7 Ways to Help You Afford Paying for Medical SchoolApril 26, 2021
The cost of medical school can set you back hundreds of thousands of dollars, leaving many med students scrambling to find ways to cover those expenses. While choosing a medical school that’s relatively inexpensive is one good approach, even in-state tuition at a public university exceeds $41,000 per year on average.
To help you, here are seven ways you can find the money to cover the costs of your medical education:
- Scholarships and grants
- Student loans
- Defer undergraduate student loans
- Tuition-free medical schools
- Service programs
- Become a TA or RA
If you’re trying to work out how to pay for medical school, scholarships and grants can be the best option because you typically don’t have to repay that money.
There are a few different ways you can search for scholarships and grants:
- Scholarships: There are several opportunities to earn scholarships. They can come from a variety of sources, including your school, local organizations, state and federal agencies, and other private organizations. You can even pursue scholarships that aren’t related to the medical field, such as awards based on your hobbies, heritage, work you’ve done in your community. Contact your school’s financial aid office, check with local organizations and government agencies, and search websites like Scholarships.com and Fastweb to find opportunities that align with your interests and experiences.
- Military medical school scholarships: There are several military medical school scholarships available in all branches of the Armed Forces. You’ll need to join the military, though, and meet certain service-related requirements, among others. If you’re considering a career in the military, even if for part of your time as a medical professional, check with local recruiters to find out more.
- National Health Service Corps scholarships: You may qualify for National Health Service Corps scholarships if you agree to two years of full-time service in exchange for one year of scholarship support.
- Grants: You can’t use federal Pell Grants to pay for graduate school. But you may be able to get grants from some of the same sources that offer scholarships. Again, take your time to research your options. You may be surprised to see how many opportunities are available.
Apply for Financial Aid
Paying for medical school is your key to federal financial aid. This can come in the form of federal student loans, work-study programs, and other options.
To start, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form will ask you questions about yourself and your financial situation — and possibly also the same for your parents — to determine how much aid you qualify for.
The FAFSA can take some time to fill out because it requires a lot of documentation. As such, applying for FAFSA early is crucial. Check the deadline for the upcoming school year and plan to submit your application long before that date.
In addition to your tuition and fees, you can also use federal financial aid to pay for certain living expenses.
For most medical students, the process of how to afford medical school involves student loans. There are a few different types of student loans you can choose from, including from the Department of Education and private lenders.
Understanding the differences between federal vs. private student loans can help you determine which are best suited to your needs.
Federal Student Loans for Medical School
The federal government offers two loan programs that you can use to pay for medical school: Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans.
Direct Unsubsidized Loans put a cap on how much you can borrow every year, as well as in total, but they charge lower interest rates and fees than Direct PLUS Loans. Also, you won’t have to undergo a credit check with them.
In contrast, Direct PLUS Loans carry higher interest rates and upfront fees, but they don’t limit how much you can borrow. You will have to submit to a credit check, but they’re only checking for major negative items on your credit reports. If you don’t have an adverse credit history, you likely won’t have anything to worry about.
Both federal programs offer access to certain benefits that you can’t get with private student loans, like income-driven repayment plans.
Refinancing federal student loans later on is possible if you can find better terms with a private lender. But make sure you understand all the benefits and drawbacks of refinancing before you pull the trigger.
Private Student Loans for Medical School
Private student loans can be another option for paying for medical school. Unlike federal loans, private student loan interest rates aren’t standardized — your rate will depend on the lender and your creditworthiness.
This means you’ll need to undergo a credit check when you apply. You can, however, typically get prequalified and compare rate quotes before you submit an official application. Depending on your financial situation, you may be able to score a lower interest rate than what the federal government offers.
After graduation, refinancing medical school loans from private lenders may be more straightforward than refinancing federal loans. That’s because you don’t have to worry about losing any of the perks that only come with federal loan programs. In other words, if you can get better terms somewhere else, it may be a no-brainer.
One of the keys to figuring out how to afford medical school is cutting your costs. Deferring student loans to go back to school is generally a good idea, especially if you’re in medical school and don’t have the time to work a job and earn an income to make your monthly payments on undergraduate loans.
Just keep in mind that unless you have Direct Subsidized Loans, interest will accrue while you’re in deferment, and it will capitalize — be added to your principal balance — once the deferment period is over.
Medical schools that don’t charge tuition are rare, but they do exist. For example, the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences medical school doesn’t charge tuition. In fact, its students are commissioned officers in select branches of the military, and they’re paid a salary.
Other options include Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and Grossman School of Medicine. However, each is very selective with admissions, so it can be challenging to get in.
If you borrowed federal student loans, you may be able to get a large portion of your debt forgiven under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, or PSLF for short. With this program, you must work full-time for a federal, state, local, or tribal government agency while making 120 qualifying payments on your student loans.
You’ll also need to get on an income-driven repayment plan — the standard repayment plan for federal loans is 10 years, so if you continued to use it, you’d pay your loans in full by the time you qualified for forgiveness.
Debt forgiven under PSLF is not considered taxable income, and when you’re on an income-driven repayment plan, you can expect relatively low monthly payments throughout the process.
You’ll be hard-pressed to work a part-time job while you’re in medical school, but there may be some opportunities to work as a teaching assistant or research assistant. As a teaching assistant, you’ll typically lead discussions with underclassmen and provide other assistance for teachers in exchange for tuition credits.
As a research assistant, you’ll be able to do research in areas related to your field of study. This will not only give you a great experience you can use in your career, but it will also help you with your efforts on how to pay for medical school.
As previously mentioned, one of the best approaches for how to afford medical school is to cut your costs. In addition to choosing a less expensive school and deferring undergraduate loans, you’ll also want to set up a monthly budget for your living expenses.
Budgeting in college is often easier than after graduation because you have less income and fewer expenses. So the sooner you start, the better it will be for you in the long run.
Of course, budgeting doesn’t mean you have to live uncomfortably. Medical school is a challenging experience, so it’s natural to want to spend money on your lifestyle to make the process more comfortable.
Without going overboard, budget in some fun money. Just make sure your discretionary spending doesn’t get in the way of your important expenses or cause you to rack up unnecessary debt.
Apply for Your Medical School Student Loan with ELFI
With ELFI’s medical school student loans, qualified borrowers can borrow up to the amount of education expenses approved by their schools.* There are no application or origination fees and also no prepayment penalty for repaying debt ahead of schedule.
ELFI’s fixed and variable interest rates are competitive, and you can also enjoy the opportunity to choose a repayment term that fits your financial goals.
As with any other financial decision, take your time to compare ELFI and other student loan options to find the best option for you.