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Medical School Loans: 7 Federal and Private Options

May 4, 2018
Loans, Student Loans
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Going to medical school means taking on a lot of medical school loans. The average medical school debt among the class of 2018 was $196,520.

There are two main types of medical school loans: federal and private. In general, use federal student loans for medical school before tapping private medical school loans because federal loans have benefits including access to income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs.

Federal loans for medical school

There are two types of federal loans available for medical students:

  • Federal direct unsubsidized loans: Max out these loans first because they have lower interest rates and fees than PLUS loans. You can borrow up to $20,500 per year and $138,500 total.
  • Federal PLUS loans: Take out PLUS loans if you’ve maxed out unsubsidized loans and you can’t get a lower rate with a private loan. PLUS loan interest rates are 7% for the 2017-18 school year and there’s a 4.26% loan fee.

To apply for both types of federal loans, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid — this FAFSA guide can help. Most borrowers qualify for both federal direct unsubsidized loans and federal PLUS loans — there’s no financial need requirement.

There’s no credit check required for direct unsubsidized loans. There is a credit check required for PLUS loans, but you don’t necessarily need good credit to qualify — you just can’t have adverse credit history or negative marks on your credit.

» MORE: Compare medical school loan refinancing options

Private medical school loans

If you have excellent credit and don’t plan to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you may be better off with private medical student loans. Unlike federal loans, which have the same fixed rates for all borrowers, private loans have lower rates for borrowers with good credit, and they typically don’t have fees.

Before approving you, the lender will do a hard credit pull to check your credit history. The interest rate you get will depend on your credit, the loan term and whether you choose a fixed or variable rate.

The following lenders offer student loans specifically designed for medical students and other graduate-level health professionals, but you can use any private student loan for medical school. Compare the options below with other private student loans to find the best rate you qualify for.

Compare medical school loans

LenderCan you postpone payments in residency?Get started

Federal direct unsubsidized
5.0 NerdWallet rating

Federal direct loan review

5.0 NerdWallet rating
Yes, for up to five years

Discover review

Federal PLUS loan
4.5 NerdWallet rating

Federal PLUS loan review

4.5 NerdWallet rating
Yes, for up to four years

Sallie Mae review

4.5 NerdWallet rating
Yes, for up to three years

Wells Fargo review

4.0 NerdWallet rating
Yes, for up to four years

Citizens One review

4.0 NerdWallet rating

PNC review

Readers also ask

There are many tactics for paying off medical school debt, including refinancing medical school loans, seeking loan forgiveness for doctors and making payments on an income-driven repayment plan. The best strategy for you depends on factors including the types of loans you have — federal or private — and your career goals.
Loan forgiveness for doctors typically requires that you practice in the public sector or in an underserved area for a certain period of time. If your career plans align with a program’s requirements, forgiveness may be worth pursuing.
There are several federal and state medical school loan forgiveness programs. The best program for you depends on your career plans and whether your have federal or private student loans.

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