There are many, MANY medical school scholarships out there. And when you add to it ways to get repayment programs there is bound to be a good fit for anyone looking for some help. If you have not yet done so, please read my article about the debt/income ratio of doctors and how the cost of medical school is becomming a problem.
Once you have read that, hopefully you understand why the medical school scholarships and repayment programs are in such high demand. And the demand is just going to increase as more and more people begin to realize the problems they are getting into. Especially private school students who are paying $75,000 a year. But here is what has started to happen. Debt has gone up, leading to more and more people who are interested in specialty medicine instead of general practice. This has further increased the deficiency of primary care physicians nationwide and more especially in some more rural states. These states, in turn, have offered more and more incentives to practice in some of the under served areas of their states. This is good news for you...Why?
Well most doctors, once they are done with residency, like to have a couple more years of focusing on practicing medicine before starting a practice, or joining one, and having to worry about the debt that comes with that etc. Well, this is your chance to make some decent doctor money, get a large amount of you debt paid off, and spend 2-5 years working for non-profit practices. Often you can count these years toward IBR loan forgiveness (requires 10 years of non-profit work to get your loan forgiven read here for information). All of these options are great for new doctors in primary care.
How can you go through medical school with a full medical school scholarship? Well here are a few ways. First, and probably most famous is the military. The Army, Navy, and Air Force all have their individual HPSP (health professions scholarship program), they pay for all your tuition, books, fees, and then give you a monthly stipend of about $2000 a month to live off of. A single person can easily graduate with 0 debt with this method. In return, for every year they pay for you will owe a year back to the military after residency. In some cases, especially in the Navy, you may end up paying back your 4 years before residency on a GME tour, which is basically you practicing general medicine for 4 years and then going into residency after that. You should ask the individual recruiters and talk to at least one person who is doing it before you decide to do this or not.
A less well known, but still very beneficial way is through the National Institute of Health (NIH), who offer a medical school scholarship for those who are not yet in medical school and also a repayment program for those who are already through school. They trade year for year and you will be working in a rural, underserved area for the duration of your payback. You won't have the deployment that you have in the military, and you may have some extra choices on where you will live, but for the most part you will be set up with where you will live and what you get paid. This is for primary care providers who are interested in rural medicine. (sidenote: in a lot of ways rural family practice is great compared to city family practice because you are an actual family doctor and treat the whole family, you deliver babies, you take care of everyone in the town, many people really like it).
And lastly, many MD/PhD or DO/PhD programs will pay for your school. These programs are 6-8 years in length and you are usually required in one form or another to go into a research area of medicine. This is a fantastic way to really bolster your career, be on top of the research ladder, and then get a research job without worrying about the debt.
All of the medical school scholarships and repayment options that I know of are found on this page by the AAMC. Use this page to find programs that fit your syle and help you get out of debt more quickly.
Even when using these programs, the vast majority of medical school scholarships and repayment options are limited to under $20,000 a year in repayment. This means that you should really take my advice about minimizing debt while you are in school so that $20,000 is a big number for you. One that really puts a dent in your debt. Many students will be leaving school with $400,000+ once residency is done, and $20,000 a year really doesn't help that much. Keep that in mind as you plan your years in medical school.
Medical school scholarships are fantastic. To graduate from medical school with 0 debt or very low debt is just such an unbelievable win that you really need. Worrying about your patients is so much better than worrying about money. That said, Only take on scholarships for agreements you might make even without the money. I always use the military scholarship as an example. If you are someone who loves the idea of serving our country, being doctor to those who serve our country, and saving the lives of those in that uniform, then the HPSP is a great fit for you. If however you are someone who has never felt a drive to serve you country in that way but you are considering the scholarship because of the money, then you will likely hate it, be miserable, and wish you hadn't done it. These are years of your life that you are signing up for, and no amount of money will make up for you doing something you don't view as your path, or your calling, or whatever you want to call it. Don't sign anything you wouldn't consider signing even if the money wasn't there.
Carefully consider all your options and plan very carefully how you will spend all the money you borrow. Reduce debt to as close to 0 as possible without compromising the path you want to take. This is one of the single best things you can do for your future, do it right from day 1.
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