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    How to Attend Medical School for Free Guide

    By Zach Skillings

    Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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    and Cait Williams

    Cait Williams is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cait recently graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Journalism and Strategic Communications. During her time at OU, was active in the outdoor recreation community.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: November 29th, 2023
    How to Attend Medical School for Free Guide

    If your sights are set on becoming a doctor, you probably already know that medical school isn’t cheap. According to Education Data, the average total cost of medical school is $218,792. Fortunately, there’s a few ways you can fund your education and graduate with little to no debt. For instance, several medical schools have adopted tuition-free policies in recent years. Other schools offer sizable scholarships covering the cost of tuition, housing, and other expenses. There are also a number of programs that cover the cost of med school in exchange for military service. Keep reading to learn how to get a full ride to medical school. 

    Related: Pre-med requirements: Classes you need for medical school 

    Make a service commitment 

    There’s a few schools and scholarship programs that provide free tuition in exchange for service after graduation. These programs are a great way for students to launch their careers in medicine without accumulating massive debt. 

    F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine

    This unique medical school in Bethesda, Maryland is completely tuition-free. In exchange for free tuition, students serve as commissioned officers in the U.S. Public Health Service, Air Force, Army, or Navy. Throughout their four years of med school, students receive over 500 hours of military-unique medical training (in addition to standard clinical medicine courses). During this time, students earn an annual salary upwards of $60,000. After graduation, they complete seven years of active duty service in the military branch they joined. For those enlisted in the Public Health Service, the active duty service commitment is 10 years. 

    Health Professions Scholarships Program (HPSP)

    The Army, Navy, and Air Force offer full-tuition service scholarships to students who attend medical and dental programs. Along with full-tuition coverage, students receive a monthly living stipend and reimbursement for health insurance costs and school expenses. In exchange, students complete one year of active duty service for each year they received the scholarship. Learn more about each specific program below: 

    National Health Service Corps Scholarship (NHSC)

    This program provides scholarships for medical students who commit to working in underserved communities. Students receive full-tuition coverage and monthly living stipends for up to four years. After graduation, students must work as primary care doctors in areas suffering from health care shortages. These may include correctional facilities, mental hospitals, tribal hospitals, or rural geographic areas. For every year of scholarship support, students commit to two years of full-time service. 

    Related: Medical intern vs. resident: What’s the difference?

    Seek full-tuition and full-ride scholarships 

    Some medical schools offer either full-tuition or full-ride scholarships. A full-tuition scholarship will cover 100% of your tuition, but not living expenses and school-related costs. A full-ride scholarship covers everything. Here’s a few medical schools that offer sizeable scholarships: 

    NYU Grossman School of Medicine 

    Every medical student at NYU receives a full-tuition scholarship, regardless of merit or financial need. This award amounts to over $200,000 over the course of four years. To maintain their scholarship, students must remain in good academic standing. The scholarship does not cover room and board, meaning still have to cover the cost of living in Manhattan.

    Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine  

    Recently founded in 2020, this school is waiving all tuition and fees for its first five classes of students. That means all students entering the school from the fall of 2020 through 2024 will pay nothing in tuition and fees. Students are responsible for covering their living expenses. 

    David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

    The David Geffen Medical Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship that covers four years of in-state tuition at UCLA.  Out-of-state students receive one year of tuition only. The scholarship also includes room and board, books and supplies, health insurance, and transportation. Roughly 25% of students are awarded the scholarship. Med school applicants are automatically considered, eliminating the need for a separate application. 

    Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

    At the Perelman School of Medicine, approximately 30 full-tuition scholarships are awarded annually. Selection criteria for this merit-based scholarship include outstanding academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, and unique life experiences that may contribute to a medical career. All accepted students are automatically considered. 

    Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons

    In 2017, Columbia became the first U.S. medical school to replace loans with scholarships for all students who qualify for financial aid. The Vagelos Scholarship Program meets 100% of financial need for eligible students. Students who submit financial aid applications are automatically eligible for the award. 

    Weill Cornell Medicine 

    Cornell followed in Columbia’s footsteps, announcing in 2019 that it would replace loans with scholarships for all students who qualify for financial aid. This program covers tuition, housing, and other living expenses. 

    Washington University School of Medicine 

    In 2019, this medical school in St. Louis pledged to provide free tuition for as many as half of its future medical students. Partial tuition support will be provided for many students who don’t receive a full scholarship. Both financial need and academic merit are considered when awarding aid. 

    Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (CCLCM)

    All students at CCLCM receive a full-tuition scholarship, regardless of merit or financial need. Living expenses are not included. 

    Emory University School of Medicine 

    The Robert W. Woodruff Fellowship is awarded to four first-year medical students every year. This merit-based scholarship covers the full cost of tuition and includes a stipend. Emory also awards the Keith Pilling Scholarship (full-tuition) every four years to a student with outstanding academic merit and financial need. 

    Don’t forget about the smaller scholarships!

    While full medical scholarships are out there, they’re few and far between. That’s why it’s important to search for smaller scholarships as well. These scholarships won’t cover the full cost of attendance by themselves, but a few of them can go a long way. The Physicians of Tomorrow Award and Tylenol Future Care Scholarship are just a couple examples. 

    When searching for these smaller scholarships, one of the best places to start is your own community. Check with Rotary clubs, hospitals, and nonprofits in your area to see if they offer medical scholarships. Be sure to check out our guide on top medical scholarships as well, and try our free scholarship search tool, which custom-matches you to vetted scholarships. Good luck, future doctors! 

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • Attending medical school for free, while it sounds too good to be true, is possible for students who put in the work and do their research
    • Receiving a full ride scholarship or making a service commitment after you complete medical school are two of the most likely ways that you can graduate medical school with no debt
    • Don’t forget that smaller scholarships are also an option that should not be looked over when paying for medical school
    • The price tag of medical school can be intimidating. However, if becoming a doctor is what you’re meant to do, it’s important to not let that be the thing that stands in your way 

    Frequently asked questions about how to attend medical school for free

    How do most students pay for medical school?

    Paying for your medical degree is not  much different than paying for your undergraduate degree. You will likely use a variety of sources, such as scholarships, loans, grants, and personal finances to pay for all of your expenses. If you’re thinking of attending medical school, or are currently doing so, make sure you thoroughly explore all your options before just settling on taking out big loans.

    What is the cheapest way into medical school?

    It’s important to know that the cheapest way into medical school is not necessarily the easiest way. The cheapest way to go through medical school is to receive a full ride scholarship that covers all of your costs or make a service commitment that you will fulfill when you graduate.

    How quickly do doctors pay off their student loans?

    The average medical school graduate takes about eight years to pay off their medical school debt. Having a solid plan in place to pay off any loans after school is a wise idea, as the longer you take to pay off loans, the more you will end up paying in interest.

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