Financial Aid 101
Welcome to the world of medical student financial aid! There are many different ways to pay for your medical education, including scholarships, service programs, and loans. Student loans are a reality for most medical students, but don’t fret — there are many different programs to help you repay your student loans and several offer flexible repayment options. The keys to successful repayment are planning, budgeting, and staying educated about your financial options.The process and multitude of options can certainly be overwhelming, so don’t forget that the Financial Aid Office is here to help you. Contact us or schedule an appointment any time to discuss your financial planning — we would love to shed some light for you.
Before you dig into the details of this website, we want to provide an overview of the financial aid world you are entering to help you get your bearings.
A little preparation before you get to medical school can make a world of difference in your financial future. A major way to set yourself up for success is to come into the financial aid world with as little debt as possible. As much as you can, pay off consumer debts before applying for financial aid. The next step is designing a budget that works for you and staying within its limits. Practice good spending habits, as well as good record keeping habits, and carry those habits with you to medical school. This will help keep your bank account full and — more importantly — your stress level low.
As you begin to look at how to adapt your pre-medical school budget to fit your time in medical school, it is good to get an idea of the overall cost of your education and living expenses during medical school. This is called the Cost of Attendance, and it’s actually a standard number that the UNC-CH Office of Scholarships and Student Aid calculates each year and uses to determine the amount of your financial aid. For 2024 – 2025 at UNC School of Medicine, the Cost of Attendance is $71,552 for a North Carolina resident and $99,512 for a non-resident.
You’ll also need to consider adding additional education-related expenses to your budget each year, including exams, prep courses, and residency interview expenses. If you’re planning on taking a leave-of-absence year or pursuing additional degrees (MPH, MBA, etc.), you need to make special financial plans for that time and be aware that there may be gaps in your loan disbursement dates.
Types of Financial Aid
There are a wealth of different funding sources for financial aid. You likely will end up with a combination of several different sources in your financial aid award. The different types are:
- School of Medicine Scholarships
- Specialty Scholarships
- Armed Forces Scholarships
- Service Programs
- Federal loans, including Non-Subsidized Stafford Loans and Grad PLUS Loans
- Private Loans
- Summer Aid Loans
- Residency and Relocation Loans
- Forgiveness Programs
Applying for Financial Aid
At UNC, the types of financial aid listed above can be divided into two categories for application purposes. The first category is made up of federal loans and School of Medicine scholarships. You will apply to these using the FAFSA form (at the FAFSA website), the Scholarship Application (which will be provided to you upon acceptance), and supplemental materials in Connect Carolina. When you complete these items, you will automatically be considered for all the types of assistance for which you are eligible, including both loans and scholarships. The Financial Aid Office then creates a financial award for you with various different sources, the majority of which are loans and some of which are scholarships. Loans will be the primary source of your financial award, and scholarship awards will be determined by the Scholarship Committee.
The second category is made up of all other types of financial aid — private loans, specialty scholarships, Armed Forces scholarships, service programs, summer aid loans, residency and relocation loans, and forgiveness programs. For these, you will need to apply directly with that organization using the specified application and process.
As you begin the application process, be sure to always go through Connect Carolina when you are completing forms and applications — this is very important, as it is how we keep your records (and your to-do list) up-to-date and accurate.
Receiving Financial Aid
Disbursements are made before the start of each semester, and can be accessed at Connect Carolina. Be sure to note that the disbursement schedule does not perfectly match up with the new curriculum. Make sure to register in time and stay on top of any holds on your account, as they could cause delays in your disbursement.
The NSLDS (National Student Loan Data Service) website is your home base for your loan information. This is where you can find information about your loans and servicers. Your loan will be assigned to a servicer as soon as your funds are disbursed. This servicer will handle the billing and all other services for your loan. If you have multiple loans, they could have different servicers, so be sure to identify the servicer for each of your loans.
You have several options for repayment plans, which vary in amount of monthly payments, length of deferment, length of repayment term, total interest, and income/family requirements. The repayment plan options are Standard Repayment, Extended Repayment, Graduated Repayment, Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn Repayment (PAYE), and Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment (REPAYE).
You may be feeling overwhelmed or anxious about taking on student loan debt, but don’t panic. The good news is, UNC is very affordable compared to the average national cost of medical school. Furthermore, the cost of medical school may be high, but so is the average starting salary for a physician. The important things to keep in mind are being aware of your full financial picture, sticking to your budget, and keeping good records. You can do this!