The best medical school loans in October 2021

As of

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4.3

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.50%

with AutoPay
Variable APR From

1.13%

with AutoPay
Term10-15yr

4.6

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

2.99%

with AutoPay
Variable APR From

0.99%

with AutoPay
Term5-20yr

4.4

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

2.99%

with AutoPay
Variable APR From

0.99%

with AutoPay
Term5-15yr

4.6

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

2.99%

with AutoPay
Variable APR From

0.99%

with AutoPay
Term5-15yr

4.5

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.23%

Variable APR From

1.03%

Term5-15yr

4.1

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.20%

Variable APR From

1.20%

Term5-15yr
Fixed APR From

2.91%

with AutoPay
Variable APR From

0.99%

with AutoPay
Term5-20yr

4.0

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

4.64%

Variable APR From

2.91%

Term5-15yr

4.1

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

4.25%

with AutoPay
Variable APR From

1.25%

with AutoPay
Term5-20yr

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The Bankrate guide to choosing the best medical school loans

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When shopping for medical school loans, compare APRs across multiple lenders to make sure you’re getting a competitive interest 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 June 8, 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. To learn more about how we selected lenders, see our methodology section above.

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: 4.74% – 11.46% (with autopay); Variable: 2.24% – 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: 5.88% – 7.25% (with autopay)
10 to 20 years
Not specified
$500,000
SoFi
Fixed: 4.13% – 10.90% (with autopay)
5 to 20 years
$10,001
100% total cost of attendance
Citizens Bank
Fixed: 4.18% – 8.24%; Variable: 1.89% to 7.72%
5 to 15 years
$1,000
$350,000
PNC
Fixed: Starting at 3.49% (with autopay); Variable: Starting at 1.96% (with autopay)
5 to 15 years
$1,000
$65,000

Summary: Medical student loans in October 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. The two most common options are:

  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans: These loans have a fixed interest rate of 4.3 percent for all borrowers. They don't perform a credit check, and graduate students can borrow up to $20,500 per year and $138,500 total.
  • Grad PLUS loan: These loans have a fixed interest rate of 5.3 percent for all borrowers, but they allow borrowers to borrow up to the total cost of education. Grad PLUS loans will check that you don't have an adverse credit history, but there is no minimum credit score requirement.

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 for borrowers with good credit, and you can typically choose between fixed and variable interest rates. Some private medical school loans have unique features that benefit medical students, such as extended grace periods or deferment during a residency program.

Most lenders require very 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 several income-driven repayment plans, 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.
  • 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 interest 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 or 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 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 loan interest rates can be higher than those of private student loans if you have good credit, and you'll also be charged an origination fee.

Why federal student loans are the best overall: With no credit requirements, low rates and a bevy of repayment options, federal student loans are usually the first choice for medical students in need of funding.

Lender Federal student loans
Bankrate Rating N/A
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.

Why College Ave is the best for many repayment terms: Most private medical school loans limit your repayment options to 15 or 20 years. With College Ave, there are five options to choose from.

Lender College Ave
Bankrate Rating 4.4/5
APR Fixed: 4.74% – 11.46% (with autopay); Variable: 2.24% – 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.

Why Sallie Mae is the best for flexibility: Medical school students typically come away with a lot of debt; having an extra-long grace period and the option to defer payments during a residency or fellowship makes the repayment process much more manageable.

Lender Sallie Mae
Bankrate Rating 4.3/5
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 borrowers without co-signers: 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.

Why CommonBond is the best for borrowers without co-signers: If you have good credit and want to take out a loan on your own terms, CommonBond makes the process easy. With no co-signer required, you won't have to worry about trying to apply for co-signer release partway through your loan term.

Lender CommonBond
Bankrate Rating 4.3/5
APR Fixed: 5.79% – 7.16% (with autopay); Variable: 5.88% – 7.25% (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.

Why SoFi is best for medical debt refinancing: While many of the companies profiled here offer student loan refinancing, SoFi's specialized medical debt refinancing takes into account your residency program and offers five different repayment timelines to choose from.

Lender SoFi Refinancing
Bankrate Rating 4.6/5
APR Fixed: 3.12% – 6.93% (with autopay); Variable: 2.36% – 6.91% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $10,001 – 100% total cost of attendance
Loan terms 5 to 20 years
Fees None

Best for multiyear approval: 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. Citizens Bank also stands out for its multiyear approval program, which qualifies you for multiple years of funding upfront.

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.

Why Citizens Bank is best for multiyear approval: Citizens Bank's multiyear approval program takes some of the stress out of student loans if you need funding for the entirety of your program. While most lenders require you to reapply every year, Citizens Bank will save you multiple hard credit checks.

Lender Citizens Bank
Bankrate Rating 4.5/5
APR Fixed: 4.18% – 8.24%; Variable: 1.89% to 7.72% (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 $65,000 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 $65,000 per year and has a $225,000 maximum aggregate total, which includes all of your private and federal student loans.

Why PNC is best for no origination fees: If you're looking for a truly fee-free lender, PNC could be a good option. An origination fee, an upfront fee charged by some lenders, takes hundreds of dollars from your loan disbursement.

Lender PNC
Bankrate Rating 4.3/5
APR Fixed: Starting at 3.49% (with autopay); Variable: Starting at 1.96% (with autopay)
Loan amounts $1,000 – $65,000
Loan terms 5 to 15 years
Fees None

Frequently asked questions about medical student loans