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Best medical school loans

Turn your dream of becoming a doctor into a reality.

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It cost anywhere from $244,000 to $323,000 to attend a four-year medical school in 2017, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. If you’re looking to realize your dream of becoming a doctor, you’ll likely need help footing that bill. Fortunately, you have your pick of federal and private student loans to choose from.

How we picked these loans

When choosing the best medical school loans, we looked at lenders that offered competitive interest rates, flexible repayment options and borrower perks — such as rate discounts and multi-year approval.

The 5 best private student loans for medical school

Before comparing your options, consider your financial situation and what qualities in a lender are most important to you. This will help you find a loan you can not only qualify for, but that best meets your needs.

Sallie Mae Medical School Loan: Best for flexible repayment options

  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
  • Fixed APRs: 5.49% to 9.98% with discounts
  • Variable APRs: 4.12% to 9.48% with discounts
  • Terms: 20 years
  • Eligibility requirements: Graduate student enrolled in an MD, DO, DVM, VMD or DPM program at a participating degree-granting school, US citizen, permanent resident if attending a school outside the US or have a creditworthy cosigner who is, meet credit and other eligibility criteria.

Sallie Mae is at the top of the list because it’s an established loan provider and offers many perks for med school students. This means a 48-month deferment period during residency and a 36-month grace period after leaving school.

    • Discover Health Professions Loan: Best for students with high GPAs

      • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
      • Fixed APRs: 4.99% to 10.49% with discounts
      • Variable APRs: 3.74% to 9.62% with discounts
      • Terms: 20 years
      • Eligibility requirements: Graduate student in a healthcare-focused program, enrolled at least half time making satisfactory academic progress as defined by your school, US citizen, permanent resident or international student with a cosigner who is, at least 16 years old, pass a credit check.

      Discover’s Health Professions Loan is ideal for high-achieving medical students — it offers a one-time cash reward to borrowers with a 3.0 GPA or higher. It also has a repayment assistance program if you’re struggling to make repayments due to a financial setback.

        • Wells Fargo MedCAP Medical School Loans: Best for full program coverage

          • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance — with a lifetime cap of $250,000
          • Fixed APRs: 5.29% to 10.82% with discounts
          • Variable APRs: 4.36% to 9.97% with discounts
          • Terms: 15 to 20 years
          • Eligibility requirements: Graduate student at an approved medical school, US citizen, national, permanent resident or cosigner who is, making satisfactory academic progress, have an established, positive credit history.

          While Wells Fargo is a household name when it comes to personal banking, it’s also a great source for private education loans. With high lifetime limits and yearly maximums up to the cost of attendance, it’s committed to helping students cover the rising cost of med school.

            • Citizens Bank Health Professions Student Loan: Best for multi-year approval

              • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
              • Fixed APRs: 4.4% to 9.49% with discounts
              • Variable APRs: 3.08% to 8.71% with discounts
              • Terms: 5, 10 or 15 years
              • Eligibility requirements: US citizen, permanent resident or international student with a cosigner who is, enrolled at least half time in a degree-granting program at an eligible institution, age of majority in your state — or a cosigner who is, good credit and no prior student loan defaults — or a creditworthy cosigner

              Citizens Bank offers multi-year approval on their medical school loans, meaning you can get approved for all of the funds you need for an entire program with one application. Its health professions loans also come with low starting APRs, though the repayment terms are shorter than most competitors. And it doesn’t offer a grace period.

                • Commonbond Medical Loan: Best for low maximum rates

                  • Loan Amounts: $2,000 up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance
                  • Fixed APRs: 5.56% to 6.76% with autopay discount
                  • Variable APRs: 5.4% to 6.59% with autopay discount
                  • Terms: 10, 15 or 20 years
                  • Eligibility requirements: Enrolled at least half time at a school in its network, US citizen or permanent resident, meet other credit and eligibility criteria.

                  Where Commonbond excels is its low rates — they max out at roughly 4% less than the competition. This online lender also offers deferment while in school and during your residency, as well as a six-month grace period. And you have the opportunity to pause repayments for a total of 12 months throughout the life of your loan.

                    • Compare other private student loans for medical school

                      Data indicated here is updated regularly
                      Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR
                      Ascent private student loans
                      540
                      $200,000
                      2.71% to 12.99%
                      EDvestinU Private Student Loans
                      675
                      $200,000
                      4.07% to 9%
                      Straightforward student loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
                      LendKey Private Student Loans
                      Varies by lender
                      4.99% to 11.06%
                      This connection service partners with Sallie Mae and WSFS Bank to offer competitive rates.
                       Advantage Education Loan Refinance Loan
                      670
                      Starting at 3.74%
                      Refinance to a more flexible repayment plan with this nonprofit lender.
                      Alliant Credit Union Traditional Student Loan
                      680
                      $60,000
                      Starting at 4.56%
                      All-purpose personal loans from @pl_product_min_loan_amount@ to @pl_product_max_loan_amount@ with rates that stop at @pl_product_var_rate@.
                      ChangEd student loan payment app
                      Securely connect all of your student loans and bank accounts to one place for a painless repayment experience.
                      Chicago student loans
                      None
                      Cost of attendance, up to $50,000
                      7.53% to 8.85%
                      No cosigner needed for this fixed-rate financing option.
                      Citizens Bank Private Student Loans
                      700
                      $295,000
                      1.25% to 10.57%
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                      Compare up to 4 providers

                      Federal loan options for medical school

                      Annual limitLifetime limitInterest rateFeesTerms
                      Direct Unsubsidized Loans$20,500$138,5004.3% 1.059%
                      • Deferred repayments during school and six months after you graduate.
                      • Standard repayment term of 10 years, with options for income-based and extended repayment plans up to 25 years.
                      Graduate Direct PLUS LoansUp to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendanceNone7.08%4.236%
                      • Deferred repayments during school and six months after you graduate.
                      • Standard repayment term of 10 years, with options for income-based and extended repayment plans up to 25 years.

                      If you’re using loans to fund your medical degree, you might want to start by looking into federal loans. Offered by the Department of Education, they typically have lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options than private loans.

                      For both Direct Unsubsidized and Graduate Direct PLUS Loans, you’ll need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). And to qualify for PLUS loans, you’ll need to pass a credit check or apply with a creditworthy cosigner.

                      To learn more, check out our page on federal student loans for graduate school.

                      Is it possible to graduate from medical school without any debt?

                      It is, though it’s not easy — there’s a reason more than 70% of students take out student loan for medical school. If you’re determined to graduate debt-free, you might want to invest some serious time into researching scholarships, grants and fellowships you qualify for.

                      You could also consider student loan alternatives like income-share agreements (ISAs) or setting up a crowdfunding campaign to pay for school if you plan on entering a relatively low-paying field.

                      Alternative ways to pay for medical school

                      Trying to avoid taking out student loans? Here are a few alternatives to consider:

                      • Private scholarships and grants. Available through private organizations as well as your school, scholarships are ideal since they don’t have to be repaid. You can usually find options geared toward specific demographics or for academic merit.
                      • ISAs. Rather than paying a part of your loan, ISA companies pay your tuition in exchange for a percentage of your income as a doctor over a set number of years. This might be particularly worth it if you plan on going into public service.
                      • Crowdfunding. You might be able to raise money from your friends, family and even strangers to cover part of your medical school expenses.
                      • Service contract. If selected for their program, the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) will pay for up to four years of your tuition and fees if you agree to work in an underserved community after graduation.
                      • Military service. Through the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), you can have your medical school tuition, fees and living expenses covered for serving in the US armed forces. You’ll receive one year of funding for each year of active duty — with a three-year minimum commitment.

                      How much does medical school cost?

                      The average cost of attending a public four-year medical school was $243,902 in 2017, according to the AMCC. However, attending a private school costs students a whopping $322,767.

                      That high price tag is likely a major factor for why only 32% of students enter with student loans, but more than 70% leave with debt.

                      What’s the average medical school debt

                      Medical students graduated with a median debt load of $192,000 in 2018, according to a study by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AMCC). More than 20% of all medical students who went to a private school graduated with over $300,000 in debt. That’s more than some student loan refinancing companies like College Ave and Discover are willing to work with.

                      Since federal loans have caps on how much you can borrow, many medical students graduate with a combination of federal and private student loans.

                      How long does it take to pay back medical school debt?

                      How long it takes to pay back your med school debt depends on your loan terms. Since medical school is typically more expensive than other types of graduate programs, you’ll likely be able to qualify for the longest available loan terms.

                      With most private lenders and refinancing companies, this is 10 to 25 years. Federal loans can take as long as 30 years to pay off if you consolidate them with a Direct Consolidation Loan.

                      Is medical school worth the debt?

                      Whether medical school is worth the debt depends on your personal, financial and career goals. Base salaries can easily top $350,000 for some specialties. Even lower-paying medical careers can top $100,000 — making repayments on a $300,000 debt load slightly more manageable.

                      Medical school can be rewarding in other ways. If you plan on making a career in public health or serving your country, repayment assistant programs can help you jump on that path rather than taking a job to pay off your loans first. There are several strategies you can use to pay off your medical school loans.

                      Bottom line

                      A slew of private lenders offer loans specifically designed for med school students — with high maximum amounts and extended deferment for residency programs. However, you might want to consider your federal options first, since these tend to come with lower rates and more flexible repayment plans.

                      You can learn more about how it all works by reading our guide to graduate student loans.

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