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Student Loans

Best Medical School Loans

Medical school students can take out student loans from the federal government or private lenders. We’ve researched the best options to help you find the funding you need.

LenderBest forOur rating
Dept. of EducationFederal student loansNot rated
College AvePrivate student loans5/5
Sallie MaeCosigners4.8/5
EarnestLarge loans4.7/5
SoFiMember benefits4.7/5

Federal loans for medical school

The two types of federal student loans you can use for medical school are Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct Grad PLUS Loans. You can apply for federal medical school loans by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year.

You should get the maximum amount of federal student aid first because:

  • You can get loans at low fixed interest rates. Federal student loan rates are set each year, and your rate won’t change for the entire repayment term.
  • You have repayment flexibility. You can change your payment plan as needed and choose an income-driven repayment plan or a plan where payments increase over time. This can help keep payments low during your residency. You can also put your loans into forbearance or deferment if you can’t afford payments.
  • Grace periods are standard. Federal loans allow a grace period of at least six months after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time enrollment before payments begin. So if you have time off before your residency starts, your grace period may allow you to pause making student loan payments. 
  • Loan forgiveness options are available. Loans can be forgiven for public service work for health professionals who work for a nonprofit or government entity while making 120 payments. You may also qualify for loan forgiveness if you’ve made 20 or 25 years of payments on an income-driven plan.
  • Your credit doesn’t matter. For most federal loans—with the exception of PLUS Loans—your credit history doesn’t affect your eligibility.

Interest will continue to accrue while you’re enrolled and during any deferment periods for Direct Unsubsidized and Direct PLUS loans. Both types of loans are eligible for the same repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Direct UnsubsidizedDirect PLUS
Interest rate7.05%8.05%
Fixed or variable?FixedFixed
Annual loan limit$20,500CoA (minus other financial assistance)
Loan fee1.057%4.228%

The annual limit for Direct Unsubsidized Loans is $20,500 a year, and the current interest rate is 7.05% for Direct Unsubsidized Loans. When filling out the FAFSA, you can max out your Direct Unsubsidized Loans before turning to Direct PLUS loans.

Direct PLUS Loans

The annual limit for Direct PLUS or Grad PLUS loans is the cost of attendance minus other financial aid, including Direct Unsubsidized Loans. The interest rate is 8.05% for Grad PLUS loans.

Unless your medical school is inexpensive or you earned a large scholarship, you’ll likely need to take out both Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS loans.

Best private medical school loans

We researched and reviewed the best graduate school loans to help you find the best fit for medical school. Here are our picks.

College Ave – Best overall 

LendEDU rating: 5 out of 5

  • Full deferment is available during residency and fellowship
  • Choose between 20 repayment schedules
  • 36-month grace period

College Ave is a private student lender offering various student loan products. The company offers specific loans for medical school students. College Ave medical school loans can go as high as the cost of attendance minus any federal student aid you receive. 

College Ave offers a cosigner release program, a wide range of repayment terms, and in-school monthly payment plans. Its interest rates are also in line with those of its competitors. You can also defer your loans for the entire time you’re in residency (up to 36 months), so you don’t need to worry about making student loan payments while your income is at its lowest point. 

College Ave also offers a medical residency and relocation loan to help cover costs between graduation and your first residency. Repayment terms range between five and 20 years, and a cosigner release is available after half your repayment period. 

Sallie Mae – Best for cosigners

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • Available to those studying half-time or more
  • Release your cosigner after making 12 consecutive on-time payments
  • 36-month grace period and 48-month deferment during your residency or fellowship

Sallie Mae offers medical school loans for those studying allopathic, general, osteopathic, podiatric, radiology, sports, and veterinary medicine. The loans come with several unique benefits. Sallie Mae allows borrowers to release cosigners after just 12 months of payments, the lowest requirement among all lenders on this list.

It also allows a 36-month grace period and a 12-month period where borrowers can make interest-only payments, benefits that provide flexibility. You can defer payments for 48 months during your residency or fellowship.

For additional financial assistance, Sallie Mae also offers a medical residency and relocation loan of up to $30,000 to help you finance your move after med school graduation. Sallie Mae’s 0.25% rate discount when you enroll in autopay can keep your monthly payments lower during the early years of your medical career.  

Earnest – Best for no fees 

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Skip one payment per year if needed
  • No fees
  • Check your rate without hurting your credit

Earnest is an online lender that offers medical school loans with a wide range of repayment terms and in-school monthly repayment options. One of the most unique benefits is that you can skip one payment each year for free to put the extra funds toward a short-term savings goal, such as a vacation.

Unlike other lenders on this list, Earnest does not offer cosigner release. If you have a medical school loan with a cosigner, you must refinance into a new loan to remove the cosigner. However, you can defer payments during your residency or internship. Its nine-month grace period is longer than many other lenders. 

Earnest also offers benefits during the repayment period, which can be helpful for recent med school grads. Enrolling in autopay can save you 0.25% on your interest rate. Earnest charges no fees, including for late payments. 

SoFi – Best for member benefits

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Financial planning services for members
  • Rate discounts if you need additional loans
  • Check your rate without affecting your credit

SoFi offers a specific loan for students pursuing a medical degree. This loan has a nine-month grace period, giving medical students the flexibility to find a job and settle into their careers.

Other benefits include financial planning services, rate discounts on additional loans, and networking events. Students can check their rates online in minutes without affecting their credit scores.

How to get student loans for medical school

Here are the three steps you can take to get the loans you need for medical school.

  1. Fill out the FAFSA. This will make you eligible for federal student loans. Be sure to complete the FAFSA by the deadline, or you won’t qualify for federal loans. Unlike your undergraduate application, you don’t need your parents’ information when applying for financial aid for medical school. 
  2. Get your award letter. Your school’s award letter will show how much federal student loan funding you qualify for. Unless an adverse event appears on your credit report and you can’t add an endorser, you should qualify for Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Grad PLUS loans.
  3. Find more funding. If you didn’t qualify for federal loans or need more than you were awarded, you’ll need to take out private medical school loans. Use the list of lenders above to compare medical school loan interest rates and repayment terms.

Medical school loans FAQ

Which medical school loan is the best?

You should max out federal student loans to pay for medical school because they often have lower interest rates, income-driven repayment plans, and loan forgiveness programs for health professionals. 

If you don’t qualify for federal student loans, you can take out a private student loan. Make sure to compare interest rates and terms before selecting a lender. Some may also have deferment options during medical residency. The best one will depend on which lender offers the best rate and terms for your financial profile.

Our most recent evaluation led us to choose College Ave as the best private medical school loan.

Do I need a cosigner for medical school loans?

Federal student loans generally do not require a cosigner. However, if you take out a Direct PLUS loan, your credit history is checked for adverse actions like bankruptcy or default. If you have one of these events, you may need to add an endorser, similar to a cosigner.

Eligibility for private medical school loans depends on your credit score. If you haven’t had a chance to build a good credit score, you will likely need a cosigner. Some lenders, including Ascent, offer loans to medical students without cosigners.

Do medical school loans cover living expenses?

You can use most student loans, including federal and private loans, to pay for living expenses. Some private lenders also offer relocation loans when transitioning from medical school to residency. Try to limit your living expenses so you can minimize the amount you need to borrow. Every dollar you borrow is a dollar you must repay with interest.

When does repayment on medical school loans start?

Most student loan providers don’t require repayment until six months after you graduate or leave school, referred to as the grace period. Some lenders offer longer grace periods on medical school loans, such as College Ave (36 months) and Earnest (nine months).

What should I consider when repaying medical school loans?

The most important factors to understand are your:

  • Total balance
  • Interest rate
  • Monthly payments

You should also know when you must start making payments. If you have questions or concerns, contact your loan servicer immediately.

If you want to pay off your loans faster, you can do so by paying more than the minimum. This will also help you pay less interest over time.

Another popular way to pay less interest is to refinance medical school loans at a lower interest rate. Once you secure a full-time job, you might qualify for lower interest rates. Just be aware that if you refinance federal student loans, you will lose access to all associated benefits.

How much can I borrow with medical student loans?

The amount you can borrow in medical school loans may depend on the type of loan. Borrowers who qualify for federal Direct PLUS loans can borrow up to the annual cost of attendance, and most private lenders also let students borrow up to the annual cost of attendance.

Recap of the best medical school loans

LenderBest forOur rating
Dept. of EducationFederal student loansNot rated
College AvePrivate student loans5/5
Sallie MaeCosigners4.8/5
EarnestLarge loans4.7/5
SoFiMember benefits4.7/5