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Student Loans

Best Student Loans for Pharmacy School

According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), the average pharmacy school graduate who took out loans walked the stage in 2023 with $167,711 in student loan debt. 

When it comes to student loans for pharmacy school, we recommend taking out federal loans before considering private student loans. Federal loans have several benefits most private lenders don’t offer and may be available to student borrowers with limited credit history or income. Here’s a closer look at your options for paying for pharmacy school with student loans. 

Federal student loans for pharmacy school

Federal student loans, which come from the U.S. Department of Education, might have lower interest rates than private loans. Rates are always fixed, plus, they offer more benefits, such as income-driven repayment plans and eligibility for loan forgiveness programs.

The government offers the following two types of loans you can use to pay for pharmacy school:

LoanRate (APR)FeeLimits
Direct Unsub.7.05%1.057%$20,500 / yr., $138,500 total
Grad PLUS8.05%4.228%Cost of attendance minus financial aid received 

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

As long as you’re attending an eligible program, you should be eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Loans, which have no credit requirements. You can borrow up to $20,500 per year and choose among repayment plans that span from 10 to 25 years. Direct Unsubsidized Loans are eligible for federal forgiveness programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness.


Direct Grad PLUS Loans

Many pharmacy students are eligible for Grad PLUS loans, which come with a higher rate and fee than Direct Unsubsidized Loans. You can borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance, but you must pass a credit check to qualify. 

Having adverse credit may disqualify you from a Grad PLUS Loan, but a workaround is to apply with an endorser. Grad PLUS Loans are eligible for various federal repayment plans and benefits. 


HRSA Health Professions Student Loans

The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) offers loans for students pursuing a career in medicine. The HRSA works with schools to provide these loans to students, so you can inquire with your school’s financial aid office to find out which options are available. 


HRSA Loans for Disadvantaged Students

HRSA Loans for Disadvantaged Students are for students who demonstrate a significant need for financial assistance to attend a program in a health-related field, such as pharmacy. Eligible individuals include those from disadvantaged and low-income backgrounds. 


4 best private student loans for pharmacy school

If federal loans aren’t enough to cover your educational expenses, you may need to turn to private loans. It may also be worth checking whether a private graduate student loan offers a lower rate than a Grad PLUS Loan. 

You’ll need a sufficient credit score to qualify for a private loan and get a competitive rate. A cosigner can also help you qualify and save on your interest rates. Here are our recommendations for the best private student loans for pharmacy school.

LenderRates (APR)
College Ave4.07% – 14.47%
Earnest4.11%15.97%
Sallie Mae5.25% – 15.97%
Ascent5.09%15.18%

College Ave: Best overall

LendEDU rating: 5 out of 5

  • 5 repayment terms
  • Deferment is available during residency
  • Apply in just 3 minutes

You can use College Ave’s Graduate Health Professions student loan for pharmacy school. Choose between fixed or variable interest rates and flexible repayment options to borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance. Your choices of repayment terms are five, eight, 10, 15, or 20 years. 

College Ave’s graduate student loans offer a lengthy nine-month grace period. If you complete a residency, you can also request an additional 48 months of payment deferment. College Ave doesn’t charge student loan origination fees, but it assesses a fee of 5% or $25, whichever is less, for late payments. 


Earnest: Best for no fees

LendEDU rating: 4.7 out of 5

  • Option to skip one payment per year
  • No fees
  • Check your rate without affecting your credit

Earnest offers graduate student loans for pharmacy school. The company has competitive rates, offers a nine-month grace period after you leave school, and gives you the flexibility to skip one payment each year if needed. You can check your eligibility in two minutes with no commitment or effect on your credit.

You can borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance and choose repayment terms of five, seven, 10, 12, or 15 years. This lender is also transparent about its borrowing requirements, sharing that it requires a minimum annual income of $35,000 and a FICO credit score of 650 or higher. 


Sallie Mae: Best for cosigners

LendEDU rating: 4.8 out of 5

  • 48-month deferment during internships or fellowship
  • Release your cosigner after 12 consecutive on-time monthly payments
  • 15-year repayment term

One of the most well-known names in student loan funding, Sallie Mae offers several types of student loans, including graduate school loans for health professions, which include pharmacists.

Sallie Mae’s student loans come with a six-month grace period and a single repayment term of 15 years (but you can pay your loan off sooner without penalty). Sallie Mae also allows for 48 months of deferment during internships and fellowships and the option of cosigner release after 12 consecutive on-time payments. 


Ascent: Best for eligibility

LendEDU rating: 4.3 out of 5

  • Earn 1% cash back upon graduation
  • No application, origination, or disbursement fees
  • Check your rate without affecting your credit

Ascent is a student loan lender offering undergraduate and graduate loans to student borrowers in a variety of degree programs, including pharmacy school. It offers cosigned student loans and non-cosigned, or outcomes-based, loans. 

Ascent allows for a nine-month grace period and repayment terms of seven, 10, 12, or 15 years. You can borrow from $2,001 to $400,000 and may qualify for a 1% cash-back reward upon graduation. 


How to get loans for pharmacy school

If you know you’ll need to turn to loans to pay for pharmacy school, here are the steps to take:

  1. Fill out the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is an annual form that helps the Department of Education determine your financial need. This may unlock your access to certain loan products, grants, and more according to your level of need, and it’s required if you plan to take out federal student loans.
  2. Use federal loans. Federal student loans have fixed interest rates, and rates can be lower than private student loans if you or your cosigner have less-than-perfect credit. Due to limited credit requirements and excellent federal benefits, maxing out your available federal loans before turning to private loans is our recommendation in most cases.
  3. Shop around for private loans. If your federal loans and other funding options, such as college savings, grants, or scholarships, don’t cover all your expenses, you may need to turn to private student loans for pharmacy school. If this happens, shop around first; this can help you find the best possible terms and rates for your individual situation.
  4. Apply for your loan. Once you select and are preapproved for a private student loan, you can apply and get final approval. Your lender may ask you to upload certain documentation and may also contact your school for confirmation.

Your lender will disburse your new loan to your school, where it’s applied to any tuition balance or fees on your account. Any remaining funds are refunded to you in cash, check, or ACH.

Student loans for pharmacy school FAQ

Which pharmacy school loan is the best?

The best pharmacy school loan for you is the one that offers the best possible terms and rates. In general, students should take out federal student loans first because they have many protections and features that private student loans don’t have. After all scholarships, grants, and federal loans have been applied, students should aim to find the private loans that have the lowest interest rates and best repayment terms.

Do I need a cosigner for pharmacy school loans?

A cosigner is often required for borrowers with limited credit history, limited income, or who are international students. This cosigner will need to meet certain criteria, but they can often be released from their obligation to the debt after a certain number of on-time payments are made.

Do pharmacy school loans cover living expenses?

Housing is an eligible expense that can be covered with pharmacy student loans. Depending on the type of loans you take out and how much those lenders allow, you may need to consider additional private loans to pay for living expenses if your tuition and other school costs exceed your initial loan’s limits.

How much can I borrow with pharmacy student loans?

Federal student loan programs limit how much you can borrow; in most cases, it maxes out at $20,500 per year. Private student loans may cover up to 100% of your school-certified expenses, often with no maximum limit.

When does repayment on pharmacy school loans start?

If you withdraw from pharmacy school or, in some cases, drop enrollment below half-time, you may enter your loan’s grace period. This is often six to nine months, after which time your repayment will start. However, if you are in an internship, residency, or fellowship, most lenders will allow you to defer your repayment until completed.

Do any other programs help pay for pharmacy school?

Many grants and scholarships can help pay for pharmacy school, and we recommend using these before you consider student loans. Several state-specific programs offer to forgive a portion of pharmacy school student loan debt in exchange for your promise of employment in a lower-income or high-need area.

Recap: Best private student loans for pharmacy school

LenderRates (APR)
College Ave4.07% – 14.47%
Earnest4.11%15.97%
Sallie Mae5.25% – 15.97%
Ascent5.09%15.18%