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    Student Loans for Medical School: What to Know

    Key Takeaways

    • Federal student loans have a standard interest rate regardless of applicant.
    • Private lenders offer lower interest rates to creditworthy applicants.
    • Private lenders offer residency loans to cover medical board and interviewing expenses.

    By Stephen Sellner | Citizens Bank Staff

    Medical school is a significant investment of time, emotion, and money. The courses, exams, boards, and rotations are enough of a grind; affording your education and living expenses is no easy endeavor, either.

    Fortunately, you can use student loans to pay for medical school just like you did with undergrad. However, the options are a bit different this time around. Here’s what you need to know before deciding how to fund medical school.

    Federal or private medical school loans?

    There are both federal and private student loans available for medical students. Federal options include the direct unsubsidized loan and grad PLUS loan; meanwhile, there are a number of private lenders and loans to choose from.

    So which is the best option: a federal or private student loan? Here are some similarities and differences to help you make your decision:



    Interest rate is …

    Standard for all applicants

    Determined by your creditworthiness

    Fixed or variable interest rate?

    Fixed only

    Fixed or variable

    How much can you borrow for medical school?

    For grad PLUS Loans: School’s cost of attendance minus other financial aid*

    Limits vary by lender


    Yes – origination fees range from 1% - 4% of the loan amount

    Usually no origination fees

    Interest accrues during school?

    No, on direct unsubsidized loans. Yes, on grad PLUS loans


    Credit requirements?

    More lenient than private loans

    More strict than grad PLUS loans

    Loan forgiveness programs?



    Residency loans offered?



    * Direct Unsubsidized Loans for grad school have a $20,500 yearly borrowing limit.

    What about loan forgiveness?

    Arguably federal student loans’ biggest advantage for medical students is the loan forgiveness programs. That could be especially relevant to you since the average medical school debt for 2017 grads was $189,000.

    To qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, you would need to work full-time at a government agency or nonprofit organization for 10 years — all while consistently making your monthly student loan payments. If you successfully complete the PSLF Program, then whatever federal student debt you have remaining, after those 10 years, is forgiven and doesn’t need to be repaid.

    However, qualifying for the PSLF Program could limit your pay and employment options for those 10 years. That could be a non-starter for some; for others, the prospect of releasing a chunk of their student debt is worth some sacrifice in income and employment opportunities.

    Looking for a middle ground? You could always take out a federal loan and a private loan to cover medical school expenses. That way, if you’re a creditworthy applicant, you could capitalize on the lower interest rate of a private lender, while leaving the door open for some loan forgiveness if you successfully complete the PSLF requirements.

    Loans for medical residencies

    It may be hard to think about now, but you’ll be matching with your residency before you know it!

    The costs of applying and interviewing for these residency programs can add up in a hurry. For example, if you’re in school in Boston but interviewing for a residency at a Chicago hospital, you’ll need to book airfare and perhaps a hotel room, costs that aren’t covered by your traditional student loans. Fortunately, some private lenders offer residency loans that cover those expenses and others, including:

    • Exam fees and prep courses for medical board certifications
    • Relocation and living expenses before starting a residency program

    Some private lenders offer residency loans to cover interview and travel expenses as you apply for programs.

    The residency loan lasts up until you start your residency. At that point, you’ll be earning an income that will help cover your living and other expenses.

    What to remember

    Getting through medical school is stressful enough. You don’t want to compound that stress by making the wrong choice to fund your education. That’s why it’s critical to research all your options to find the best fit for you.

    More information

    Enrolling in medical school is a major accomplishment. Need help funding your dream? Learn about Citizens Bank’s medical student loan options.

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