If you are interested in pursuing a medical degree and becoming a doctor, you no doubt understand that the journey from college to medical school and onto residency is not easy. First of all, you will need a great university GPA and excellent MCAT scores to even be accepted into a program. Once there, you will find that the curriculum is strenuous and demanding. Additionally, you will have to wrestle with the cost of your training which can easily run $37,000 per year at state schools and some $62,000 at private or out of state institutions. Fortunately, there are several ways to pay for the high tuition costs.
Selecting Your Undergraduate Major
When you plan on pursuing your path to becoming a doctor, one of the important things you will need to decide on is what your undergraduate major will be. Many future doctors have evaluated the best majors for medical school and the majority of them chose to focus on the Biological Sciences. It’s common to also see applicants majoring in the Physical or Social Sciences. Interestingly, acceptance rates seem to be less centered on exactly which major was chosen and more predicated on factors like mastery within your studies, MCAT scores and GPAs.
Receiving Financial Aid
With the high costs of your training it’s critical that you thoroughly evaluate all of your choices when it comes to student loans and financial aid. Almost all institutions have professionals available who specialize in helping students select the best financial aid options. These financial aid officers are found at the college level, but it’s also important to talk to the advisors at schools you are considering attending. It’s common for students to take advantage of the federal Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans programs.
National Health Service Corps
One option that is becoming increasingly popular is for students to consider one of several loan repayments programs. The National Health Service Corps offers incentives to graduates who are primary care providers and are willing to serve in parts of the country that have a shortage of health care professionals. Doctors providing two years of full-time service in the highest need areas will receive a loan repayment benefit of $50,000 and the money is non-taxable.
Indian Health Service
If you are trained in specific health care areas, you can work at an Indian health program with critical staffing needs and receive a loan repayment benefit of $40,000 for two years of applicable service. Many applicants find this career path rewarding, both culturally and professionally. Additionally, you can extend your initial two-year commitment and continue receiving benefits with the program until your medical school obligations are fully paid.
Military Service Programs
Each branch of the military service offers a program for medical professionals that provides money for loan repayment. Under the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP,) you agree to a specified commitment of military service and, in return, you can receive a scholarship for full tuition and a monthly stipend. Benefits and terms vary by service branch so it’s important to fully evaluate all options and your eligibility. There are professionals who can help you determine what would be best based on your circumstances.