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Top Ten Things to Know About Financing Your Health Careers Education

  1. Educate yourself about financing options beginning in the summer before you apply to health professions programs. This includes researching Fee Assistance Programs that can provide financial support for various aspects of your application such as MCAT or DAT preparation and school applications. Be open-minded, thorough, and persistent.

  2. Have a frank discussion with your family regarding ability and willingness to provide financial support to you during your health profession studies.

  3. Gauge the quality of financial aid offered by schools by reviewing their websites and asking financial aid officials for data such as the details below. Most such information is listed on schools' websites but you can and should ask for more details especially after you have received an admission offer. 
    • percentage of students who receive financial aid from institutional loans and scholarships;
    • average loan amount borrowed per year;
    • average need-based scholarship awarded to financial aid recipients;
    • mean, cumulative educational debt for most recent graduating class;
    • availability of school-based support for research projects.
  4. Seek the guidance of financial aid officers at the schools that you are considering. Discuss any special circumstances that you are facing. They are experts in helping you to navigate the complexities of financial aid. This guidance is especially important when making decisions regarding your choice of lender. Schools also have officers dedicated to supporting applicants from backgrounds under-represented in the profession and the particular schools. They work closely with admissions offices and we encourage you to be in contact with them as you are making important matriculations decisions. 

  5. Ask schools for a preview of your financial aid award based on their current financial aid policies. First, calculate an estimate of your expected family contribution (EFC) using a web-based calculator. Then send your estimated EFC to the schools that you are considering and ask them if they would be able to estimate a typical, need-based award.

  6. Student loans are the primary form of financing health careers education, so it is important to learn the differences among loan programs. Don’t assume that all loans are the same or that the lender advertising the lowest monthly payment offers the best loan. Consider initial processing fees, interest rates, interest accrual while in a health careers program, deferment options, add-on fees at repayment, payment plans, repayment incentives, and other factors. Simple Tuition is an online, interactive tool that may help you to compare monthly payments, long-term costs, and other considerations among many lenders.

  7. Educate yourself about the importance of good credit.
    • Obtain a free copy of your credit report ( or from all three major credit bureaus (Experian; Equifax; Trans Union) and annually review it for errors and negative information.
    • Stay current with your credit card payments and try to pay off your credit card debt before you begin your health careers studies. Why? Students with significant amounts of outstanding debt or with a history of credit problems may not be eligible for certain types of student loans, including loans for residency interviewing expenses. In addition, financial aid cannot cover credit card payments and other consumer debt.
  8. A debt-free health careers education is possible!
    • Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP)
    • National Health Service/Indian Health Service Corps Scholarships (NHSC, IHS)
    • Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)
    • see "Service-connected scholarships" below for more information
  9. Loan repayment programs may help you to significantly reduce your educational debt soon after residency. These programs require either patient care in underserved areas of the U.S. or clinical research in areas of national need for a minimum of two years in return for repayment of a portion of your educational debt.

  10. Balance the weight of your educational debt with realistic estimates of your future income as a physician. See websites below for links to loan calculators and salary data.

Useful Websites:

Helpful websites that address financial planning for medical and other health careers education:

Good search engines for private funding:

Service-connected scholarships:

For MD/PhD students:

The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) is currently offered at 43 of the 118 MD/PhD programs. MSTP awards provide full, merit-based support to about 900 students nationally (tuition waiver, health insurance, stipend). Most other MD/PhD programs would cover their students' financial needs through their own funding. 

Funding for research while in medical school:

Loan repayment programs:

Physician compensation data: