I've been thinking about writing this post for a while now. I received a 5 figure scholarship to attend my future medical school, and will share some of the things that I think attributed to that award. I asked around on the Student Doctor Network for input from other students who have received scholarships to medical school in the past. However, for now, you will just have to read about my suggestions for getting free money to attend medical school. (If you are reading this and have gotten a scholarship to medical school contact me for a guest post!). First off, it is not easy. There are simply not as many scholarships available as there are for high school students going to college. The competition is stronger, and schools are less likely to give away precious tuition money (especially with country-wide budget cuts for state-sponsored schools). With the average medical student graduating with well over $150,000 of interest-accuring debt, it is well worth your time and hard-work to try and save (or earn) every last cent.
1. Have an Extremely High GPA and a 35+ MCAT - This is the most obvious step to scholarship money, but also probably the hardest to obtain. Starting day one of college, every single class and exam count. My secret? Use Rate My Professors to find professors that are fair and actually give out "A's" as grades. Also never overload yourself with labs. These tips are probably not possible for every class of every semester, but they will definitely help. I have also written plenty of articles about how to score highly on the MCAT. Especially on the Verbal Reasoning section.
2. Get Published - One of the most impressive things that I think an undergraduate can do is become an author of a paper in a scientific journal, especially a prestigious one. Being an author shows commitment to a lab, an understanding of the basic science behind the paper, and the respect of your Principle Investigator to include your name on the manuscript. I actually never have obtained this honor, but I think this achievement puts medical school applicants on a higher pedestal than the majority of their peers.
3. Be a Leader - Medical schools are not going to give away money to any Joe Schmoe. They want individuals who they think will be great representations of the school to the medical community. In my opinion having in-depth leadership experience on your application is HUGE. It is one thing to be involved in a club or activity, it is another thing completely to be the president, captain, or founder of something.
4. Obtain Leverage - Sometimes it comes down to how much does a medical school want you and how much money are they willing to give away to keep you from going to another school? I think this was one of the defining aspects of my situation. If you are able to obtain multiple acceptances, than you can use these acceptances against other schools to try and earn a better financial aid package. Obviously there is a delicate art to this as you can't just beat medical school A over the head with the financial package from medical school B. However, gentle hints in emails or letters can get your point across. Perhaps your dream school will throw some money at you to prevent you from attending a rival medical school.
5. Connections, Connections, Connections - If you haven't learned this already, prepare yourself for this fact of life...Most of the time ,who you know will get you farther than any amount of hard work. Having personal connections to those in high places (admissions committee, professor at the medical school, etc.) will probably come in handy when trying to get a scholarship to medical school.
Case in Point: I had an amazing relationship with my college's pre-health advisor. After being accepted to a few different schools I asked her to write a recommendation letter for a scholarship to the director of admissions at my future medical school. She did so, and I found out that the letter was pretty instrumental in my scholarship offer. I also shadowed a doctor who happened to be friends with the Dean of the Medical School. I asked if he would whisper sweet nothings into the ear of the Dean, and it worked! About 2 weeks later I received a personal email from the Dean with my scholarship offer.
6. Private Scholarships - Unfortunately scholarship funds from medical schools are limited. However, don't lose hope yet! There are a few private scholarships out there. In fact, I applied for two for this coming school year. I was turned down for one, but I am a finalist for the Tylenol Future Care Scholarship and I have a chance to win $10,000 at the end of this month! Keep your fingers crossed for me! Use the internet to investigate more scholarships that you can apply for and win.
7. Military Scholarships - There is plenty of information about using the military to pay for medical school, so I will trust that you can use Google. This path can be an amazing deal for people, especially if you already want to serve your country. There are obviously some disadvantages as well, but it is worth looking into (especially if the idea of huge debt is scary for you). My friend over at the White Coat Investor has a great blog post about the subject: "Should I Join the Military to Pay For Medical School?"
At the end of the day, this whole process can be a crap-shoot. I wish there was a fool-proof method for getting money, but that would be too easy. I hope that these ideas help you in your effort for free medical education. Let me know what you think!