As you are already well aware, medical school in the United States is ridiculously expensive. The average cost is $60,000 per year for public medical schools, and even higher for private medical schools. The average debt for medical students graduating in 2017 was close to $200,000. I was fortunate enough to graduate with actually very little debt. I’ll show you how to do the same.
The funds to pay for medical school will come from one of three sources:
- You and your family’s pockets
- Scholarships or grants
You want to minimize the first two and maximize the latter, which is free money. Let’s go over each one.
You and Your Family’s Contribution
Most schools will ask for your and your parents’ financial information. Even if your parents are not going to contribute a dime to your medical education, schools often require their tax information in determining who they should offer financial aid to. Remember, your parents are not required to contribute to your medical school education expenses, so be very grateful if they contribute at all. My parents didn’t contribute to my college or medical school costs, but I was still able to become a doctor with very little debt in the end. We’ll get to how I managed to do that shortly.
There are three main categories of loans: federal, school/organizational, and private. Federal and school loans generally have more favorable terms, such as longer periods of deferment and lower interest rates. Private loans have some of the worst terms, and should be avoided. Only sign for private loans when absolutely necessary.
When you start medical school, you’ll be served a financial aid package which will summarize your school’s offerings for federal and school loans, grants, and scholarships. It’s important to create a realistic budget for yourself and only take out loans for the amount of money that you actually need. You’ll be paying interest on every dollar you take out. Again, only take the amount you actually need.
With recent changes in the education budget on a national level, federal loans are not nearly as favorable as they were a few years ago. However, some subsidized school and organization loans (see Excel sheet below) will not accrue any interest for the period of medical school, and sometimes even through residency. That’s right, you don’t even have to pay back for inflation! If you are offered these loans, I recommend taking them.
Private loans generally have the highest interest rates and are not included in most forgiveness programs. Loan forgiveness programs are a popular way to reduce your overall loan burden. They are most advantageous for students with significant debt. The way it works is simple – you work for a organization, employer, or program for a set period of time, and in return, you receive partial or complete loan forgiveness or loan repayment.
The Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program offers loan forgiveness for working in the government or non-profit organizations. After making 10 years of monthly payments, the remaining loan balance is forgiven. The National Health Service Corps offers a loan repayment program for those in primary care specialties practicing in under-served areas. There are a few options through the United States military as well.
Scholarships & Grants
Now on to the fun part, free money. The main reason I was able to graduate with such little debt is through obtaining scholarships and grants.
How to Find Medical School Scholarship and Grants
When you first get accepted to medical school, I recommend reaching out to the financial aid office, even before classes start, and asking them about what scholarships and grants are offered. Most medical schools keep a list of annual scholarships and grants, many of which you may be eligible for. Awards aren’t just for good grades. Eligibility criteria widely varies – some may be specific to a certain background or ethnicity, specialty or practice type, religion, home town or place of birth, etc.
In addition to reaching out to your school’s financial aid office, definitely search online for medical student grant and scholarship offerings. Here you can download an extensive list of medical student scholarships and awards, and below you’ll find links to a few additional resources:
Being Competitive for Scholarships
Now the juicy part. Here’s a little known secret that can make the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars: if you get accepted to multiple medical schools, let them incentivize you to come to their school over others with scholarship offers. Obviously, you need to me accepted to more than just one medical school. Simply send an email to the admissions office, explain you are interested in their program but are weighing other acceptances as well. Ask if there are any scholarship or grants they can offer to reduce your out of pocket cost. After sending out these emails to the schools I was accepted to and interested in, I was able to get almost all of my medical school paid for. Had I not sent out these emails, I may have been in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
Now I say this not to toot my own horn but for full transparency: I was a highly competitive medical school applicant, obtaining interview offers at the majority of schools I applied to, interviewing at most of the top medical schools, including 3 of the top 4, and gaining acceptances to several. Ultimately, I went to a program I was excited about because of its location, the people, and the culture. They also offered me their highest merit-based scholarship and as a result I only took small loans to cover a portion of my living expenses.
Many of the largest scholarships, like the one I received, are merit based, and are offered to students with stellar medical school applications. This means having a top MCAT, GPA, research, and being well rounded with impressive extracurriculars. A compelling personal statement and crushing it on interview day with refined interview skills are also essential. You have to be a beast of an applicant. And I want to help you be that stellar applicant.
Now while its impossible to guarantee merit based scholarships, multiple Med School Insiders advisors also earned sizable or even full ride scholarships to medical school. These are real doctors who were top performers. We can show you exactly how we did it, and teach you from our own first hand experience of success. If you want to be a stellar applicant, check out our one-on-one advising, tutoring, interview preparation, personal statement or secondary editing, or any of the other services we offer. Our services will help you become a much stronger applicant, which increases the chances that you too will receive scholarships. And that means saving a lot of money. Talk about a good investment.
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