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Christine Sharrer

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There are countless students giving up on a dream because they're looking at a price tag, and this program can help remove that price tag and they should know it's available to them.

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Christine Sharrer

Medical School: University of Kentucky College of Medicine
Expected Graduation Year: 2024
Undergraduate institution: Ohio State University
Major: Biology
Minor: Integrative Approaches to Health and Wellness

Why I’m becoming a doctor

I come from a rural, lower economic background and while growing up, I watched my family receive poor healthcare and drain their savings for it. The physicians in my community never truly understood what it was like to have healthcare as a luxury in our household. Only people in my position truly understand what that means. I think more physicians should be able to empathize with this, so they can fight and advocate more passionately for their patients, doing everything they possibly can to treat their patients’ diseases holistically. These realizations inspired me to pursue medical school, so I can serve and represent people like those in my community. I don't know what type of medicine I want to practice yet, but I'm interested in health policy advocacy for the patient populations I serve.

My experience with the AAMC Fee Assistance Program

I used the following benefits during my premed journey: 

I heard about the Fee Assistance Program through secondary applications from medical schools. They often mentioned the phrase, "secondary waived for fee assistance." I called the benefits office and they explained the benefits and timeline; unfortunately, I completely missed the deadline for the cycle. Since I didn’t successfully matriculate the first cycle, I signed up for Fee Assistance for the following cycle.

This is absolutely the only reason I was able to matriculate to medical school. The first time I applied, I was only able to apply to 10 schools and send in approximately five secondaries before the cost became overwhelming. With the Program, I applied to 20 schools at no cost and the majority of medical schools waived their secondary fee. That was the first time I was able to apply to that many schools and submit nearly all of the secondaries. This freed up money for me to travel to interviews. Without AMCAS fee assistance, I wouldn't have gotten into medical school. 

My only regret is that I didn't know about this program sooner because it also helps with MCAT prep materials and reduces the cost of the test, which would have been helpful. I highly recommend using the Fee Assistance Program. It levels the playing field for first generation or lower SES students by allowing them the opportunity to compete in a realistic way. 

I was able to take advantage of the MSAR online-database which was an amazing resource. It not only lays out every medical school possibility for you, but they have customizable searching tools that allow you to see how you rank compared to the average student at the school and better decide where your applications should be submitted. It also provides personal insight into each school and an easy link to their page. I didn't know about the Rural Physician Leadership Program I'm currently attending until I visited the MSAR online-database and was directed to the school’s page. If you're a non-traditional student, they have a section that allows you to see how many other students are similar to you at a medical school, whether they've received a master's or graduate degree before pursuing their MD. It even shows how “out-of-state friendly” a school is and where those students are from. Ultimately, finding your school comes down to the medical school’s values; MSAR made it easy to find a school that aligns with your mission and will make your search a lot easier, saving you a lot of precious time in the long run. 

I absolutely believe the waiver for the AMCAS fees is the most beneficial resource that I was able to use. Application costs can easily total over $2,000 and that doesn't include secondary fees or the actual trip to the interview. Spending over a couple thousand dollars in two days isn't realistic when you have other finances to worry about. Just the visibility you get with the waived application fee that you wouldn't get otherwise is priceless. I can't stress enough how programs like this help to diversify our professionals in a desperately needed way.

Other ways I benefited from the AAMC Fee Assistance Program

Yes, I was able to receive waived secondary fees for my applications. This was also invaluable because that money adds up extremely quickly and secondary fees can sometimes be $175 just for one school plus, with secondaries, you want to get them in as quickly as possible after receiving them. In previous cycles, there would be multiple times I would have to wait two weeks or a month to make it to pay day and have enough in my bank account to submit - with these waived fees I didn't have to be concerned about playing an entirely different waiting game. I was able to write and proof my essays and submit them on my own time.

My Advice to future applicants

Make the AAMC Fee Assistance Program your first step. Before the MCAT, MSAR, and making your medical school list - talk with the representatives to clarify how long your benefits last to make sure that you have them through financing the MCAT, receiving test prep help, and then the actual application cycle. If you've already taken the MCAT, don't worry, apply anyway! The majority of the benefits I received were for primary applications and MSAR (which for previous cycles I didn't even know existed.) At first, I was hesitant about applying, but honestly, the biggest equalizer is being able to submit multiple primaries without worrying about draining your bank account. Funding yourself through the medical school application process is hard. This program is worth at least attempting and seeing if you qualify.

Also, call the help line as soon as you can! The person I spoke with was very informative about what benefits I would receive and when. They also tell you how long they will last or if you need to reapply for the benefits. A Reduced MCAT fee?! That would have been extremely helpful for me in undergrad. They also are candid about your likelihood of receiving benefits and clear on what steps you need to take to complete your application. I would strongly encourage you to just chat with someone to hear more about the program and what it might look like for you. There's absolutely no shame in at least trying and honestly, I wouldn't have gotten into medical school without this. I know, because I tried. There are countless students giving up on a dream because they're looking at a price tag, and this program can help remove that price tag and they should know it's available to them.

These students’ testimonials were selected because they represent diverse stories. The views expressed herein are those of the students and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the AAMC.
 

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