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How to Go to Medical School for Free

How to Go to Medical School for Free

A growing number of government agencies, universities, and charities are trying to ease the burden of medical school by offering free or nearly free rides.

That's worth a lot. Even if you go to your home state's medical school, the sticker price on a medical degree will very likely top out at $140,000, including room and board. Double that amount for a degree from a private school. Of course, when you finally finish your four years of school and minimum of three years of residency, even low-paid family practitioners usually get an annual starting salary of at least $143,000, while orthopedic surgeons start at almost three times that.

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But before you apply for any medical school funding, check the fine print. Many of the good deals have some heavy-duty strings attached. Military scholarships, for example, typically require students to put in two years of service for every year they received a scholarship.

Completely free ride—tuition and living expenses—with few strings attached:

The University of Central Florida is offering completely free rides to all 40 members of the class of 2013.

Fine print: Next year will be the medical school's first year in existence, so there might be some first-year jitters.

Vanderbilt: A few full-ride scholarships for top-notch students are detailed here.

Washington University: A few full-ride scholarships for top-notch students are detailed here.

Completely free ride, with notable strings:

Military—If you're officer material, the military will pay your tuition and living expenses through four years of medical school whether you're in the Army, Navy, or Air Force.

Fine Print: Doctors generally serve one year of active duty for every year of scholarship they receive, but they must serve a minimum of two years.

Work in the boonies—The National Health Service will pay tuition and living expenses for those training to become primary-care physicians.

Fine print: Recipients will be assigned to needy areas and must work at least one year for every year of a scholarship. They'll also need to be good and lucky: The NHS gets seven times more applications than it has scholarships.

Researchers—The National Institutes of Health will pay tuition and a living stipend for those interested in spending the eight years in school necessary to receive an M.D. and a research Ph.D. through programs like its Medical Scientist Training Program.

Fine print: These scholarships are designed to help those who want to become research scientists, not Beverly Hills plastic surgeons.

Free tuition—Some scholarships cover only tuition, leaving medical students to pay for their living expenses, which can easily run more than $2,000 a month.

Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University will offer free tuition to all future medical students.

Fine print: The Cleveland Clinic focuses on training researchers and academics. You'll need to have good grades, scores, and luck. Last year, before the new scholarship program was announced, the Cleveland Clinic received 1,423 applications for its 32 slots. It'll probably be even more competitive this year.

Very low-cost tuition:

The Mayo Clinic promises every admitted medical student a scholarship of at least $25,000. That means students in the fall of 2008 will be charged no more than $4,200. And many will get other scholarships to cover that.

Loan repayment programs:

Serve in the backcountry—The National Health Service Corps will repay $50,000 in education debt for two years of service in needy areas. It will repay up to $35,000 for a third year.


Elizabeth Polin, DDS

American Dental Arts

View doctor’s profile