider taking in a roommate to cut down on housing costs, or putting up with a lower rent apartment during your school years.

Medical students can also cut corners by buying used textbooks and borrowing equipment from senior medical students who don’t need it anymore.

Think of it this way, Wu says: “If you live like a doctor when you’re a student, then you’ll live like a student when you’re a doctor.”

Negotiating Financial Aid Packages

A final option for securing more financial aid is to try to bargain with your school. Some schools will allow students to present their financial aid packet from another institution and see if it can be matched or beaten. However, Wu and Machen both advise caution if students take this road.

Students can research what schools are offering by talking with other applicants, either directly or through Web discussion boards. Machen explained that this helps to keep schools honest, and the playing field level.

“More transparency is definitely a good thing,” Machen said. However, he cautioned that not all schools will bargain with students, and that students must initiate aid negotiations with both courtesy and tact.

Unfortunately, the sheer cost of medical school may make it more difficult for students to argue that their circumstances justify additional support. Medical school is expensive for everybody – why should the school give you more money?

This is one more place where having included a ‘wow’ factor in your application can serve you well. It helps to be able to remind the school what is special about you, and why it wants you as a student. Your ‘wow’ factor can serve you especially well if it’s something that contributes to the diversity of the school population and the medical field. Remember that diversity means more than race or ethnicity. Your contribution may be that you come from a different professional background, that you are a working parent, that you have personal or family experience of illness or disability, etc.

Take Advantage of Your State Residency

Some of the best medical schools in the country are at state universities. Students lucky enough to come from states that offer residents reduced tuition or fees at those institutions should certainly consider those schools.

UCLA Geffen and the UCSF offer generous tuition breaks to California residents while concurrently providing a world-class medical education experience.

The University of Washington School of Medicine does the same for Washington State residents.

Residents of Minnesota, Florida, and Arizona should take a look at the Mayo Medical School, which (funds permitting) offers scholarships covering almost 75 per cent of tuition costs to students from those states.

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