How To Pay for Medical School: Leave No Stone – or Dollar – UnturnedSeptember 3, 2021
Let’s discuss a topic that is top of mind for all aspiring MDs – paying for medical school.
Medical school is a major investment in your future and it’s important to understand the best ways to finance your education. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average out-of-state tuition at a private US medical school in 2019-20 was just shy of $57,000 per year. To avoid getting saddled with overwhelming debt, it’s important to know the true costs of the medical schools you are considering and the resources available to achieve your dream and begin your life’s work as a physician.
Pro-tip: It’s important to understand that the overall cost of medical school isn’t just tuition – you need to factor in fees and living expenses as well.
There are a range of scholarship opportunities specifically designed for medical school students. In addition to federal and national scholarship programs, other scholarships opportunities to look for include merit-, time- (specific to a particular time in your medical school education), service-, and school-based scholarships that can include everything from a full-ride (covers tuition and other costs, such as fees) to smaller amounts that, when combined, really add up. Other scholarship opportunities include those based on an outside interest, heritage, or volunteer work.
Pro-tip: When beginning your search for medical school scholarships, start local. Hospitals, nonprofits, rotary clubs, and women’s professional organizations are good places to look.
To find scholarships, search online on sites such as Niche, College Board Scholarship Search, and Scholly, and make sure to network! Reach out to your school and contact local organizations and hospitals.
Private Student Loans
You may need to offset any remaining costs after scholarship dollars with private student loans – and here, too, you will find a selection specifically designed for medical school.
Private student loans for medical school are issued by private lenders, such as Sallie Mae or Citizens Bank, and each can make up their own repayment terms, interest rates, and eligibility requirements.
Protip: Make sure you understand all the terms of a private student loan before signing for it. Ask questions and do your own research.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to pass a credit check to qualify and may need a cosigner.
Federal Financial Aid
Federal financial aid isn’t only applicable to undergraduate school – it can be utilized for medical school as well. To start, you’ll need to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) so that the medical schools to which you apply can determine how much aid you are eligible for.
Protip: Make sure to send FAFSA applications to each medical school you apply to, even if you haven’t been accepted yet.
These loans include Direct Unsubsidized, Direct PLUS, The Primary Care Loan, and the Perkins Loan. Deadlines for filing the FAFSA vary by the school and state, but the federal deadline is usually June 30.
Look Into Scholarships for Minority Students and/or Primary Care
Depending on your background and professional interests, you may be eligible for scholarships from organizations that are focused on developing a more diverse physician workforce, and/or scholarships for those who are looking to become primary care physicians from organizations hoping to alleviate the looming US physician shortage in both primary and family care.
Service Program Scholarships
Many service programs with either the military or government can be a source of scholarship funding for medical school students. To be eligible, you’ll need to commit to working a certain number of years for your selected organization; in return, all or a portion of your medical school costs would be covered.
Protip: Try to match up the service organization you join with your professional interests.
Some organizations to consider include: Health Professions Scholarship Program, National Health Service Corps Scholarship, State-run Loan Repayment Assistance Program, and Public Service Loan Forgives.
Ask Your Future Medical School(s)
Don’t forget to reach out to the medical school(s) to which you are applying to see what types of scholarships they are offering. Many medical schools offer financial assistance based on merit (previous academic performance) or to students with severe financial need.
Protip: Reach out each medical school’s financial aid office and set up a time for you and your family to speak with a financial aid rep to see what options may be available to you.
The time and energy you spend researching possible scholarship options is well worth it – both to yourself and the world, which needs physicians now more than ever.