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Saving Money in Medical School 101

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A current medical student shares tips on how to save money while in medical school. By Kumail Hussain

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In an earlier edition of the Premed Navigator, you may have seen my previous article about the cost breakdown of medical school. Now, let’s talk about ways to reduce your costs!

Scholarships

Money plant

Yes, there are possibilities for scholarships in medical school, but you must put in the effort to find them and apply! Start with your school first; there may be internal scholarships offered and these can usually be found on the institution’s website or by contacting your financial aid office. External scholarships can be harder to find, but there are many different opportunities out there that you can find through a simple Google search. Apply for as many as you can — remember, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take! Every scholarship is different, but some might cover a good chunk of your tuition. Some schools in the United States even offer lower tuition based on the availability of funds. Use the AAMC’s searchable database to learn about many state and federal programs available to medical and other health professions students.

Loans

About 73% of students will fund their medical school education through loans. Loans can make medical school much more accessible to all types of students, but be aware of the amount you borrow, interest, and origination fees. Many schools offer workshops to educate students about borrowing only what you need. This knowledge is crucial, so make sure to seek out these classes!

Depending on your school, funds will be disbursed into your account every semester or quarter, so make sure to familiarize yourself with the process of receiving your loans. Make sure you also understand the difference between federal and private loans, as the interest rates and terms will likely differ. Loans can be an extremely complex topic, so refer to the resources provided by your institution and your financial aid office. I personally can say that loans have allowed me to pursue the education that I have always dreamed of, but I still try to be cognizant of how much I borrow! 

Work-Study

Some medical schools offer work-study positions. These positions are usually emailed or posted around the school and give students the opportunity to work a job that doesn’t require long hours. The pay and tax rate will vary for each school, and you may have the option to have your wages applied to your tuition or deposited into your account. I was fortunate enough to hold a work-study position during my first year of medical school and it was a nice way to offset my expenses!

Other Ways to Make and Save Money

This section is something I never really learned in medical school but rather something I learned on my own through research. First, I want to mention that there are opportunities with the armed forces (e.g., Army, Navy, Air Force) in which they might cover your tuition and/or provide a stipend during your studies. If you’re interested, here is a helpful fact sheet to get you started. 

For these next few tips on how to make money, please try them at your own risk and time. Here are some ways to earn a little extra dough without distracting too much from your studies: 

  • Flip stuff on the internet. You can sell items through eBay, the Facebook marketplace, or Craigslist. It’s not a bad way to earn some extra cash.
  • Consider freelance work associated with any skills you have. There are many websites where you can find remote work for special skills like writing, editing, graphic design, or even teaching. 
  • You can also get a job that allows you to create your own schedule. Some that come to mind include Uber, Lyft, UberEats, Postmates, or Instacart. I drove with Uber during our school breaks and it was a fun way to make money!

Now, here are some general ways to save. Don’t worry: I won’t say you have to eat ramen every day! 

  • Search for cheap and safe housing that is close to campus and falls within the cost of attendance set by the school.
  • Buy groceries instead of eating out frequently. Google ways to make fancy recipes for a fraction of the cost!
  • Lower your electric bill by unplugging electronics when you aren’t using them or when you go on break. Get familiar with your electric bill and see if there are any discounts for students.
  • If you choose to own a car, shop around for lower insurance rates, make sure your tires are properly inflated, and find local mechanics that do good work and offer reasonable prices.
  • Shop at thrift or discount stores for your clothes. I love stores like Ross or T.J. Maxx. 
  • Use cash for most of your purchases. Research shows you will actually spend less when you do! 
  • Utilize student discounts wherever you go. It never hurts to ask!

Lastly, try to hold off on any major expenses early on in your education. I know it’s difficult seeing your friends who are not in medicine buying new cars, houses, or having big weddings, but you will have all of that soon! Trust me: You will thank yourself later. 

Additional Resources from the AAMC

  • Fee Assistance Program
    The benefits of the Fee Assistance Program include discounted fees, complimentary access to the MSAR online database, free MCAT Official Prep products, and more.
  • FIRST (Financial Information, Resources, Services,  and Tools)
    Whether you’re thinking about how to pay for medical school, manage your finances during medical school, or determine your loan repayment options after medical school, with AAMC's FIRST program you’ll find unbiased, reliable guidance along your pathway to medical school and beyond. 

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