Paying for Medical School - Can the kid finance it all on their own?

Looking for someone that has already gone through this.

I have a child about to begin their undergraduate. When/if they decide to go to medical school, is my kid (future medical school student) able to take out ALL of the loans they need to get through medical school, or is there some expectation that the parents can/will/are required to help pay for that? (Like something equivalent to the Parent + loan stuff I don’t like about undergraduate financial aid)

The reason I ask is because we are unlikely to be able to help nor are we likely to qualify for loans for this child in four years.

Thank you.

Yes, it is possible if they have a place at an accredited school in the US.

No, your income is not taken into account, as it is with UG

I see that you are debating which school for your daughter, and there is $100,000 hanging in the balance.

You know your daughter: do you see med school as a realistic path for her? does she have an innate drive that makes it seem likely that she will stay the course? Would you gift her the $100k if she chooses Skidmore?

I know somebody who finished paying off her med school loans just as her own kid was starting college. It meant a LOT of compromises along the way.

1 Like

I really appreciate your response. This one is extremely talented and our oldest. We are likely to have 2-3 other kids in school at the same time by the time she were to graduate in four years. That was the main reason I asked this question about her funding medical school on her own. I’m not even sure we could qualify for loans in 2026 given what our circumstances will be…

She is super motivated and has already seen a lot of bio experience in high school given some unique opportunities she has had.

Any other advise you have is very much appreciated…

I know several physicians who did one of the military programs or public service programs for med school. I know the rules change frequently so you need to check out the requirements. I think the military programs require Reserve Duty AFTER the active duty years have been completed, but it’s an option for sure if your kid is interested. The public service programs have both a federal and state component last time I checked-- I know a doctor who got a lucrative job offer before he had completed his term in an underserved area, but his new employer paid off the loan as part of his comp package so it worked out for him.

Everyone thinking about med school needs Plan B and Plan C.


Medical Student Education: Debt, Costs, and Loan Repayment Fact Card for the Class of 2021 can give you an idea of typical debt levels for medical school. Of course, if the student has no family money assistance for medical school, the student will likely be in debt for the entire cost of attendance, which is considerably higher than the median amount.

She can self fund medical school with loans. IF choosing a less expensive undergrad institution is an option, AND you’ll apply that difference to her medical school expenses, she’d be FAR better off. One of my patients just made his final med school payment at age 62. It was a second career, but still. :flushed:

1 Like

My current resident paid for medical school all by himself via loans. He knew that was the plan when he chose his path and is currently still happy with it. That said, he also actively looked at options to help with those loans and signed up with a program where he pays an income adjusted amount for 10 years while he works at a non-profit. His residency hospital qualifies, so when he’s done there he can decide if he wants to continue non-profit somewhere or look elsewhere and end up paying his entire bill off himself. Once the 10 years are up he was told he can work wherever he likes.

His med school housemate chose to go the military route. They paid completely for his medical school and he now is in residency with the Army - not his first choice specialty, but I’m not sure if that was his lack of trying to match or not.

There are ways kids can do med school on their own. Just be sure she’s aware of what it takes ahead of time. We had quite a few financial talks with our guy and he’s still positive he’s on the correct track for himself.


Your oldest will be grateful if some of that saved $100000 could reduce her med school debt…and you have younger kids. 529 money can be transferred between kids. I’d recommend choosing the less expensive undergrad, putting as much of the difference as you can afford into a 529 for your oldest, and if med school doesn’t happen, that money can be spent on the younger kids’ undergrad fees.


Yes, our daughter could have financed her med school path with just loans, however, we had the savings and she didn’t go to the most expensive undergrad.

She did her undergrad at an instate public (UC) and then was accepted to med school at an instate public (UC).

Because she did her undergrad at the public, it didn’t hurt our pocketbook as much. She also found a well-paying, local job that worked with her schedule and gave her separate career experience.

Because of the awful costs of housing in California, she needed the job and we supplemented her crazy rent expenses. The living expenses will be your daughter’s responsibility as well.


Medical school students can take grad plus loans up to the cost of attendance.

If you cannot afford to help her through med school, AND you have younger children to finance through college, too, she absolutely must take her cheapest best option for college. Seriously. You have other children!!!

Tell her to thank her lucky stars that she has a cheaper option, and have her head there.

I just found your other thread, and saw that her choices are Skidmore vs Rochester (+80K) or Columbia (+100K). If you were very wealthy people, who could afford to pay for Columbia at 100K total, which is a FANTASTIC deal, vs Skidmore full ride, which is also a FANTASTIC deal, plus pay for med school for her, I’d say let her choose. But the reality is that you have younger children who will also need education, and if you have to ask, you cannot afford it.

Loans for med school can be a nightmare. I know couples who, after having worked so hard for so many years to get trained, are carrying absolutely crushing debt, even though they’re both in high-earning med fields. And know that the medical system is not going to stay this way, doctors will not continue to earn the way that they are, except for perhaps plastic surgeons, because our country will collapse financially under the medical system’s cost, the way the USSR did under the cost of the arms race. So she could wind up 500K in debt, only to find that doctors earn 80K/yr in the future. Unlikely, but the current system is absolutely unsustainable, and she needs 4 yrs college, 4 yrs med school, and 3-9 yrs residency/fellowship. That’s over a decade from now that she’ll be done. Could be a very different financial culture for docs by then.

There is one other possibility. She could call Columbia and ask them to match Skidmore. No reason not to ask.

1 Like

Students can take out enough loans to 100% pay for med school.

Professional students can take up to $40,500/year in federal unsubsidized student loans. Professional students can additionally take out Grad Plus loans (assuming they don’t have student loans in default and no bankruptcies in the previous 5 years) up to the full published cost of attendance. Parent financials are not needed for fed student loans or Grad Plus loans.

Grad Plus loans have higher origination fees and higher interest rates than federal students loans so are better used only to make up the difference between the max federal student loans and the COA.

Private medical school do have an expectation that parents will contribute to their children’s medical education and their financial aid policies reflect that. IOW, any school-based grants (free money) won’t kick in until the family’s EFC has been met. However, if the parent isn’t contributing to meet the EFC, the student can take out additional Grad Plus loans to cover that portion of their COA.

There are few medical schools that have 100% free tuition. NYU offer all its students 100% free tuition. (But COL in NYC will run in excess of $30K/year). Kaiser is offering free tuition to any students entering in the next 3 years. WashU offer 100% tuition to about half its incoming class each year. About 60-75% of Mayo students (MN campus, not sure about the AZ campus) get free tuition. There may be others. But admission to these free tuition med schools are extremely, extremely competitive.

Additionally there are scholarship-for-service programs. These programs pay for tuition & fees plus give a living expenses stipend in return for 2-6 years of working as physician either in certain low resource areas or in military service after residency has been completed.

HPSP is the military service program. It requires the recipient to enroll as an officer in a branch of the military forces, complete a military residency and serve for 4-6 years after the completion of residency. Choice of specialties may be limited by the needs of the military.

NHSC requires recipients of the scholarship to enter a primary care specialty (FM, IM, Peds, or OB/GYN) and work in a federally designated medically underserved community after graduation.

There are state service scholarship program similar to the NHSC, so your D should check with her home state Dept of education.

The VA and IHS have special loan repayment programs for doctors who work full time for those agencies.

I strongly recommend your D take the least expensive option for undergrad she has open to her because carrying loans debt is no fun. Also because med school loans are all unsubsidized and start to accrue interest from the minute they are disbursed. Interest capitalizes each year and that just drives her loan debt even higher since she’s paying interest on the interest. Residents and fellows are pretty paid rather poorly ($42-60K/year is typical) for their 80+ hour work weeks. And many residency programs are located in high cost of living areas. Residency lasts for 3-7 years and many young physicians go on to do a subspecialty fellowship after residency. Fellowship training adds another 1-3 years. That’s a lot of years for the interest clock to keep ticking upward.


My husband worked for the Indian Health Service post residency to pay off his medical school loans. Our nephew’s medical school education was supported by the Air Force. If motivated, one can find a way to pay without enormous debt.


Another way to save money is attending a shorter medical school:

Well…yes…but the student has to get accepted to a program like this…and there are no guarantees when it comes to medical school acceptances.

My kid did a fifth year fellowship program that was teaching, research and mentoring. The fifth year was free, years 3 and 4 were 1/2 tuition. And she got terrific experience that fifth year. Yes, this put off earnings for a year, but she felt it was well worth it for the extra experience she received.


It is not uncommon for med students to pay for med school themselves. Because of projected future earnings, they qualify for huge loans: tuition plus living expenses. My parents were unable to help me with med school (multiple sibs, low income) so I paid for it myself. I lived in a cheap apartment with the occasional rat, won a scholarship (these are not common though) and also worked a part time job during the first 2 years before clinical rotations made it impossible. This kept my loans low enough that I didn’t feel pressure to go into one of the more lucrative specialties. Then, after residency, I got a job at an FQHC (low income sliding scale clinic) where I qualified for government loan repayment at $20,000 per year. This was not actually a bargain because I was paid only about half of what I would have been in a regular practice, but it did make it doable enough so I was able to follow my heart and work there.


Note that the 3 year med school program eliminates most elective rotations–which means that med students won’t have the chance to explore some of the more lucrative/competitive specialties because those are all elective rotations.

Three year programs are only for those who know they want specialties covered by core rotations. (IM, FM, OB/GYN, Peds, Neuro, Psych, Gen surg) EM requires 2 preceptor LORs, one of which must from an away rotation–and the 3 year program eliminates all aways.