Resources for Minority and Disadvantaged Medical School Applicants

There are programs in place to help minority and disadvantaged applicants prepare for, apply to, and pay for medical school. Minority or disadvantaged students can make their dream of going to medical school come true by taking advantage of these resources.

For example, individuals who self-identify as a member of a group that has been historically underrepresented in medicine or who are economically disadvantaged and who are U.S. citizens/permanent residents can choose to be included in the Medical Minority Applicant Registry (Med-MAR) when they register for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

If you participate in the Med-MAR, medical schools receive your MCAT scores as well as other basic information about you and may contact you as part of their diversity outreach efforts.

Some programs reach out to minority and disadvantaged students in high school or earlier; others are available to premedical students during college; still others focus on helping minority and disadvantaged students who are already in medical school. Premedical advisors, medical school diversity offices, and student organizations also act as sources of support for minority and disadvantaged students.

Enrichment programs for minority and disadvantaged medical applicants

Enrichment programs are available for minority and disadvantaged applicants in all phases of premedical and medical education:

  • Summer programs for high school and college students interested in medicine: These programs are often sponsored by medical schools and include some combination of science classes and laboratories, study skills workshops, MCAT preparation, shadowing experiences, and advising.

    One example is the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), a free six-week program open to college freshmen and sophomores who are selected to participate based on factors that include minority or disadvantaged status.

  • Preparation programs for incoming first-year medical students: Some medical schools offer a summer course to help minority and disadvantaged students who are matriculating in the fall prepare academically and personally for medical school. Students usually get exposure to some of the first-year course work as well as learn about academic and other support services available during medical school.

    When you’re researching programs for your list of medical schools, check to see which schools offer summer preparation programs for incoming students and what the courses include.

  • Post-baccalaureate programs: Some post-baccalaureate programs are specifically aimed at helping disadvantaged applicants become more competitive for admission into medical school. These programs may be for first-time applicants or for reapplicants and may include science courses, MCAT preparation, personal statement help, assistance with study skills, advising, and exposure to physicians and medical students.

At this point, you may be wondering how to locate these great-sounding programs.

  • Your high-school counselor or college premedical advisor is a good starting point.

  • Check for information on the AAMC and AACOM websites and contact the diversity affairs offices at individual medical schools to see whether a given school sponsors enrichment programs.

  • Consider joining the Minority Association of Premedical Students (MAPS), which is the undergraduate wing of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), a student-run organization dedicated to helping underrepresented minority premedical and medical students and underserved communities.

    SNMA/MAPS supports various outreach activities and provides a means for minority students interested in medicine to connect with one another and with mentors.

Financial resources for minority and disadvantaged medical applicants

Although the cost of a medical education is high, if medicine is the career you really want, it’s achievable even if you’re from a background with very limited financial means. In addition to financial aid programs available to all students, you also may be eligible to apply for scholarships and grants established to help minority and disadvantaged students become physicians.

Even before you start medical school, you may be worried about expenses; the costs associated with applying can run into the thousands, including a registration fee for the MCAT, primary and secondary application fees, and perhaps the cost of buying a suit and travelling to interviews.

However, help is available: Both the AAMC and the AACOM have programs that reduce the costs involved in applying to medical school. Information about applying to these programs is available through the AAMC and AACOM:

  • The AAMC’s Fee Assistance Program (FAP) allows applicants with financial need to register for the MCAT at a reduced cost. In addition, AMCAS waives FAP applicants’ primary application fees for up to 14 medical schools. Some medical schools waive their secondary application fees for FAP applicants as well.

  • If you’re a financially disadvantaged applicant interested in osteopathic schools, you can apply for a fee waiver through AACOMAS that is applied to up to three schools on the primary application. Individual DO schools waive secondary fees at their discretion.

Although these programs decrease the cost of applying, the real expenses begin after you start medical school. The cost of a medical education can be especially intimidating if you don’t have family resources to rely on; however, many grants, scholarships, and loans are awarded based on need.

Overall, students with the fewest financial resources have the greatest likelihood of qualifying for more desirable forms of financial aid such as grants and low-interest loans. In addition, disadvantaged and minority medical students have access to both school-based and outside scholarships.

For example, the American Medical Association’s Minority Scholars Award provides up to a $10,000 scholarship for selected minority students. Check with your school’s financial aid office, diversity affairs office, or your premedical advisor to find out about scholarship opportunities that you’re eligible to apply for.

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