Student-centric advice and objective recommendations
Higher education has never been more confusing or expensive. Our goal is to help you navigate the very big decisions related to higher ed with objective information and expert advice. Each piece of content on the site is original, based on extensive research, and reviewed by multiple editors, including a subject matter expert. This ensures that all of our content is up-to-date, useful, accurate, and thorough.
Our reviews and recommendations are based on extensive research, testing, and feedback. We may receive commission from links on our website, but that doesn’t affect our editors’ opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when posted. You can find a complete list of our partners here.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All students at CCLCM receive a full-tuition scholarship, regardless of merit or financial need. Living expenses are not included.
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!
Frequently asked questions about how to attend medical school for free
How do most students pay for medical school?
What is the cheapest way into medical school?
How quickly do doctors pay off their student loans?