5 Things I Wish I Knew as a Premed About How to Pay for Medical School
As a premed student, I remember how overwhelmed, intimidated even, I was by those figures. Well, to be honest, I still am. But now that I am in the thick of medical school, I realize that financing a medical education is actually quite manageable. The debt is real, but there are many resources available to help you identify the right loans, manage your money, and even get scholarships and grants.
- Reach out to financial aid officers early. Believe it or not, there are professionals employed at just about every medical school whose job it is to help students navigate the complex world of financial aid. Though most premed students use their home institution’s pre-health advisor to learn everything about medical school, these advisors may not be able to answer detailed, school-specific inquiries about financial assistance and management. If you have identified a handful of medical schools you are interested in, try to get in contact with the financial aid officers and make an early connection, particularly if you have any specific questions (the
are great contacts, too).
- Get loan smart. Most medical students utilize the federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans, and I’d suggest familiarizing yourself with each before starting medical school. Tools such as the
can help inform you about different loan options and assist you in managing your loan debt. Be aware, there are a ton of private loan providers out there, all with different interest rates, processing fees, deferment options, etc. Learn the before signing paperwork.
- Budgeting is easy. A simple yet effective long-term, cost-saving measure for any student is to create, and stay committed to, a budget. Designating what percentage of your loans or personal savings will be used for rent, groceries, or car payments, for example, can help prevent you from having to ask for more loan money than you need. There are a number of tools designed to help medical students manage their monthly finances. Some of the most commonly used are
, , and .
- Scholarships and loan repayment programs exist. For students willing to serve the country as a military physician or who practice medicine in underserved areas, opportunities for scholarships and loan forgiveness abound. The
offers medical trainees a full tuition scholarship in addition to a monthly stipend, in exchange for a specified term of commitment to a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. The and the programs offer medical students the opportunity to have any outstanding loans forgiven by serving in a marginalized and under-resourced community. You can learn about similar programs through the . Do your research to see if these programs may be right for you.
- Balance is key. You shouldn’t live like royalty during medical school, but smart financial management doesn’t require eating ramen noodles for every meal either. Being happy and healthy will help you get the most out of medical school. So don’t feel guilty if you decide to budget for a movie one month, or go on a trip to see family another month. Living modestly and making smart decisions are key to financial success during these four years!