AAMC's Fee Assistance Program is an incredibly helpful resource for those who qualify. Unfortunately, actually applying for the FAP can feel an awful lot like jumping through hoops.
Note: If your parents are separated, and either have remarried, be prepared to provide information for your parent’s new partner as well!
Note: Depending on your individual circumstances, additional documentation may be required or requested. This may include Social Security information, child support or alimony information, or welfare documentation.
Your tax filing and dependent status do not matter in the eyes of the fee assistance program. Nor does the level of involvement or financial support level of non-custodial parents. Additionally, students are not granted waivers for parental documents even if parents are unable or unwilling to provide information. Unlike the FAFSA and many school financial applications, there is not an opportunity to submit a non-custodial parent form.
First, the benefits of the Fee Assistance Program will not be applied retroactively! This means that in order to get the MCAT prep and registration benefits, you must be approved for FAP before signing up. So, it’s beneficial to apply sooner rather than later. The application generally opens in January, and your benefits extend until the end of the following calendar year.
You can apply to the Fee Assistance Program up to 5 times in your life, however, you can only receive the MCAT Prep Bundle once. Therefore, if you’re planning on taking the MCAT and submitting AMCAS during different cycles, make sure everything you need for the MCAT is done in the appropriate approval period.
AAMC states that “the AAMC Fee Assistance Program provides financial assistance to individuals who, without this aid, would find it very difficult — if not impossible — to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), apply to medical schools that use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), and fulfill other application obligations.”
In other words, the fee assistance program is aimed at helping students who come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds, who may not otherwise have the means to apply to medical school. At a glance, this seems noble. However, in my experience, the stringent requirements fail to include many who could use assistance but don’t fit inside their well-defined box, thus defeating the purpose of the program. It seems that the more complicated your situation is, the less likely you are to receive assistance. For example:
I can appreciate the importance of restrictions and guidelines to help the AAMC assess students’ need for financial support. However, I do think their rigidity continues to exclude students who could greatly benefit from the program, and who without it incur thousands in credit card debt OR are unable to apply altogether.
While the Fee Assistance Program is a step towards inclusion of marginalized students, there is still an incredible amount of work needed to be done in order to reach the greatest number of students.
Naturally, many of my salty opinions about the Fee Assistance Program have stemmed from my own experiences applying for financial assistance.
In the early months of 2019, I spent hours on the FAP website, or on the phone with various representatives, trying to decipher eligibility requirements and necessary documentation. I probably spent an equal amount of time trying to track down my parents’ financial information. It was surprisingly difficult to figure out how I’d get their hand-signed consent forms from across the country, when neither of them had reliable internet or a printer, no scanners or fax machines. I also had to track down the director of Financial Aid because my school didn’t originally provide Award Letters or official Cost of Attendance information.
The first problem I’d encountered was when I was prematurely denied; not because I wasn’t eligible, but because my Cost of Attendance had been incorrectly interpreted. When the cost of housing in NYC for the year was estimated at $15,000, AAMC took this to mean that the school had given me this money, raising my presumed income significantly. In case you’re wondering, that is NOT actually how Cost of Attendance works if you don’t receive university aid. And yet, this did require me to hunt down a letter from the financial aid office explaining the predicted costs and the actual amount I’d been granted that year.
After all that, AAMC was able to confirm that my family met all of the financial requirements for Fee Assistance. Both my parents and I fell well below the income barrier. I’d worked significantly less since starting the Postbac program. The only thing left to do was submit tax forms for my mom and I when that time of year came around.
For reasons quite beyond my comprehension, my mom wasn’t able or wasn’t required to complete her taxes right away that year. Unfortunately, the result was that without a 1040 from, I couldn’t be approved for Fee Assistance—despite proof of her income, despite proof of my income, despite meeting all the financial requirements. Because I couldn’t prove that my mom didn’t have some asset to sell, or some 401K to draw from (which she doesn’t), I was denied assistance that I desperately needed.
The experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth, but more importantly, it kicked off a year of financial distress as I struggled to pay for my AMCAS application, secondary applications, and interview expenses.