Is the FAFSA Accepted for Medical School?
Here’s what med students need to know before paying for school
Dreaming of attending med school but overwhelmed by the financial burden? Not to worry, there are plenty of ways to afford your continued education, including federal financial aid through the FAFSA. If you’re getting ready for your graduate program and wondering if you need to file the FAFSA for med school, here’s a guide to everything you need to know.
What Is the FAFSA?
Let’s start by clearing up any questions about exactly what the FAFSA is, and how to apply it to medical school. Short for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the FAFSA is a way the federal government determines student eligibility for financial aid. As an undergraduate student, your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is a large part of the FAFSA equation. As a graduate student, you may be considered independent. Instead of calculating what your parents should contribute to your education, the FAFSA will rely on your own financial situation, including looking at your spouse and dependents, if any, as part of the overall picture.
If you need financial aid for higher education, your first step should be to provide financial information via the FAFSA form, which you can find on the official Federal Student Aid website from the U.S. Department of Education. You can even fill out the FAFSA before you’ve been accepted at your dream school. Based on the FAFSA, you’ll be sent a financial aid award letter from the school that accepts you.
Is the FAFSA Applicable to Med School?
Many people associate the FAFSA with obtaining undergraduate degrees, but it is still applicable to medical school. If you’re in need of financial aid and are seeking federal assistance, you will need to fill out a FAFSA application for medical school.
If you filled out the FAFSA for your undergraduate years, you’ll already be familiar with the process. Remember to double-check the deadlines for each of the medical schools you’re applying to and to get your parents the required documents they might need well in advance.
Loans and scholarship amounts will vary, depending on your financial situation and desired educational institution.
Federal Loans for Graduate or Medical Students
If you’re filling out the FAFSA before heading to medical school, that probably means you’re seeking some federal financial aid. Here’s the type of aid you can likely expect from the federal government in this situation.
Grad PLUS Loan
You could qualify for a Grad PLUS loan, also called a Direct PLUS loan, as a professional or graduate student if you don’t have an adverse credit history. Even if you do have some blemishes on your credit report you might still be able to get a grad PLUS loan with an endorser. The maximum amount you can receive is the cost of attendance, less any prior financial aid you’ve received. A grad PLUS loan is really meant to bridge the gap where other forms of financial aid might have failed. You are not required to begin repaying your loan until six months after you graduate, leave school, or fall below half-time enrollment.
The federal government offers unsubsidized loans to help defray the costs of post-secondary education for graduate students. You are not required to show financial need to obtain these fixed-rate loans. Graduate and professional students enrolled in certain health professional programs may receive additional Direct Unsubsidized Loans each academic year. For these students, there is also a higher aggregate limit on Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
Talk to the financial aid office at your potential medical school to get information about annual and aggregate limits.
Additional Financial Resources for Medical School
Completing a FAFSA application is a great start to making your dreams of med school a reality. If you fail to receive a large-enough federal student loan, there are still ways to finance your education.
Private Student Loans
Generally offered through credit unions, banks, or online lenders, private student loans can help close the gap if you don’t receive enough federal student aid. Your interest rate is determined by your credit history, so the ideal applicant will have a good credit score and proof of financial stability.
Repayment periods can potentially last up to 25 years. You may also be eligible for mandatory forbearance if you’re in a medical or dental internship or residency program.
Sign Up for a U.S. Service Program
Many people pay for medical school by participating in a service program with the federal government or through the military. If you serve for a specified amount of time, the government can help pay for all or some of your medical school costs. Eligibility is limited to certain fields of study within the medical field, so check with a government representative or online to see if yours will be covered. Check out the U.S. Department of Defense website to learn about different opportunities for medical service in the military.
Work for the University
You can start paying for your education while you’re taking courses by getting a teaching assistant (TA) position or becoming a resident adviser. Many colleges offer part-time TA positions to graduate students to help them guarantee income while completing their education. Additionally, being a resident adviser could have perks like reduced tuition, meal plans, and free or reduced-cost housing. Neither is a typical loan, but both programs could help defray the cost of higher education. You’ll likely have to complete a FAFSA application to be able to participate.
Scholarships make college a possibility for many students, including those seeking an undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees. Once you complete your FAFSA application, your eligibility will be determined for your institution’s scholarships.
There are scholarships and grants for both academic merit and financial need, so apply for as many as possible for the best chance of receiving aid.
Medical school can be costly, but with the help of financial aid, you could be on the path to your dream career in the healthcare industry. You can apply for the FAFSA for med school and may be able to receive federal student loans. Take the time to research all of the financial resources available to you to find the ones that are best for your situation.
Federal Student Aid. "Financial Aid for Graduate or Professional Students," Accessed Oct. 8, 2019.
Federal Student Aid. "Can I Still Receive a Grad PLUS Loan if I Have an Adverse Credit History?," Accessed Sept. 11, 2019.
Federal Student Aid. "Direct PLUS Loans are Federal Loans That Graduate or Professional Students Can Use to Help Pay for College or Career School," Accessed Sept. 11, 2019.
Federal Student Aid. "Deferment and Forbearance," Accessed Oct. 8, 2019.