Medical school loans in April 2021

As of

Medical school loans are student loans that can help you meet the high costs of a medical degree. It's typically best to start your search with federal student loans, since they come with more extensive borrower protections, but you should also shop around with private lenders to see which loan is the most affordable for your situation.

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4.13%

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4.25%

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3.34%

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3.49%

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6.11%

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4.25%

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3.34%

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The Bankrate guide to choosing the best medical school loans

As of Thursday, April 15, 2021

Why trust Bankrate?

At Bankrate, our mission is to empower you to make smarter financial decisions. We’ve been comparing and surveying financial institutions for more than 40 years to help you find the right products for your situation. Our award-winning editorial team follows strict guidelines to ensure the content is not influenced by advertisers. Additionally, our content is thoroughly reported and vigorously edited to ensure accuracy.

When shopping for medical school loans, compare APRs across multiple lenders to make sure you’re getting a competitive rate. Also look for lenders that keep fees to a minimum and offer repayment terms that fit your needs. Loan details presented here are current as of April 7, 2021. Check the lenders’ websites for more current information. The medical school loan lenders listed here are selected based on factors such as APR, loan amounts, fees, credit requirements and more.

The best medical school loans of 2021

Lender
Current APR Range
Loan Terms
Min. Loan Amount
Max. Loan Amount
Federal student loans
4.3% – 5.3% fixed
10 to 25 years
Not specified
$20,500 or 100% total cost of attendance
College Ave
Fixed: 4.24% – 11.46% (with autopay); Variable: 1.74% – 10.45% (with autopay)
5 to 20 years
$1,000
$150,000
Sallie Mae
Fixed: 4.75% – 11.97% (with autopay); Variable: 2.12% – 11.48% (with autopay)
20 years
$1,000
100% total cost of attendance
CommonBond
Fixed: 5.79% – 7.16% (with autopay); Variable: 5.9% – 7.26% (with autopay)
10 to 20 years
Not specified
$500,000
SoFi Refinancing
Fixed: 3.12% – 6.93% (with autopay); Variable: 2.38% – 6.93% (with autopay)
5 to 20 years
$10,001
100% total cost of attendance
Citizens Bank
Fixed: 4.28% – 8.94%; Variable: 1.91% to 8.69%
5 to 15 years
$1,000
$350,000
PNC
Fixed: 4.19% – 9.34% (with autopay); Variable: 1.96% – 7.11% (with autopay)
5 to 15 years
$1,000
$50,000

Summary: Medical student loans in April 2021

Federal vs. private student loans for medical school

When paying for medical school, you can choose between loans offered by the federal government and loans originated from banks, credit unions and online lenders. Both come with their own set of pros and cons.

Federal student loans for medical school

Federal student loans are originated by the U.S. Department of Education. Options include Direct Unsubsidized Loans and grad PLUS loans, both of which have fixed interest rates that are the same for all borrowers, regardless of credit score.

Because federal student loans come with benefits like deferment, forbearance and income-driven repayment plans, they are usually the best option to pay for medical school and all other higher education expenses. Federal loans also tend to offer the most paths to forgiveness; you may be able to qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and other forgiveness programs for doctors if you choose to work in an underserved area or in a public service position and you meet other criteria.

Private student loans for medical school

Private student loans are offered by institutions like online lenders, banks and credit unions. Private student loans often advertise lower starting interest rates than federal student loans, and you can typically choose between fixed and variable interest rates. They also may let you borrow more money than federal loans.

Most lenders require good or excellent credit in order to qualify for private medical school student loans. In the absence of a solid credit rating, it’s likely that you’ll need a co-signer. Also keep in mind that some private student lenders have their own deferment and forbearance programs, but there are no standard requirements.

What to consider before getting a medical school loan

Before you apply for a medical school loan, there are plenty of details to think over. Here are some of the main factors to consider before you borrow money for medical school with a specific lender:

  • Repayment and forgiveness. Before signing up for a loan, consider how long you'll be making payments on your loan. The federal government offers more protections and repayment plans than private lenders, and it's the best option if your goal is eventual loan forgiveness. On the other hand, some private lenders have shorter repayment periods, which may be appealing if you would like to pay off your loan quickly.
  • Interest rates. Since you’re likely borrowing significant sums of money to pay for medical school, your interest rate can make a huge difference in the total amount you pay over the life of your loan. Compare a few lenders in order to find the lowest interest rates you believe you can qualify for.
  • Variable and fixed rates. Also decide whether you want a variable interest rate or a fixed interest rate. A variable rate may work well in the short term while interest rates are low, but a fixed rate gives you the peace of mind that your rate will never go up.
  • Loan fees. Try to avoid paying student loan fees like origination fees or application fees. You should also choose a lender that won’t charge an additional fee if you pay off your medical school student loans early.
  • Lender-specific borrowing limits. Some medical student loans come with borrowing limits you must adhere to. These limits can include other loans you have, including all of your educational debt, so you need to be aware of them before you apply with any private student loan company.
  • Discounts. Some medical school loans also include rate discounts if you have a relationship with the lender already or if you sign up for autopay. These rate discounts may not seem like much, but they can help you save significant amounts of money over time.

Medical school loans in the coronavirus pandemic

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to affect the finances of people across the country, many lenders are providing relief options for people struggling to keep up with student loans. The federal government has suspended payments and interest charges on federal student loans through Sept. 30, 2021, and many private lenders have introduced their own temporary hardship forbearance programs.

Doctors and nurses working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness can benefit from this period of forbearance as well; borrowers will continue to receive credit toward PSLF during the suspension while on a qualifying repayment plan, even if they don't make payments.

Interest rates for medical school loans are also at near-record lows, so now is a good time to shop around or lock in a fixed rate if you're able to.

Details: Medical school loan rates in 2021

Best overall: Federal student loans

Overview: Federal student loans are ideal for medical school, since they come with fixed interest rates and federal protections like deferment and forbearance. If you choose to, you can also apply for several loan forgiveness programs for medical professionals, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which works for individuals who agree to work in a public service position and make payments for 10 consecutive years. With federal student loans, you can choose among several options, including federal Direct Unsubsidized graduate loans and federal grad PLUS loans.

Perks: Federal student loans give you access to income-driven repayment plans like Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Income-Based Repayment (IBR), which let you pay a percentage of your discretionary income for 20 to 25 years before forgiving your remaining loan balances.

What to watch out for: Federal student loans do limit how much you can borrow, and interest rates can be higher than those of private student loans.

Lender Federal student loans
APR Fixed: 4.3% – 5.3%
Loan amounts Up to $20,500 annually with Direct Unsubsidized Loans and up to the cost of attendance with grad PLUS Loans
Loan terms 10 to 25 years
Fees Origination fee: 1.057% to 4.228% of total loan amount

Best for many repayment terms: College Ave

Overview: College Ave's medical school loans offer some of the lowest rates among competitors for borrowers with good credit, and they also come with unusually flexible repayment options. You can choose to defer your payments for 36 months after school, and you can choose among five repayment terms.

Perks: While most lenders require you to be enrolled at least half time in a degree program, College Ave will extend student loans to borrowers enrolled at an eligible school full time, half time or less than half time.

What to watch out for: College Ave's loan limits are fairly low at $150,000. That may not be enough for some medical school programs.

Lender College Ave
APR Fixed: 4.24% – 11.46% (with autopay); Variable: 1.74% – 10.45% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $1,000 - $150,000
Loan terms 5 to 20 years
Fees Late fee

Best for flexibility: Sallie Mae

Overview: The Sallie Mae Medical School Loan is best for flexibility in starting your payments; you can enjoy a 36-month grace period before you start making payments, as well as 48 months of deferment during your residency and fellowship.

Perks: These loans come without an origination fee, and some eligible borrowers can make interest-only payments for up to 12 months after the grace period ends. These loans also have one of the shortest co-signer releases in the industry, letting you release your co-signer in as little as one year if you meet certain requirements.

What to watch out for: While Sallie Mae offers lots of options in terms of when you start paying your loan in full, its medical school loans' only repayment timeline is 20 years. You do have the freedom to pay off your loan early without penalty, but many other providers allow you to choose from a variety of repayment timelines.

Lender Sallie Mae
APR Fixed: 4.75% – 11.97% (with autopay); Variable: 2.12% – 11.48% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $1,000 – 100% total cost of attendance
Loan terms 20 years
Fees Late fee: 5% or $25; Returned check fee: Up to $20

Best for no co-signer required: CommonBond

Overview: CommonBond lets medical students borrow up to $500,000 for medical school, and it offers competitive variable and fixed interest rates. You can repay your loan over 10 to 20 years, and it offers forbearance of up to one year for those who qualify. You can also get approved without a co-signer if you meet its underwriting requirements.

Perks: CommonBond offers a 0.25 percent discount for enrolling in autopay. You also get a six-month grace period after you graduate, and there are no prepayment penalties.

What to watch out for: The CommonBond Medical School Loan charges a 2 percent origination fee in some states, a fee that many online lenders waive.

Lender CommonBond
APR Fixed: 5.79% – 7.16% (with autopay); Variable: 5.9% – 7.26% (with autopay)
Loan amounts Up to $500,000
Loan terms 10 to 20 years
Fees Origination fee: 2%; Late fee: 5% or $10; Returned check fee: $5

Best for medical debt refinancing: SoFi

Overview: SoFi offers standard graduate school loans, though it doesn't have medical-school-specific loans. However, it does offer medical debt refinancing for medical and dental residents. These loans can help you refinance the full amount of your student debt into a new loan product with a lower rate, and you can pay what you owe over five to 20 years. Competitive interest rates are available, and you can consolidate both federal and private loans into a new loan with this product.

Perks: SoFi's has a wide range of repayment terms: five, seven, 10, 15 and 20 years. SoFi also allows you to change specialties during your residency program without your loan being affected.

What to watch out for: SoFi requires you to refinance a minimum of $10,001, so it's not the best option if you have a smaller loan you're looking to refinance. The minimum monthly payment is also steeper than those of many standard loan programs at $100.

Lender SoFi Refinancing
APR Fixed: 3.12% – 6.93% (with autopay); Variable: 2.38% – 6.93% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $10,001 – 100% total cost of attendance
Loan terms 5 to 20 years
Fees None

Best for low rates: Citizens Bank

Overview: Citizens Bank lets you borrow up to $180,000 or $350,000 for your medical school education depending on your degree, and its variable and fixed interest rates are some of the lowest available. You can repay your loan over five to 15 years, and there are no origination fees to get started.

Perks: Citizens Bank makes it easy to apply for your loans and get them funded online, with or without a co-signer. Rates are already low, but you can score a rate discount up to 0.25 percent if you have an existing relationship or auto loan with the bank.

What to watch out for: Citizens Bank says that you need “good” credit to qualify; if you don't have great credit, you’ll need to have a co-signer.

Lender Citizens Bank
APR Fixed: 4.28% – 8.94%; Variable: 1.91% to 8.69% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $1,000 – $350,000
Loan terms 5 to 15 years
Fees None

Best for no origination fees: PNC

Overview: The PNC Solution Loan is designed for various health professionals, including future doctors. This loan lets you borrow up to $50,000 per year, and there are no application fees or origination fees. You can use your loan funds for any education-related expense, and you can apply online and receive an answer in a matter of minutes.

Perks: Interest rates are already competitive, but you can score a 0.5 percent rate discount with automated payments from a checking or savings account. PNC also lets you take up to 15 years to repay your loan.

What to watch out for: PNC caps its loans at $50,000 per year and has a $225,000 maximum aggregate total, which includes all of your private and federal student loans.

Lender PNC
APR Fixed: 4.19% – 9.34% (with autopay); Variable: 1.96% – 7.11% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $1,000 – $50,000
Loan terms 5 to 15 years
Fees None

Frequently asked questions about medical student loans

Are medical school loans tax deductible?

The student loan interest deduction can apply to both federal and private medical school loans. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you may be eligible to deduct the lesser of $2,500 or the amount of interest you paid during the year. Other eligibility requirements apply; you can check on those details on the IRS website.

Do medical school loans cover living expenses?

Most medical school loans let you cover any expenses required for medical school, which can include basic living expenses. However, you should strive to borrow as little as you can, since you’ll need to repay every dollar you borrow plus interest.

Can you refinance medical school loans?

Many lenders let you refinance federal and private medical school loans. Doing so can help you secure a lower monthly payment, a lower interest rate or both. Consolidating your student loans can also help you reduce the number of payments you have to make each month. That said, refinancing federal student loans will cause you to lose access to the current administrative forbearance period, plus ongoing options like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans.

Do loans for medical school charge prepayment penalties?

Most lenders that offer medical student loans do not charge prepayment penalties if you pay off your loan balances early. However, before applying, it's best to check the policies of your preferred lender.

Can international students take out medical school loans?

International students are not eligible to take out federal student loans, but some private lenders do offer loans specifically for international students as long as you have a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen.

What is the average medical school debt?

A recent Association of American Medical Colleges report found that a typical medical school borrower will borrow around $200,000. However, the average medical school debt will vary by school, program and available financial aid. Also keep in mind that medical school has a high return on investment, with Medscape's latest physician report placing the average salary of primary care physicians at $243,000 and specialists at $346,000.

How do I pay off my medical student loans?

When it comes to paying off your medical school loans, it's critical to choose a loan term that you can afford in the long term. If you have federal student loans, the standard repayment term is 10 years. However, you may be able to lower your monthly payments by consolidating your loans — which gives you a 30-year repayment term — or selecting an income-driven repayment plan.

Private student loan lenders set their own repayment plans and standards, but you generally have more terms to choose from. Many have term options from five to 20 years, so you can select the one that best fits your budget.