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Applying to Med School as a Low Income Student?

I know that the general advice for premed students is to keep undergraduate debt low, since the cost of applying can be thousands to begin with. I don't have concerns about having undergrad debt because of my school's generous financial aid (I get school grants, Pell Grants, work study, etc.). My main question is whether medical schools give any need-based financial aid. I've heard from an advisor that NYU, Columbia, and Johns Hopkins has strong financial aid for most or all med students now. I also know about Penn's full-tuition scholarships. Is there other information that'd be helpful for me to know? Thank you so much in advance! medschool medical-school physician doctor medstudent premed

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Sheila’s Answer

Hi Alexsandra:

I'd like to share with you a "Public Service Loan Foregiveness" program. If you are employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization, you might be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. I encourage you to fully research the site as it has some very useful information. Best of luck to you! ~ Sheila

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Public Service Loan Foregiveness Program •
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James’s Answer

Hi Aleksandra,

I graduated med school in 1993 so things might have changed since then. however, from what i read in the medical journals and on social media it doesn't seem like it. so i'll offer my 2 cents.

in general, scholarships for medical students are few and far between. if you're a top echelon applicant then you might get one of the few high-dollar ones. and, yes, there are some full-tuition scholarships out there. everyone wants one of those and i just wouldn't go into it thinking you're automatically going to get one. my (non-scientific) feeling is that the best scholarships are nabbed by the MD/PhD candidates.

Dan's answer is spot-on about needing to apply for loans, usually from multiple sources, each with varying interest rates. Almost all of us graduate with substantial debt. Mine was in the neighborhood of $80,000 and that's despite having earned 2 small scholarships. i'm still paying off two of those loans! i think many med students start school wanting to be one type of doctor but then realize they can get out of debt quicker by choosing one of the high-paying specialties.

Vanessa mentioned the national health service corp. That can be an excellent option financially. the basic idea is that, although you still take out loans for med school, the government will pay off ("forgive") a portion of those loans for each year that you work in one of the health professions shortage areas. those could be inner cities, rural areas, indian health services, and others.

I also remember that a few of my classmates signed up with the military. the military pays for your medical school in exchange for X number of years of service afterwards.

Check with your college's health professions counselor about these options and any others they know of. good luck!
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Vannessa’s Answer

Hello Aleksandra,

You may or may not be aware so thought I would reply. There are opportunities for Service scholarships that often pay for a huge portion of your education. According to the AMA, the National Health Service Corps Program is one of the premier options available. Attached is a link that I hope you find helpful: .

Kind regards,
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Dan’s Answer

Most of us take out federal school loans for medical school, it does grow with interest at a terrifying rate but, play your financial cards right and you'll be just fine.

When I say most, I mean the vast majority of medical students take out federal loans. I would avoid private loans as much as you can. Not needed.
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Yasemin’s Answer

Hi Aleksandra! I have two siblings who went to medical school, one is almost done and the other is a resident so I'd like to offer my advice from what I've seen. The answers provided are helpful, I also know that if you keep undergraduate debt low then medical school will be easier to manage. It gets really difficult when students have more undergraduate debt (one of my siblings is in this position), however remember that most students in their residency (doctor in training who is making money) choose to live a low income life; for example like live with their parents or a roommate, be careful with buying certain things (maybe a cheaper car vs upgrading to the latest model) and then their salary is contributed more to the monthly payments made towards their debt. I also agree with Sheila's answer there are certain loan forgiveness options, especially if you become a physician in a disadvantaged community. I would recommend to search into this as well!

Lastly, during undergrad if you can find a good position like working in a research lab or a doctor's office or even holding down a server job and making some pretty good tips then I would recommend to save up for medical school needs; now just remember that this doesn't necessarily mean when you get into medical school. Before medical school there are certain fees like MCAT, prep books/materials (practice tests and question packs from AAMC), and applications that one also needs income towards, so try to save some money to contribute towards these as well. I would also recommend to check out and their Fee Assistance Program, it's an application that you fill out based on your parent's or guardian's income. If you qualify you will get a waiver for about 20 medical schools as well as free MCAT material from AAMC itself (usually these are with money for those who don't get the waiver). Applying to medical school is 180 $ for the first school plus 40 $ for each additional school you add onto plus secondaries as well (I believe this is the fee sorry I forgot). These little steps can help to capsize some debt and only make debt that you absolutely cannot afford to pay yourself or find assistance for.

I hope this helps!
Best of luck!