It costs thousands of dollars just to apply to medical school — new group has a plan to fix that

It costs thousands of dollars just to apply to medical school — new group has a plan to fix that

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A group of medical students in Ontario is helping those entering the field with low socio-economic status waive application fees. 

The students have teamed up with the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada to start a project called Price of a Dream. 

Dr. Aluva Toby Olaya, who works with the group, said application fees can range from $1,000 to $4,000.

“The reality is there’s just so many components to the application, from the MCAT [Medical College Admissions Test] course, which is the entry exam, to the application fees,” Olaya told CBC Toronto’s Metro Morning.

“And before the pandemic, students were required to go from city to city interviewing, and that was kind of my situation. Now, the epidemic has changed things a little bit, but it’s still a very expensive process.”

Olaya, a first year resident in plastic surgery at Hamilton’s McMaster University, said due to the prohibitive costs, you tend to see a less diverse class of medical students.

A group of surgeons in an operating room at a hospital talk and prepare to operate. Aspiring doctors can go on the AFMC website and apply for the application waiver program. (Shutterstock)

He said a study published by McMaster University last year suggested that if you were from a household among the 25 per cent top earners in Ontario, you were twice as likely to be admitted into medical school. 

“That’s just a huge, disproportionate representation of our population,” Olaya said.

“It means that your providers won’t necessarily understand where you come from and what you go through on a daily [basis], you know.

“Medications are expensive. Getting to doctors’ appointments are expensive. And the reality is the logistics of life are really hard to understand if you don’t have that lived experience. So, trying to get that little experience in the classroom to also teach our colleagues in our classrooms is very important,” Olaya said.

Students can go on the AFMC website and apply for the application waiver program. 

“This can save them approximately $600 this year alone in application fees and for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, this is a huge amount,” Olaya said. 

The eligibility criteria is based on the low income threshold as well as how many people are in their households.

Olaya admits that covering the application fees is just one hurdle for medical students.

“The reality is it’s such an expensive process and those students will have to just likely take on more debt as opposed to, you know, students from higher socioeconomic status that might have a little bit more help and more sponsorship from their friends and family,” he said. 

“There will be a lot less weighing on their mind for those folks and a lot more weighing on their mind for those that come from low SES backgrounds.”

Olaya said hundreds of prospective medical students provincewide have applied to pilot programs around the admissions.

“We’re expecting hundreds of students to be able to benefit from this application fee waiver program,” he said. 

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