Thursday, November 5, 2015

Road to Residency: The (Hidden) Cost of Application

Around August every year, hordes of dental students begin the process of applying to residency programs. By this time, they are generally familiar with oddities of the application process such as "PASS", "Match" or "PPI". What most students don't realize is the sheer cost of application. Between application fees and travel expenses, students may spend thousands of dollars even before Match Day. For those of you financing residency applications solely on student loans, it is important to forecast the cost and plan (or save up) for the extra expenses.

My own application experience may be typical or completely atypical. But I figured I would give you a breakdown of my cost.

There is a fixed cost for applying to programs through ADEA PASS. The base application processing fee is $190 for the first program and $72 for each program afterwards. Most programs require you to send them your dental school transcripts as well as your undergraduate transcripts. Depending on how many schools you attended (yes, summer school courses and extension school courses count), this number can start adding up. Most schools also require you to mail in a supplemental application fee. As you can see, my supplemental application fee is almost as high as my PASS application fee. 

Once you start getting interview offers (hooray!), the travel cost of interviews can also pile up. Depending on how many interviews you attend, this number can be even higher than the initial cost of application. 
I was in a unique situation. I received a pre-Match offer from a program before I had a chance to attend most of my interviews. As a result, I only had the opportunity to interview at 4 programs (instead of 14). While it wasn't the sole reason for accepting the pre-match offer, it clearly saved me a lot of money.

Some advice for saving money on the interview trail:

  • Book flights early! When I first looked up flights from Los Angeles to Phoenix, it cost $92 each way. Being the expert procrastinator that I am, by the time I actually booked my flights one week before my interview, prices had soared to $180 each way. According to this website, the best time to book domestic flights and get the lowest fair is 47 days out. 
  • Research flights to find the cheapest option. I liked using Google Flights and Kayak to find the cheapest flights. You can also use interview season as an excuse to load up on airline loyalty points by booking with the same airline. 
  • Stack your interviews. Obviously this is easier said than done. By scheduling back-to-back interviews, you save money booking only one-way tickets to all of your destinations. I think the cost of flights for my 6 interviews ended up being cheaper than my boyfriend's 3 non-back-to-back interviews.  
  • Stay with friends or family. Hotels can get pretty expensive, especially in big cities. Use your friend and family network to find a free place to stay. By reaching out to the ASDA network, undergrad friends, and family, I had housing lined up for my interviews at UW, Columbia, University of the Pacific, OHSU, Rutgers, and UIC. 
  • But if you don't know anyone in that region, your best bet is AirBnB. I didn't discover the beauty of AirBnB until my first interview in Boston. If you didn't know, hotel rooms in Boston cost almost $300-400 per night (especially if you're booking last minute).  Instead, I booked a room through AirBnB and it was only $80 per night. It was also walking distance to Harvard School of Dental Medicine. 
  • Transportation. I'd say in most major cities, Uber or Lyft are your best bets. Unless you are interviewing at a program in the middle of nowhere and traveling insane distances, ridesharing is cheaper and more convenient than renting a car. The cheapest option is obviously public transit. But make sure you give yourself ample time. 

What are your experiences with the cost of residency applications? 

1 comment:

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