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Doctors leave medical school with average debt of $251,600, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

That’s a serious price tag.

We’re here to help you avoid that kind of debt. Here’s how to pay for medical school — and make your education more affordable.

How to pay for medical school

When it comes to paying for medical school, you’ll probably need to use more than just one form of education financing to complete your training. To save money on your schooling, follow these steps:

  1. Apply for scholarships and grants
  2. Take out federal student loans
  3. Consider HRSA programs
  4. Shop around for private student loans

1. Apply for scholarships and grants

Scholarships and grants are free money, meaning they don’t have to be repaid like student loans. Using scholarships and grants can greatly reduce your education costs, limiting how much you need to borrow in student loans.

There are four major scholarships available to medical school students:

  • Diverse Medical Scholars Program: The United Health Foundation offers a renewable $7,000 award to over 30 students each year who are part of African American, Latino, Native American, or Asian American communities.
  • Herbert W. Nickens Medical Student Scholarship: Students entering their third year of medical school can apply for a $5,000 scholarship offered by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
  • National Health Services Corps (NHSC) Scholarship: Primary health care students willing to make a service commitment of at least one year may qualify for a NHSC scholarship that covers tuition and fees. NHSC scholarship recipients also receive a monthly stipend to help cover living expenses.
  • Physicians of Tomorrow Award: Medical students approaching their final year of school can get a $10,000 scholarship from the American Medical Association.

These scholarships are valuable, but only a limited number of students will receive them. But don’t give up hope; it’s possible to qualify for other grants and scholarships too. You can even combine multiple scholarships to offset your education’s cost.

More Scholarship Help: How to Apply for Scholarships and Grants

2. Take out federal student loans

After scholarship and grants, federal student loans can help pay for the rest of your education. There are two types of federal loans available to medical school students.

Direct Unsubsidized

  • Available to graduate and professional degree students
  • Lowest interest rate of federal loans available to medical school students
  • Loans disbursed between July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2020, have an interest rate of 6.08%

However, there is a limit to how much you can borrow in unsubsidized loans. Most graduate and professional students are capped at $138,500. But medical, dental, and veterinary school students can borrow up to $224,000. That limit includes both subsidized and unsubsidized loans you took out for undergraduate school. If you need more than that, you’ll have to turn to other loans.

Direct PLUS

  • Borrow up to the total cost of attendance, without any cap on how much you can borrow
  • Loans disbursed between July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2020, have an interest rate of 7.08%

Unlike other types of federal student loans, PLUS Loans do require a credit check. If you have an adverse credit history — such as having a bankruptcy on your credit report — you may need an endorser to co-sign your application to qualify for a loan.

3. Consider HRSA programs

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) operates several different need-based loan programs for students attending medical school. These programs offer long-term, low-cost loans; in return, the HRSA asks that students commit to serving in communities who lack access to medical care after they graduate.

  • Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS): LDS loans are available from select schools to disadvantaged students studying allopathic medicine, osteopathic medicine, podiatry, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, or veterinary medicine.
  • Health Professions Student Loans (HPSL): If you’re enrolled at least half-time at a participating school and are planning to study dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, podiatry, or veterinary medicine, you may qualify for the HPSL program.
  • Primary Care Loans (PCL): Students pursuing a degree in allopathic or osteopathic medicine full-time may qualify for a loan through the PCL program.

Loans issued through the HRSA programs have interest rates as low as 5% and are interest-free while the loans are in deferment.

4. Shop around for private student loans

If you still need help paying for med school after applying for scholarships, grants, federal loans, and HRSA loans, private student loans can help fill the gap.

With private loans, you work with an individual lender to take out money to pay for your remaining classes or even your residency. Interest rates vary from lender to lender. Depending on your credit score, you could qualify for a private student loan with interest rates that are even lower than the rates of federal loans, helping you save money — especially if you use a cosigner. Over 90% of private student loans are taken out with a cosigner.

Compare student loan rates now

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Managing your medical school loans

While medical school is expensive, there are funding options available that can make it more affordable. Now that you know how to pay for medical school, you can minimize your costs while completing your degree and residency.

In the future, after you’ve graduated, if you need more help managing your debt, consider refinancing your medical school loans. Refinancing can help you save money and get out of debt faster.

Learn More: The Best Private Student Loans

About the author
Kat Tretina
Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is an authority on student loans and a contributor to Credible. Her work has appeared in publications like the Huffington Post, Money Magazine, MarketWatch, Business Insider, and more.

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