True to form of our current medical education fad, a flash card/table was made by AAMC for the topic (aspiring) doctors are least educated about: student debt.

This series of 2 posts utilize AAMC’s debt fact card to emphasize few points for those entering medical school, graduating from medical school, training in residency/fellowship, and at last working as attending physicians. This first post is for pre-med and med students.

  • Pre-med:

Be aware of the price tag. A medical doctor’s degree will cost you 226k in public schools; 299k in private schools. This price grossly under-estimates the TRUE costs to you because this does NOT include the 6.8+ % interest that starts accruing day ONE of your medical school and accumulates into 40-60k over the span of medical school. If you take out your student loan at the beginning of each semester as your Financial Aid Office suggests, expect your degree to cost 246-286k in public schools; 339-359k in private schools.

Best medicine is prevention. You are in the best position to minimize student debt.

Seriously consider ways to cut your COA (cost of attendance):

  1. given comparably decent education, choose low COL (cost of living) cities to attend medical school
  2. chose cheaper schools
  3. live at home! (no shame to this)
  4. explore options of lower interest loans/scholarships



  • Med student:

You are in whatever school and city you are in. Not much can be done with your COA at this point.

As it turned out, I chose a very expensive medical school in a very high COL area. In hindsight, I would have chosen a lower COL area, maxed out my retirement accounts and bought a house during med school.

But point is if I can pay off my student loans in less than 1 year of graduating med school (vs. many of my cohort have 400k and growing student loan balance), there are many ways to minimize if not pay off your debt aggressively.

Seriously consider ways to make SOME income:

  1. pick up a work study job at your school library/research lab (get paid to study and pursue your academic interest). if you finish working your allotted award hours early in the semester, ask your financial aid office for more! at times, i worked upwards of 30-40 hours/week during med school.
  2. if you have a family and are the only bread-winner (this was my case), apply for government assistance. (there is no shame in that).
  3. apply for scholarships. write an essay for 500 bucks… etc. if you write it on a topic you love and spend about 10 hours, let’s an hourly return of 50 bucks!
  4. tutor. no better way to combine 3 awesome tasks: help others, enhance your knowledge, and pay some bills
  5. find creative ways to  make money and take a break from studying: I recently stumbled on the PennyHoarder. lots of great ideas of making/growing your money.

Explore loans with lower interest rate than the 6.8+% at your fingertip:

  1. credit cards (you can read all about how i saved on interest, made extra cash using credit cards to pay for my COA in the smart credit section)
  2. reif your house (if you have one) it is a WAY cheaper loan than government, let alone private, student loans
  3. borrow from IRS (if you do have a side income as an independent contractor). under safe-harbor law, you can just pay the estimated amount of taxes based on prior year and borrow the rest of your (higher) income this current year interest free UNTIL 4/15.
  4. personal loans. family members may be willing to lend you interest free or lower interest loans
  5. most importantly, DELAY taking out student loans as much as possible. 


  1. Be cost economic with your audition rotations and residency interview strategies.
  2. This is your renewed chance to choose the COL of where you train/live for the next 3-10 years… apply the lessons you learned in med school now.
  3. During residency interviews, ask about moonlighting opportunities.



  • how do you make income during pre med years?
  • what’s a good side job/income source in med school?
  • is there a hidden jam of a med school in low COL cities?
  • any experience with a personal loan or credit card balance transfers? pros and cons?

Comment below!


AAMC Debt Fact Card #1
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2 thoughts on “AAMC Debt Fact Card #1

  • May 8, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Good article. Again, all the recommendations are great but will require some work. For medical students in the audience, make sure to carefully balance your schooling with generating income. Know your limits. If you cannot be a good student doctor and work a full-time job, then focus on school first. Be a good physician first, the income will come later.

    • May 9, 2015 at 3:23 am

      definitely true. since you decided to go to medical school, put your best foot forward towards making yourself the best doctor possible.
      stewardship over your finances takes about 3% of the brain power and dedication you put towards medicine as a career.


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