Make a plan to pay for medical school
The American Association of Medical Colleges estimates that 76% of all 2016 medical students graduated with some debt from school. But, using a 1-2-3 approach to paying for medical school can help you control costs.
- Start with money you don’t have to pay back. Apply to scholarships, grants, fellowships, and assistantship positions for medical school to help supplement any savings you want to use.
- Explore federal student aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may help you get federal loans and grants for medical school as well as aid from your college and state, if it is available.
- Consider a responsible private medical school loan. If you still need help paying for medical school, you can apply for a private medical school loan to cover those costs.
Medical students need to keep an eye on their credit
It’s important that medical school candidates maintain a strong credit score. Although not common, a low credit rating can result in your admission to medical school getting deferred or denied.
If you have questions or concerns about your finances after you apply, check with your medical school to see if they have a financial aid advisor. Some have these advisors on campus to specifically help medical students navigate how to pay for their degrees.
1. Start with money you don’t have to pay back
You can use savings to help pay for medical school. To determine how much you can contribute, you may want to create a budget. A budget can help you understand what your monthly expenses are. Make sure that if you use your savings to help pay for medical school you still have money left to pay your bills and cover any unplanned expenses. If you have any questions, talk to a financial advisor.
Medical school-based scholarships, grants, and assistantships
Some medical schools offer need-based grants as well as merit scholarships and assistantships for students. If you had a high GPA in college, you should research what scholarship and assistantship offerings are available to you. Look at the websites of the medical schools you apply to or talk to their financial aid offices to get more details.
Other scholarships and fellowships
Some medical associations and nonprofit organizations offer financial aid, grants, and scholarships for current med students. You can check with them for more information and leads. School department heads may be able to advise you on additional opportunities.
A few of the associations that medical students may find helpful are listed below.
You also can search thousands of graduate student scholarships with our free Scholarship Search tool.
You may be able to get some of your medical school costs covered in return for working a set number of years for a government or military program. Your eligibility for these opportunities will depend on the area of medicine you choose to study.
Here are a few of the programs that may be available to you:
- National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship: This Department of Health & Human Services program will cover the cost of tuition, books, and living expenses for medical students studying osteopathic or allopathic medicine for up to four years. In exchange, you must work for one to two years in an approved high-need area, either in a city or rural town.
- Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP): This program is funded by the military—Army, Navy, and Air Force—for health professions students, including medical students. You’ll get all your tuition and fees covered, plus a living stipend. In exchange, you’re required to serve in the military for one year.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): If you took out loans for medical school, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness if you work for a qualifying organization like a nonprofit organization, government organization, or teaching hospital. Typically, you must have already made 120 consecutive payments toward your loan to qualify.
2. Explore federal student aid
To become eligible for federal financial aid to help you pay for medical school, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA could qualify you for the following:
- Federal Direct Loans: Medical students can borrow up to $40,500 a year in these loans (sometimes called “Stafford Loans”). Federal Direct Loans are unsubsidized, meaning you’re responsible for paying all the interest on these loans.
- Direct Graduate PLUS Loan: You may be able to get a PLUS Loan if you need additional help above and beyond your Federal Direct Loans. PLUS Loans are also unsubsidized. They’re credit-based and usually have a higher interest rate than Federal Direct Loans.
- Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Primary Care Loan: This school-based program offers a few types of loans for medical students who demonstrate financial need. Check with your school to see if they participate in it.
Your FAFSA application can also qualify you for aid from your state or school, if it is available.
Learn more about applying for graduate financial aid.
3. Consider a private student loan for medical school
Private student loans for medical school are typically available through banks or credit unions.
The interest rate for these loans are based on your credit history and other factors. Many private student loans offer both fixed and variable interest rates.
For example, the Sallie Mae Dental and Medical School LoanSM is available with the option of either a fixed or variable interest rate. To help you focus on starting your medical career, the loan offers a 20-year repayment period and the ability to defer your loans during residency (for up to a total of 60 months). It also gives you the choice to make in-school payments or defer until after you leave. Paying interest in school can help you save an average of more than 10% of your total loan cost compared to the deferred repayment option. As with federal student loans, you’ll have to pay back the money you borrowed, plus interest.
When it comes time to start your residency, you may also be eligible for a residency and relocation loan like the Sallie Mae Medical Residency and Relocation Loan®. This loan can help pay for interview and moving costs.
Deferring undergraduate student loans
If you have private or federal student loans from your undergraduate degree, you can consider deferring them while you’re in medical school so you have one less bill to pay. Contact your loan servicer to find out what options you have. Be aware that although you won’t have to make monthly payments on these loans while you’re studying, the loans will likely still accrue interest.
Learn more about graduate student loans.
How to borrow responsibly
Borrowing is often a necessary part of getting the education you need to begin your medical career. But it’s important to borrow responsibly so you can pay back your loans on time after you earn your degree. Limit your borrowing to the amount you’ll need for the cost of tuition and related expenses. Evaluate what your anticipated monthly loan payments might be versus how much you expect to earn as a medical professional. You can research your potential salary through professional associations and the U.S. Department of Labor, which lists the median pay for many fields.