January 25, 2021

How to Pay for Medical School Without Going Broke

The Savvy Premed

By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff

When we searched “how to pay for medical school” on YouTube, there was a wide range of videos on this topic. Most of them were people sharing their personal experiences funding their medical education entirely through loans. Depressing, yet realistic. Other videos were relatively more uplifting, like people talking about how they paid off their medical school loans.

Stepping away from YouTube, a Google search on “how to pay for medical school” will lead you to resources such as the AAMC Paying for Medical School webpage, which, again, discusses loan options. This October 2020 article from the AAMC mentions that in 2019, the average four-year cost for public school and private school medical students is $250,222 and $330,180, respectively.

Loans. Loans. More loans. Would you like a side of loans with your medical education? Or are you willing to donate a kidney?

What we didn’t find was a resource that solely featured loan-free ways of paying for medical school.

While we recognize that graduating from a medical school with zero debt cannot be the case for everyone, we believe that all students have the potential to graduate with a manageable amount of debt. On that note, we put together a list of ways to help you pay for medical school without going broke.

How to Pay for Medical School Without Going Broke

Go to a tuition-free medical school (if you have the option to)!

  • If you have the opportunity to attend NYU Grossman School of Medicine or Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, doing so would be a financial wonder. Of course, it is easier said than done, as matriculants to these schools boast extremely high GPAs and MCAT scores as per the AAMC MSAR.

Apply for loan-forgiveness programs whose conditions of acceptance align with your interests.

  • Unlike loans, scholarships and grants give you funds that you do not have to pay back. The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) is one popular loan-forgiveness program that can pay off your entire medical school education in exchange for years of service. People who participate in the NHSC have a deep interest in primary care medicine and a desire to practice such in underserved areas. For every year they receive the scholarship, NHSC scholars agree to serve a year in high-need areas or Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) upon graduating from medical school.
  • Those who intend to practice military medicine may find the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) more favorable than NHSC. Similar to NHSC, HPSP can pay off one’s entire medical school education in exchange for years of service. However, unlike NHSC, HPSP requires its scholars to practice medicine for the U.S. military, one year for every year of receiving the scholarship. HPSP also bestows its scholar a $2,400+ monthly stipend and a $20,000 sign-on bonus, among many other benefits.

Apply for scholarships and grants that you may qualify for, especially those that fit your social and cultural background.

  • Unlike loans, scholarships and grants give you funds that you do not have to pay back. Colloquially, scholarships and grants are free money! Yes. Free! Check out any scholarships that may be offered by your school. Usually, your medical school’s financial aid office will have already put together a list of school-specific scholarships open to its students. Successfully receiving a scholarship this way may be easier given the relatively low pool of applicants that apply.
  • Seek out scholarships that are targeted toward a particular group of people. Women in Medicine (WIM), for instance, awards $5,000 LGBTQ scholarships to female medical students of allopathic, osteopathic, or naturopathic medical schools in the United States or Canada. The Jewish Federation is another organization that sponsors many graduate-level scholarships (including medical school), and while many prefer applicants to be of the Jewish faith, it is not always required.

Work a part-time job in a role that is conducive to your studies, such as a tutor or student worker at your school’s library.

  • When Googling “best jobs to have while in medical school,” tutoring turned up repeatedly (along with articles suggesting to not work at all). It's no surprise that one will probably have close to no time to work outside of medical school. Studying in medical school will be a full-time job in itself. However, one may find it doable to work as a tutor or student librarian since these roles would be more convenient. Especially during this age of COVID-19, there is a demand for virtual tutoring.

Reduce your living expenses to an amount that is still livable.

  • According to this San Diego Union Tribune article, the average rent in San Diego in late 2019 was $1,852 a month. And, unfortunately, it is only getting higher. No matter where you attend medical school, it may be worth seeking out options to reduce your cost of living. Consider looking up Facebook-specific school groups that your medical school may have set up to find a roommate. Doing so would save you rent money while also giving you a head start on making new friends.
  • Learn how to cook if you don’t know how to already. A good amount of YouTube videos featured medical students talking about how much money cooking saved them. Fees from fast food and delivery costs from apps such as Postmates and DoorDash add up, and it’s an important life skill to know how to cook. If you’re capable of learning how to practice medicine and save lives, you are more than capable of learning how to cook more than pasta.

Good luck exploring all of these options! When you think about it, you’ve already gotten through the hardest part: getting into medical school! Figuring out how to pay for medical school is never easy, but we hope these tips will help you navigate this difficult financial challenge.

Have any tips to suggest that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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