The Financial Aid Application Process

While the process of applying for financial aid varies by medical school, here are some universal steps to help you get started. Always check with the financial aid office at your medical school for specific instructions.
Father and daughter going over finances

Step 1: Complete the FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in applying for financial aid. Check to see the school’s requirements for FAFSA filing dates.

Parental information may be required by medical schools for students who wish to be considered for institutional financial aid (aid given by the medical school) even though an applicant is considered independent for purposes of federal loans. Check with the medical school’s financial aid office to verify their requirements.

To ensure the results of your FAFSA are sent to the schools you are applying to, be sure to list the medical school’s federal school code on the FAFSA. If you do not know the school code, you can search for it on the Federal Student Aid website.

Step 2: Investigate Sources of Aid

Contact the medical school’s financial aid office to determine available sources of financial aid. Be proactive; explore additional resources for scholarships and grants. You can search for scholarships and grants in several places. Here are some FIRST resources to consider:

If you need loans to cover additional costs, consider borrowing federal student loans. The Direct Unsubsidized Loan and the Direct PLUS Loan are federal loans. These are both unsubsidized loans, meaning the borrower is responsible for the interest that accrues on the loans; however, they have some of the best terms and conditions. Note: Applying for a loan requires completing a Master Promissory Note (MPN). This is separate from the FAFSA.

Step 3: Apply Early

Pay attention to deadlines – they are crucial! Obtain, read, complete, and submit applications on time, preferably early. Occasionally, unexpected situations may arise that could delay your application. If you wait until the last minute to apply, you may not qualify simply because of a missed deadline.

Step 4: Receive Your Award Letter

Once the school’s financial aid office receives and processes your FAFSA results, you will then receive an award letter indicating the types and amounts of financial aid you are eligible to receive. Follow the directions for accepting or declining the aid. If you accept the aid offered, and it includes student loans, pay attention to the information about when your loan funds will be available to you, and plan accordingly.

For more information, review the FIRST fact sheet, What is an Award Letter?.

Still Have Questions?

If you are uncertain about the financial aid application process, or if you have questions related to the financial aid offered, contact the school’s financial aid office to discuss your questions. The financial aid office staff and the school’s website are always great sources of information.

If you aren’t sure what questions to ask, review FIRST’s article, Top 10 Questions Premeds Should Ask Medical School Financial Aid OfficersThis resource can provide you with additional guidance and topics to consider.


  • You must re-apply each year for financial aid. Check with your medical school’s financial aid office about required forms and deadlines.
  • To maintain eligibility for federal financial aid, you must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). Check the school’s requirements for SAP.
  • Continue to search for scholarship and grants each year of medical school.

Search Financial Aid Resources

Find a complete list of all financial aid resources, services, and tools. 

MedLoans® Organizer and Calculator (MLOC)

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Education Debt Manager (EDM) for Matriculating and Graduating Medical School Students

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