5 Ways to Pay for Medical School Without Going Broke

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You’ve always wanted to become a doctor, but affording medical school is standing in the way. That’s not surprising considering the average out-of-state tuition for a private school is $61,428 a year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

But not to worry: There are many ways to finance your education that can keep your debt manageable while you pursue your dream — you just have to know where to look.

How to pay for medical school

Here’s how to pay for medical school without completely going broke.

1. Look for local scholarship opportunities

how to pay for medical school

When it comes to scholarships, the conversation tends to be around undergraduate education. But there are plenty of scholarships for medical students as well. Even better, there are scholarships available for every step of the medical school process from being a pre-med undergrad student to heading off into your residency.

For example, some medical schools will provide full merit scholarships, such as the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. Meanwhile, the American Medical Association Foundation has the Physicians of Tomorrow Scholarship, which gives students in their final year of medical school $10,000. So, it’s important to research scholarship options throughout your time in medical school.

Also, don’t forget to look up scholarships that have nothing to do with your medical pursuits. You could score some free money based on an outside interest, your heritage, or your volunteer work. Even smaller ones for a few hundred dollars could add up to big savings if you get a bunch.

To find scholarships, you can look in a few places. Ask your school what scholarships they have available, reach out to local organizations, research what possibilities hospitals have, and use a website like CollegeBoard’s scholarship search to look up options based on your interests and background.

2. Apply for federal financial aid

how to pay for medical school

Image credit: Federal Student Aid

When figuring out how to pay for medical school, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) might not come to mind. Sure, it’s something you did for undergrad, but it should also be the first step in securing financial aid for your post-graduate degree too.

Medical schools use the FAFSA to determine how much aid you’re eligible for based on your financial needs. Even if you haven’t been accepted to a school yet, send an application for each school you’ve applied to. This will ensure you’re getting as much financial aid as possible.

Through the FAFSA, you could also be offered a federal loan. There are several types of federal loans available to medical students, including Direct Unsubsidized, Direct PLUS, and HRSA Primary Care. These loans tend to have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment terms, making it easier to pay them back once you graduate.

The process is the same as when you filed the FAFSA for undergrad — just make sure you check to see if the medical schools have any deadline requirements. You may need a parent to fill out the form as well, so have all your paperwork in order before applying by the due date.

3. Consider private student loans

how to pay for medical school

Even if you received some scholarships and financial aid from your medical school or the government, you still might not have enough money to cover your education costs. That’s where private loans come in.

Unlike federal loans, which are regulated by the government, private student loans for medical school are issued by private lenders such as Citizens Bank or College Ave. That means the eligibility requirements, interest rates, and repayment terms can vary depending on the financial institution offering the loan.

While there are fewer regulations, private loans tend to have higher borrowing caps, which could help cover all of your expenses federal aid couldn’t. They can also have lower interest rates compared to federal loans meaning you will pay less overall.

Just be sure you understand all the terms of the loan, so you don’t get stuck not being able to pay. The lack of regulation leaves you with fewer options if you find yourself struggling financially.

4. Become a TA or RA

how to pay for medical school

Trying to take on a part-time job while going through the rigors of medical school might seem impossible. But there is a way you can put in some work on campus that will go directly towards your tuition.

Many medical schools offer both research and teaching aid opportunities where you can assist professors or lead small group discussions for underclassmen in exchange for tuition credits. The Stanford School of Medicine, for example, lets students reduce their tuition by over $12,000 for putting in 20 hours per week as a teaching aid (TA) or research assistant (RA) and provides a quarterly salary around $10,000.

This option is not typically available to first-year medical students as it requires some experience in the field. But be sure to start the conversation with your school early so you’re prepared to meet any application deadlines and complete prerequisites that might be necessary.

5. Enroll in a service program

how to pay for medical school

A great answer for how to pay for medical school is enrolling in a service program with the government or military. Basically, in exchange for working a certain number of years for one of the institutions, you will have some or all of your medical school costs covered.

Here are some programs to consider:

  • National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship: With this scholarship, the Department of Health & Human Services will pay for up to four years of your medical school tuition and living expense if you agree to work for at least two years in an approved “underserved community.”
  • Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP): Funded by the military, you can have all of your tuition and fees covered in addition to a living stipend and sign-on bonus if you serve time in the armed forces. You will be required to commit to one year of active duty for every year of your scholarship, with a three-year minimum.
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): While this program won’t cover your costs upfront, it can help you pay back any loans you took out for medical school. Through PSLF, you might be eligible to have your loans forgiven if you work for an approved institution such as a nonprofit or the government after you’ve made 120 loan payments. It’s not an option that is guaranteed, so be sure to do your research and use a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Calculator to determine if it’s worth it.

All of these options are great for figuring out how to pay for medical school. Medical school costs can seem overwhelming at first, but doing some research on different opportunities can help alleviate some of the anxiety and have you well on your way towards helping others.

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  1. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
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SunTrust Disclosures

Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.

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  1. Interest rates and APRs (Annual Percentage Rates) depend upon (1) the student’s and cosigner’s (if applicable) credit histories, (2) the repayment option and repayment term selected, (3) the requested loan amount and (4) other information provided on the online loan application. If approved, applicants will be notified of the rate applicable to your loan. Rates and terms are effective for applications received after on or after 06/01/2019. The variable interest rate for each calendar month is calculated by adding the current index (One-month LIBOR index) to your margin. LIBOR stands for London Interbank Offered Rate. The One-month LIBOR is published in the “Money Rates” section of the Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition). The One-month LIBOR index is captured on the 25th day of the immediately preceding calendar month (or if the 25th is not a business day, the next business day thereafter), and is rounded up to the nearest 1/8th of one percent. The current One-month LIBOR index is 2.500% on 06/01/2019. The variable interest rate will increase or decrease if the One-month LIBOR index changes or if a new index is chosen. The applicable index or margin for variable rate loans may change over time and result in a different APR than shown. The fixed rate assigned to a loan will never change except as required by law or if you request and qualify for the auto pay discount.
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  3. Any applicant who applies for a loan the month of, the month prior to, or the month after the student’s graduation date, as stated on the application or certified by the school, will only be offered the Immediate Repayment option. The student must be enrolled at least half-time to be eligible for the partial interest, fully deferred and interest only repayment options unless the loan is being used for a past due balance and the student is out of school. With the Full Deferment option, payments may be deferred while the student is enrolled at least half-time at an approved school and during the six month grace period after graduation or dropping below half-time status, but the total initial deferment period, including the grace period, may not exceed 66 months from the first disbursement date. The Partial Interest Repayment option (paying $25 per month during in-school deferment) is only available on loans of $5,000 or more. For payment examples, see footnote 4. With the Immediate Repayment option, the first payment of principal and interest will be due approximately 30-60 calendar days after the final disbursement date and the minimum monthly payment will be $50.00. There are no prepayment penalties.
  4. The 15-year term and Partial Interest Repayment option (paying $25 per month during in-school deferment) are only available for loan amounts of $5,000 or more. Making interest only or partial interest payments during in-school deferment (including the grace period) will not reduce the principal balance of the loan. Payment examples within this footnote assume a 45-month deferment period, a six-month grace period before entering repayment, the summer savings rate discount of 0.50% applicable to applications submitted for a credit decision between 12:00:00am EST on June 1, 2019 and 11:59:59pm EST on August 31, 2019, no rate reduction for auto pay, and the Partial Interest Repayment option. 7-year term: $10,000 loan disbursed over two transactions with a 7-year repayment term (84 months) and 7.772% APR would result in a monthly principal and interest payment of $189.71. 10-year term: $10,000 loan disbursed over two transactions with a 10-year repayment term (120 months) and an 8.235% APR would result in a monthly principal and interest payment of $153.33. 15-year term: $10,000 loan disbursed over two transactions with a 15-year repayment term (180 months) and a 8.712% APR would result in a monthly principal and interest payment of $127.35.
  5. The 2% principal reduction is based on the total dollar amount of all disbursements made, excluding any amounts that are reduced, cancelled, or returned. To receive this principal reduction, it must be requested from the servicer, the student borrower must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher and proof of such graduation (e.g. copy of diploma, final transcript or letter on school letterhead) must be provided to the servicer. This reward is available once during the life of the loan, regardless of whether the student receives more than one degree.
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  7. A cosigner may be released from the loan upon request to the servicer, provided that the student borrower is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, has met credit criteria, and met either one of the following payment conditions: (a) the first 36 consecutive monthly principal and interest payments have been made on-time (received by the servicer within 10 calendar days after their due date) or (b) the loan has not had any late payments and has been prepaid prior to the end of the first 36 months of scheduled principal and interest payments in an amount equal to the first 36 months of scheduled principal and interest payments (based on the monthly payment amount in effect when you make the most recent payment). As an example, if you have made 30 months of consecutive on-time payments, and then, based on the monthly payment amount in effect on the due date of your 31st consecutive monthly payment, you pay a lump sum equal to 6 months of payments, you will have satisfied the payment condition. Cosigner release may not be available if a loan is in forbearance.

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CommonBond Disclosures

A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.

Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.

Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
If you are unable to pay your government loan, the government can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount. In addition, the government has special powers to collect the loan, such as taking your tax refund and applying it to your loan balance.

A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If you refinance your government loan, your new lender will use the proceeds of your new loan to pay off your government loan. Private student loan lenders do not have to honor any of the benefits that apply to government loans. Because your government loan will be gone after refinancing, you will lose any benefits that apply to that loan. If you are an active-duty service member, your new loan will not be eligible for service member benefits. Most importantly, once you refinance your government loan, you will not able to reinstate your government loan if you become dissatisfied with the terms of your private student loan.

If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you are a borrower with a secure job, emergency savings, strong credit and are unlikely to need any of the options available to distressed borrowers of government loans, a refinance of your government loans into a private student loan may be attractive to you. You should consider the costs and benefits of refinancing carefully before you refinance.

If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.

Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.


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  1. Student Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of June 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.43%. Variable interest rates range from 3.99% – 11.79% (3.99% – 11.64% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.90% to 12.19% (4.90% – 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan. 
  2. Citizens Bank Student Loan Eligibility: Borrowers must be enrolled at least half-time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution. Borrowers must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident or an international borrower/eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For borrowers who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank- participating school.  
  3. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply. Borrowers whose loans were funded prior to reaching the age of majority may not be eligible for co-signer release. Note: co-signer release is not available on the Student Loan for Parents or Education Refinance Loan for Parents.
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