Attending Med School Without Student Loans

Attending Med School Without Student Loans

Doctors are drowning in medical school debt due to skyrocketing tuition fees. Needless to say, this is not a desirable state of affairs. Being neck-deep in debt can be incredibly stressful, affect your lifestyle, and sometimes lead to mental health challenges. Also, it may influence your choice of degrees – you may be forced to choose a high-paying specialty over what you love to do, for instance.

Furthermore, even if you pull in a six-figure income afterward, becoming a doctor takes time – and paying back your loan takes even longer. If you go this route, you may have to postpone major life milestones – like starting a family or buying a house.

Fortunately, it is possible to attend medical school without getting a loan. All you need is some creativity, solid research skills, prudent financial planning, and, you guessed it, hard work. This article courtesy of offers tips to to budding medical students on how to go to medical school while forgoing loans:

See if you qualify for a scholarship

Scholarships are the best way to go to medical school without debt. They’re mainly awarded based on merit, needs, and, sometimes, racial or ethnic background. Below are some options that bear further research:

  • Local scholarships: Local scholarships are awarded by regional healthcare institutions, nonprofits, women’s organizations, and similar. They’re not as well-known as their national counterparts, which is to your advantage – you have less competition to contend with.
  • National scholarships: National scholarships – from well-known institutions like the National Health Services Corp – pay for everything from tuition to living expenses. Consequently, they’re highly sought after and hard to land.
  • Full-tuition scholarships: Full-tuition scholarships pay for your tuition expenses but nothing else. You will have to pay your living costs, medical licensing exams, and other expenses out of your own pocket.
  • Full-ride scholarships: Full-ride scholarships cover everything from tuition to living expenses. They’re the hardest to get and are typically only awarded to exceptional students with the most potential.

Pick a school with a low or no tuition fee

The average cost of medical school in the U.S. is $218,792 ($54,698 per year) – but it doesn’t have to be. You could go to medical schools that have low medical fees and expect to pay only half of that number. For instance, the University of Texas has a program that costs $25,778 per year, including tuition, fees, and health insurance.

Most medical schools offer full tuition or full-ride scholarships to some students, as we mentioned earlier. There are a few schools, though, that have zero tuition programs for all their students. Some – like the NYU Grossman School of Medicine don’t even look at a student’s financial situation or merit.

Commit to serving in exchange for your degree

Some institutions have service programs that cover your tuition costs and even offer a living stipend or salary in return for your professional services after you graduate. We’ll list three popular options below:

  • National Health Services Corps (NHSC) Scholarship: The Department of Health & Human Services pays for four years of both tuition and living costs. Afterward, you work for two years for an underserved community.
  • Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP): This program is funded by the military. It reimburses your tuition fees and also offers a living stipend and a sign-on bonus if you choose to join the active forces. For every year paid out, you have to serve for one year, with a three-year-minimum clause.
  • The USUHS medical school program: The Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS) doesn’t charge tuition fees. Students become commissioned officers in the army, navy air force, or the Public Health Service and draw a salary of upward of $70,000 per year. In return, students are expected to serve for 7 years, at the minimum, after their residency.

Save up for medical school with a job or side gig 

Some students manage to offset many of their expenses – or even pay for their degree in its entirety – by pursuing a job before or during medical school. This includes landing teaching assistant (TA) and research assistant (RA) gigs offered by the school itself. The quality of your curriculum vitae (CV) has a massive influence on the kind of gig you can hope to land – or whether you land one in the first place.

Make sure you spend time and effort customizing your CV for the job at hand. Highlight your background, career experiences, and skills with the goal of impressing any potential employer. You can create a stellar, professional-looking CV quickly and conveniently using an online CV builder. This site could be helpful if you’d like to choose from a wide library of professionally-designed templates. You can add your own copy, colors, and images.

Ask your family to support you

You may not like asking for handouts but sometimes you need to. If your parents or spouse, if applicable, are in a position to support you financially, it’s an option worth exploring. You could even borrow money from them, interest-free, and agree to pay it back later. Your family may be able to support you in other ways too – like offering to house you if your school is nearby.

Get creative with saving money

By saving as much money as possible, you can pay for a part of your degree or, at the very least, pay for your living expenses. Some ways to save are renting or buying used textbooks, living off campus, living with your parents, buying second-hand, budgeting, not eating out as much, and planning your meals in advance. If you can, start saving for a 529 education plan for the tax breaks.

Consider forgivable federal loans

If you absolutely must take a loan, then federal loans are, arguably, your best option. These loans have the most favorable terms, and the repayment options are flexible. If your financial state is “exceptional needs,” you may receive a subsidy on your loan. Last but not least, federal loans may qualify you for public service loan forgiveness (PSLF) or state-run loan repayment assistance program (LRAP)  – your loan may be forgiven if you agree to serve for a nonprofit or other institution.

Combine several strategies together

For the best results, it’s a good idea to combine several of the strategies mentioned above. For instance, you could get a job and save up for a low-cost medical school program with your family’s assistance. Or you could opt for a service program and save as much as possible during and after school to further your life goals.

Your unique educational background, financial position, and needs and preferences will determine the best course of action. When in doubt, talk to friends and family for advice. You can also always consult with an experienced educator, financial aid officer, accountant, or career counselor for additional assistance.