Life as a medical student can be challenging – and expensive. The cost of medical school was roughly $200,000 for graduates with education loans in 2020, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Loans are necessary for many medical students to pay for school and cover living expenses. Here’s more about the best student loans for medical school and how to choose the right one for you.

Sallie Mae

3.75% to 13.72% with autopay Fixed APR
Cost of attendance, minus aid Max. Loan Amount
Mid 600s Min. Credit Score

College Ave

3.22% to 13.95% with autopay Fixed APR
Cost of attendance, minus aid Max. Loan Amount
Mid 600s Min. Credit Score


3.22% to 12.78% with autopay Fixed APR
No maximum Max. Loan Amount
650 Min. Credit Score


3.50% to 13.60% with autopay Fixed APR
Cost of attendance, minus aid Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score

Ascent Funding

3.22% to 13.09% with autopay Fixed APR
$400,000 Max. Loan Amount
540 Min. Credit Score


3.99% to 8.49% with autopay Fixed APR
Cost of attendance, minus aid Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score


3.99% to 9.93% with auto and loyalty discount* Fixed APR
Up to $350,000 Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score


2.99% with autopay* Fixed APR
$50,000 Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score


3.26% to 14.50% with autopay Fixed APR
Not disclosed Max. Loan Amount
Not disclosed Min. Credit Score

Find the Best Student Loans for You

Sallie Mae is a publicly traded consumer bank that offers private student loans to pay for undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees, among other educational needs. Congress started Sallie Mae in 1972 as a government-sponsored entity that serviced student loans. The lender went private in 2004 and today provides a range of student loan products. Additionally, Sallie Mae Bank offers savings products and other tools to help families plan and pay for college, including a credit card that earns bonus cash back to help you pay off any student loan.

College Ave exclusively offers student loans. Founded in 2014 and based in Wilmington, Delaware, College Ave offers undergraduate, graduate and parent loans for students enrolled at schools affiliated with College Ave in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. College Ave’s advantage is speed, with applications that take a few minutes to complete and instant decisions.

Earnest is an online lender offering private student loans to college and graduate students, as well as student loan refinancing. The company was founded in 2013. Borrowers can choose their own loan terms to fund up to the full cost of their education.

SoFi is an online lender founded by Stanford business school students in 2011. Originally focused on student loan refinancing, the San Francisco-based company added private student loans in 2019. Choose from undergraduate, graduate, law or MBA, health profession, or parent loans with no fees.

Ascent Funding is an online lender offering undergraduate and graduate student loans for those with or without a co-signer at more than 2,200 eligible schools nationwide. Students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents or those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status – aka “Dreamers” – may apply for an Ascent loan. Ascent Funding was founded in 2015 and is based in San Diego.

LendKey’s digital platform connects borrowers who need private student loans or refinancing loans with credit unions and community banks. Since 2009, LendKey has helped more than 135,000 people by funding $5 billion in loans. The company offers fixed- and variable-rate loans for undergraduate and graduate students.

Citizens Bank was founded in the late 1800s in Rhode Island. Today, it’s one of the largest commercial banks in the U.S. Branches are concentrated in the New England, mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions.

PNC offers student loans in all 50 states for students at all stages of postsecondary education, including professional training loans and refinancing. The bank is also engaged in a number of community efforts, including financial literacy programs and PNC Grow Up Great, which supports early childhood education. For eligible undergraduate students, PNC offers opportunities to win $2,000 scholarships toward education expenses.

Founded in 2014, Purefy is a student loan refinance rate comparison site, and it also originates refinanced student and parent loans via a partnership with Pentagon Federal Credit Union. As a rate comparison tool, Purefy shares interest rates and terms from lending partners, including Earnest, ISL Education Lending and College Ave. This lender review will focus on the loan refinancing options Purefy and PenFed offer together.

Education Loan Finance, also known as ELFI, is a student loan program offered by Tennessee-based SouthEast Bank since 2015. The company provides private student loans and refinancing options for private and federal student loans.

“The vast majority of medical school students borrow through the federal student loan program,” says Julie Fresne, senior director of student financial and career advising services at the Association of American Medical Colleges.

In 2020, about 75% of medical school students had some type of education debt, Fresne says. Most of that debt was in the form of federal loans, with just 1% to 2% of those students using private loans.

Many students choose federal loans because they do not require either a co-signer or collateral and because the terms are generous. “Barring any highly unusual circumstances, they can borrow up to the cost of attendance at their medical school,” Fresne says.

Federal loans also offer flexible repayment options and opportunities for debt forgiveness if students work in the public service sector.

On the other hand, you may get a lower interest rate if you have good credit and opt for a private medical school loan instead of a federal loan. Qualifications, interest rates and terms vary by lender and type of loan.

“Private loans are just like a loan you would owe a bank traditionally,” says Jan Miller, president and student loan consultant for Miller Student Loan Consulting. That means borrowers have “no forgiveness benefits, or not very many,” he adds.

Students tend to favor federal loans, in part because of the flexible repayment plans and the loan forgiveness perks. Most students who use federal loans to pay for medical school can defer payments for six months after they graduate, leave school or drop below half-time enrollment.

Federal student loans for medical school students. The federal government offers medical students direct unsubsidized and Direct PLUS loans. Direct loans – also known as Stafford loans – are available to students enrolled at least part time.

“It’s easy to get approved for what you want,” Miller says. “Most doctors are able to take out the debt they need. The limits are quite high.”

An unsubsidized loan accrues interest the day it is disbursed until it is paid in full. You can wait until after graduation to repay loans or make interest payments while you’re in school to reduce the amount due later.

A Direct PLUS loan is available to help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. A medical student might seek a PLUS loan after reaching the annual borrowing limit for direct unsubsidized loans.

Some private student loans have variable interest rates that may start low and then adjust higher. “You’re taking on a certain amount of risk because usually to get that uber-low rate, it’s a variable rate rather than a fixed rate,” Fresne says.

Interest rates for private student loans are based on the borrower’s creditworthiness, and the borrower may need a co-signer to qualify for the best possible rate. The government, on the other hand, sets federal loan rates.

Terms can be less flexible for private student loans compared with federal loans. Borrowers may find limited repayment, deferment, forbearance, grace period and loan forgiveness options, notes the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“With a private loan, you have an amortization schedule; you have a promissory note,” Miller says. “You won’t be able to renegotiate the terms unless you refinance, and you can’t refinance unless your debt-to-income or your income potential is great.”

Find the Student Loan That’s Right for You

Either a federal or private student loan can work to finance medical school, but borrowers should consider these differences:

Medical school loan qualifications. Federal direct unsubsidized loans are available to students enrolled at least part time, regardless of income and credit history.

Private student loans base eligibility and rates on the borrower’s credit history. Applying with a co-signer could help you obtain better loan terms if you have fair or poor credit. The most creditworthy borrowers tend to receive the lowest interest rates.

The government recalculates interest rates on federal loans each academic year, which begins July 1. A borrower’s creditworthiness does not affect the loan rate.

Medical students will pay 5.28% interest on Stafford loans and 6.28% interest on Direct PLUS loans disbursed between July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022.

You can choose whether to pay interest on your direct loan while you are a student – even during the pandemic. Normally, your interest will accrue and be added to the principal amount of your loan.

Private medical school loan interest rates. If interest rates are variable, they may adjust higher over time. In some cases, a cap may be placed on the rate so that it does not climb too high.

Limits on student loans for medical school. Federal student loans have annual and aggregate limits on how much you can borrow, while private loans generally can’t exceed a school’s cost of attendance.

Loan limits vary with private lenders.

Medical school loan fees. For a federal loan, you will pay a fee that is a percentage of the total loan amount, deducted proportionately from each disbursement. This means you will receive less than what you borrowed, but you will still be responsible for repaying the full amount.

Fees for private student loans may vary by lender. Unlike with federal student loans, many private loans do not charge an origination fee.

Students who use federal loans can access income-driven payment plans that set monthly payments based on what you earn and your family size. This can be an attractive option for graduates who may not make a lot of money right out of school or who choose less lucrative career paths, such as teaching.

The terms of private student loans for medical school vary by lender. Sallie Mae, for example, charges interest upon disbursement and throughout the life of the loan, including any grace period. PNC also notes that it offers a deferment option, but loan interest will accrue during such periods.

Interest rates are higher on Sallie Mae’s fixed and deferred repayment options than on the interest repayment option, as unpaid interest is added to your loan’s principal at the end of the grace period. Variable interest rates may increase over the life of the loan, the lender also notes.

Most experts suggest exploring federal student aid first and then considering private student loans if you still need help paying for medical school.

  1. Begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to determine your eligibility for federal loans and grants for medical school. You will list on the FAFSA the schools you are interested in attending, and these schools will receive an Institutional Student Information Record.
  2. Next, you will receive aid offers with directions. Follow them carefully.
  3. Complete entrance counseling if you have not previously received a direct unsubsidized or Direct PLUS loan. This process is intended to make sure you understand the terms and conditions of your loan, as well as your rights and obligations.
  4. Sign a Master Promissory Note, a legal document in which you promise to repay your loan to the Department of Education.

If federal aid falls short, private student loans from banks and credit unions can help you cover medical school costs. However, your ability to get a private loan will depend on the strength of your credit profile, and you may need a co-signer to qualify.
If you want a private medical school loan, this is what you can expect:

  • You will shop for interest rates. Get at least a few quotes from lenders to compare rates before you choose one and apply. This is the best way to get a good deal on a loan.
  • You will apply for credit. A creditworthy co-signer, such as a parent or relative, may help you get a loan if you don’t have credit history.
  • Your school has to certify the loan amount before disbursal.
  • You will receive a final disclosure with loan details.

The amount you need to borrow will depend on whether your school is public or private and whether you qualify for in-state tuition. Students also must have medical malpractice insurance, a contributor to medical school’s high cost.

Medical school is pricey. The median four-year cost of attendance for the class of 2021 is $259,347 at public schools and $346,955 at private schools, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Paying down medical school loans may intimidate prospective students, but it could be more manageable than it seems.

Of course, your salary is likely to rise sharply as your medical career advances to help you pay off the rest of your debt.

Medical school students can view the large debts they take on as investments in the future, Fresne says.

“Strong job security and excellent income potential are reasons that it’s a good investment,” she says. “And that security and income potential should enable any medical school graduate practicing in any specialty to both repay their education debt and provide for a comfortable lifestyle and safer retirement.”

Sparrow, founded in 2020, is an online marketplace where students and parents can fill out a single application to see whether they qualify for loan offers from a variety of lenders. Although Sparrow is not a lender, the free service allows you to compare rates across lending partners. Sparrow is also available to international students.

Credible is a loan comparison marketplace that allows would-be borrowers to shop around for loans that meet their needs – including mortgages, mortgage refinancing, student loans, student loan refinancing and personal loans. The company was founded in 2013 in San Francisco as a tool to empower borrowers to shop rates and products.

Best for fixed APR

The Rhode Island Student Loan Authority is a nonprofit quasi-state authority that provides college financing to students and parents. The lender specializes in providing loans to Rhode Island residents and students, though not all loans have residency requirements.

Best for no fees

Discover Bank has been operating for more than 100 years, and since 2010, it has offered private student loans to students attending more than 2,400 colleges and universities. Loans of up to 100% of education costs with fixed or variable rates are available.

Best for co-borrowers

The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority is a state-chartered nonprofit established in 1982 to offer low-cost financing options to college students and their families. You can live anywhere in the U.S. and access Boston-based MEFA’s private student loans, including undergraduate, graduate or refinancing options.

Best for small loan amounts

EDvestinU is the nonprofit student loan lending and refinancing organization of the New Hampshire Higher Education Loan Corp. Undergraduate and graduate loans and student loan consolidation are available to borrowers with both fixed and variable rates available in select states and Puerto Rico.

MPower Financing offers private student loans to undergraduate and graduate students within two years of earning a degree or starting a one- or two-year program at an eligible U.S. or Canadian school. The lender specializes in working with international students and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients.

Best for online service

London-based Prodigy Finance offers postgraduate student loans for qualified borrowers from about 150 countries who plan to study as international students at one of more than 850 schools across 18 countries. Students from the United Kingdom can also get loans from Prodigy Finance to study domestically. Since its founding in 2007, Prodigy Finance has provided funding to more than 20,000 students.

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who are advertising clients of U.S. News. Advertising considerations may impact
where offers appear on the site but do not affect any editorial decisions,
such as which loan products we write about and how we evaluate them. This site
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By Richard

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