I knew that I would attend medical school no matter the cost, but I didn’t know much of anything past that until I was forced to take out loans that would make you cringe. Medical school is an awkward financial time because you are essentially an adult living entirely off of borrowed money. I recently met with my financial aid advisor to get as much information as possible, from how to borrow money to how to budget properly throughout school.
The first thing I learned was that most schools set a budget for you. These budgets are based on the average amounts of what current students are spending. You don’t have to follow their budget by category, but it is worth noting that the total amount budgeted for that year is the most you can borrow from federal loans (barring any sort of weird exceptions). The interesting thing about the budgets that schools set is that it is scaled for only 10 months. Most students don’t work over the summer; we opt for research or other medically related opportunities that may be paid, but are largely unpaid. For me, that meant I needed to find a way to stretch my schools 10 month budget into 12 months. Fun.
The second thing that I wanted to discuss is the actual process by which you apply for financial aid. Financial aid in medical school is fairly different than financial aid in college. There are no grants and minimal scholarships. Your main source of payment will be through federal loans [whatever you do try to stay away from private loans – they are very unforgiving!!] with a scholarship or two sprinkled in the mix. Here are the steps that I took to finance medical school (your school will go through the specifics; I just wanted to give you a brief overview):
Step 1: Apply for scholarships through your school
Step 2: Do your taxes [So. Adult.]
Step 3: Apply for the Stafford loan – this is the first loan that you want to use up because of its great interest rate
Step 4: Apply for the GradPlus loan – this should cover anything that the Stafford loan didn’t cover.
Step 5: Do your entrance counselling for the loans
Step 6: Curl up into the fetal position and cry
A note about scholarships: This is not money that you will receive in addition to your maximum loan amount, your scholarship simply reduces your loan amount. For example, if my MS1 loan total was $60,000 and I got a $5,000 scholarship, the funds released to me would still only be $60,000 but my loan amount would then become $55,000.
I know this is a lot of information and it can be very confusing. If you have any questions, please comment below or send me an email and I’ll be happy to help! Happy budgeting!