Med school is expensive. You have options to pay for school including grants and scholarships as well as student loans. Exhaust free funding sources first, then max out your federal loans before borrowing from private lenders.
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Medical school is not for the faint of heart. For would-be doctors, med school means finishing college only to sign up for four to eight more years of classes. And for most students, all this schooling comes with additional student loan debt, too.
If this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. There are ways to cover the costs of earning a medical degree. In fact, this guide will show you how to pay for medical school using a combination of grants and scholarships, savings, and medical school loans.
In this guide:
Paying for Medical School: First Steps
There are different ways to cover the costs of tuition and expenses while attending med school, but they aren’t always created equal. Some sources of funds can be much better for you than others and should always be explored first. To make sure you’re borrowing as little as possible, and borrowing wisely, here’s how you should approach paying for your degree.
1. Use Med School Scholarships, Grants, and Savings First
Borrowing as little as possible is ideal, so always use funding from scholarships, grants, personal savings, and work-study programs or university fellowships first.
Exhausting these sources of funds early makes a lot of sense as getting your medical school degree will take years to earn. You don’t want to be stuck paying interest on the full costs of student loans the entire time you’re in school if you can help it.
Apply for medical school scholarships and grants first because this is money you don’t have to pay back. There are a number of scholarships that have been created specifically for medical school students, including:
- National Medical Fellowships Scholarships & Awards: You can find a number of scholarships on this list including scholarships for students attending the Morehouse School of Medicine; as well as a $5,000 scholarship for descendants of American slaves.
- Physicians of Tomorrow Awards: These $10,000 scholarships are available to medical students approaching their final year of medical school.
- Herbert W. Nickens Medical School Scholarships: These scholarships are available to medical school students going into their third year of schooling who have demonstrated leadership in eliminating inequalities in medical education and addressing the needs of racial and ethnic minorities. Scholarships are worth up to $5,000.
You don’t have to limit yourself specifically to scholarships for med students, either. You can look for scholarships for grad students from your local city or state, and you can look for general scholarships any student may be eligible for, such as scholarships and grants for women or minorities or for people who have served in the military.
After getting as much free money as you can, rely on your savings next, as using personal savings allows you to fund tuition costs without paying interest. Then, meet with your university’s guidance counselors and financial aid department to see if there’s a TA program or any fellowships or grants that could be available to you.
Many students are able to work their way through school as a teaching assistant, helping professors manage their classes. This would not only help you avoid borrowing but would also give you practical experience.
2. See How Much Federal Aid You Qualify For
After you’ve taken advantage of all the free money and interest-free money you can find, you’ll need to borrow to pay for additional medical school costs. When borrowing, always use federal student loans before other student loans. Federal loans have better repayment plans, more borrower protections, and other special borrower perks such as the possibility to earn loan forgiveness.
To get started with federal loans, you’ll need to fill out your FAFSA.
There are a number of different kinds of federal student loans you could potentially qualify for, including:
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Graduate students can become eligible for these loans regardless of financial need. There are aggregate limits and annual limits to how much you can borrow. Loans have low fixed interest rates and low origination fees, both of which are set annually based on when loans are distributed.
- Direct PLUS Loans: Another type of federal Direct loan, these loans have slightly higher interest rates and origination fees, but are still competitively priced compared to private loans. You cannot qualify for PLUS loans with adverse credit.
- Health Professionals Student Loans: This is a needs-based program. You must apply for funding through a participating school.
- Primary Care Loans: These loans are available only to students pursuing degrees in allopathic or osteopathic medicine. The program is needs-based.
While some federal student loans, including Direct Unsubsidized Loans, have strict borrowing limits, it is possible to secure federal funding up to the cost of attendance at your school—minus any grants or scholarships you qualify for.
However, this would likely require you to get PLUS Loans, which you cannot get if you have adverse credit—so you may need a cosigner if you’ve made financial missteps in the past.
You should also understand repayment plans associated with these loan options. For example, you have income-driven repayment plan options, as well as standard payment options.
If you work in a qualifying job and enroll in an income-driven repayment plan, it is also possible to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. This would result in the remaining balance of eligible loans being forgiven after 120 on-time payments if you work at a nonprofit, for the government, or in certain underserved areas.
While loan forgiveness and flexible repayment options won’t help you pay for your degree as you’re earning it, these programs can make repaying med-school debt much cheaper.
3. Look Into Private Student Loans for Medical School
For many students, federal aid isn’t enough to pay for the entire cost of a medical degree. Private student loans may be needed to cover the additional costs of becoming a doctor, nurse, or physician assistant.
Unfortunately, repayment plans are less flexible with private loans, loan forgiveness isn’t available, and loans may have higher rates.
Still, if you need more money for school, private loans can get the job done. If you do borrow private loans for medical school, be sure to shop around to find the most affordable rates.
Bottom Line: Financing Medical School is Possible
As you can see, there are lots of ways to pay for your medical degree. Remember, though, you should always start by looking for free funding or low-interest options first.
Then you should exhaust federal loan options, so you can borrow as little as possible and make repayment as affordable as possible.
Only after you’ve maxed out funding from these sources should you apply with private lenders—and be sure to shop around when you do to find the best deals possible.
Author: Christy Rakoczy