For anyone who is curious about the way med school applications go, the very first question anyone should ask is this: how much does it all cost? The answer is, of course, mostly dependent on how many applications one chooses to send; however, the geographical location of the schools also makes a big difference.
To give you a general idea, the first round of applications, if one chooses only to apply to AMCAS schools (and there are plenty that aren't on AMCAS, such as every public school in Texas), one must pay an application fee to each school that tends to vary a great deal. Let's assume that the average primary application fee is $75. That's already $750 if one were to apply to 10 schools, which is a rather paltry number of schools in the grand scheme of things. The next step, if one has a strong enough primary application, is invitations to submit secondary applications, along with a further application fee. Let's say that the second fee is also around $75. If one were to get secondary invitations from most schools to which one applied, that could easily be an additional $600, bringing us to $1350 so far.
If one is then lucky enough to be invited to interview at several schools, the cost only continues to climb. While one could significantly reduce the cost of interviewing by only applying to schools in one's immediate vicinity, this usually doesn't provide for enough strength in numbers, and one must look farther afield. Even if one were to apply only to schools within a several-hour drive, interview days tend to start around 8am, making a hotel stay practically necessary for anything more than an hour or so away. So, imagining that travel costs will average to $100 per school (which is a very low estimate, to be sure), and that a typical hotel stay will run around $75 for room and food (also entirely too low), a five-interview run would cost $875, bringing us to $2225. One could also start to add in opportunity costs of missed work, and then the total begins to soar.
So what is the alternative? Well... there isn't one. Perhaps if one were applying with a 4.0 GPA, and a 45T on the MCAT, and if one came from a community under-represented in medicine and with an economically and educationally disadvantaged background, and had spent several years working in a medical clinic in the middle of a war zone, one could apply to just one school and reduce costs dramatically. But most medical school applicants will not have this option. Many will have to max out their credit cards or take out loans just to complete the application cycle. Schools could certainly offer interviews from alumni in various cities around the country, but because the interview day is as much an opportunity for schools to sell themselves to students as it is for students to sell themselves to schools, this would diminish the utility served by the day.
That said, if you're reading this because you're thinking about applying to med school, my advice is this: go for it. Spend the money, take out the loans, and then work as hard as you possibly can to have made the investment absolutely worth it. If you are driven by passion, you have nothing to lose, and the payments will seem a worthwhile sacrifice.
Now I ain't sayin' she a gold digger --
Primary applications: 17
Instant rejections: 1
Secondary applications: 16
Post-secondary rejections (i.e. without an interview) to date: 5
Interview invitations to date: 6
Interviews completed to date: 4
Post-interview rejections to date: 0
Waitlisted to date: 2
Acceptances to date: 0