Medical school applicants often assume that their options for free money are limited, even if they’ve won scholarships as undergraduates. The truth is, there are awards available for medical school, and given the high costs, it’s certainly worth educating yourself about them. The same qualities that make you a strong med school applicant will make you a strong scholarship applicant: compelling essays, good recommendations, a strong undergraduate record.
One step you should always take: research funding opportunities at the med schools you’re applying to. (Ideally, review scholarship requirements concurrently with your application research, so that you know when all of the deadlines are.) Find out about need-based aid as well as merit-based fellowships (some scholarships will be based on both). Also learn whether there are special fellowship programs for outstanding applicants from target populations.
Next, broaden your search to include scholarships from outside foundations and organizations. Some brands or companies (especially in the healthcare industry) offer scholarships for future doctors; Tylenol is one example—they distribute thousands of dollars every year to students planning careers in healthcare (www.scholarship.tylenol.com). For those considering joining the US military, it might be worth knowing that the armed services offer substantial education benefits to students who promise to serve as medical officers (http://www.goarmy.com/amedd/medical/corps_benefits.jsp).
Finally, there are a number of large fellowships offered by foundations that can be used for any graduate or professional program, including medicine. Some of these are quite competitive, but there is a great deal of money available. Examples are the Soros Fellowship for New Americans (www.pdsoros.org —$20k/year plus half tuition for up to 2 years) and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarships (www.jkcf.org/scholarships/ — up to $50k/year for up to 6 years).
To find additional scholarships, try searching online. Databases such as ScholarshipExperts.com and FastWeb.com allow you to make a profile and search a lot of information very efficiently. Think broadly and thoroughly about your interests, affiliations, background, and goals—whatever support you can qualify for on the front end could lead to less debt when you graduate!
By Rebecca Blustein, who has years of experience editing dynamite personal statements and scholarship essays that have helped applicants secure acceptances, financial aid, and scholarships.