Can You Use the FAFSA for Medical School?

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Approximately 21,945,597 people filled out the FAFSA for 2011-2012 school year attendance at their prospective school, Forbes reports. Medical students are no exemption, with nearly all medical schools accepting various forms of aid from Pell Grants to private student loans. Every bit of this aid can be accessed by beginning with a completed FAFSA.

A Physician’s Price Tag

The New England Journal of Medicine reports that the average medical student graduating in 2008 had about $155,000 in student loan debt, and a quarter of those with debt had more than $200,000. By 2013, the American Association of Medical Colleges reported that the average debt per graduate was around $175,000 — signaling a steep rise in only a few years’ time. That being said, medical school is an investment in a future career that pays very well.

Financial Aid

Financial aid may come in the form of:

In 2012, a record high of 20,055 students were enrolled at a medical school in the nation for the first time, per Medscape.  U.S. News reports that fewer than 4 percent of graduate students are recipients of federal or state grants, in addition to the fewer than 20 percent who receive scholarships. In fact, the publication notes that about 60 percent of grad students are forced to pay out of pocket or borrow money via a loan to afford the price tag their degree comes with, because they receive no free aid. Medical school students are not eligible for Direct Subsidized Loans.

Loan Types

Residency and relocation loans also exist solely for the purpose of helping graduates of certain fields, like post-grad medical students, to afford the cost of travel for interviewing, moving, board exams, and more after school is completed and they’re prepping to enter the workforce. The Federal Direct Loan — a Direct Unsubsidized Loan — is one of the most popular funding options for medical school students with a current 5.31 percent interest rate and $20,500 limit for the 2016-2017 academic year. Second in line to these are Direct PLUS Loans, which impose a current interest rate of 6.31 percent. When applying for loans with the FAFSA, it is important to note that some medical schools will require parental information on the application despite the applicant qualifying as being independent.

Scholarships and Grants

To supplement the lack of financial aid a grad student has available to them in comparison to an undergraduate, graduate schools often provide a number of significant scholarships to attending students in an effort to discount tuition and increase enrollment numbers. The National Medical Fellowships also awards certain minority students with scholarships for medical school.

While many have heard of the Fullbright Scholarship and others that the AAMC renders annually, lesser-known scholarships are plentiful and can be found with a few clicks on our site. Grants are not as common for graduate students, but they do exist and can be applied for with the FAFSA. Prior to enrolling in a given school, supply a financial advisor with your Expected Family Contribution and ask them to estimate award amounts for you so you can have a better idea of what it will actually cost you to attend each place you’ve applied and been accepted to.


Repayment is structured for medical students with the same plan options as undergrads. Loan forgiveness is offered for those who work for a public service organization for a decade or for a for-profit organization for 25 years, per the Modern Medicine Network. Budding doctors have enough to worry about with the stress of medical school applications and clinical hours on their mind.


FAFSA Topics

What are your financial aid options?