Good planning is the key to financial health. Take the time early in your financial aid process to do some financial planning – it will help you avoid pitfalls, make wiser decisions about financing, and get a clear picture of your goals and needs. To help guide you in this process, here are our Ten Keys to Financial Planning.

Ten Keys to Financial Planning

Start with a budget.

Before you can make smart decisions about borrowing, you need to know your financial needs. Start your financial planning process by taking a look at your expenses, spending habits, and goals, and developing a budget. Be sure to leave yourself room for unexpected expenses and to include saving as a regular part of your budget. This budgeting worksheet may help you get started.

Monitor your credit.

A healthy credit score will be needed if you are thinking about applying for private loans to help you pay for medical school. You are eligible for a free credit report annually from all three credit agencies, and it is wise to make use of this. We recommend putting an event on your calendar as a reminder to check one agency every three months. This allows you to stay on top of your credit score throughout the year.

Keep good records.

Just like you can’t know if a patient has a fever unless you know their temperature, you can’t know if you are in good financial health without knowing your spending habits, debt, expenses, and net worth. Tracking your spending is critical to ensuring good financial habits, and keeping thorough and organized records of your financing programs will keep you on track with payments and other deadlines. Develop good record keeping habits early on to avoid surprises, headaches, and penalties.

Do your homework.

If you are new to borrowing, it may seem like there is a lot you don’t know. Don’t worry, there are plenty of great resources that make it easy to get up to speed. Our favorites are SALT and the AAMC Financial Aid website. For a more complete list of resources, check out our Helpful Resources and Tools page.

Understand your financing options.

There are many different options available for financing your education. More than likely, you will end up using several different types of financing to pay for medical school. Before you commit to a financial aid package, it is important to explore the many different types of financing options available to you, including: federal loans, private loans, School of Medicine scholarships, external scholarships, armed service loan and scholarship programs, and service loan programs. For an overview of all of your options, check out our Financial Aid 101 page.

Learn the advantages and disadvantages of private loans.

Depending on your unique circumstances, a private loan may make sense for you. Private loans differ from federal loans in several key ways, though, and it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of private loan programs before you factor these into your planning. For more information about private loans, check out our Private Loans and Comparison Tools page.

Consider scholarships.

There are a wealth of scholarships available to medical students, and scholarships can provide a significant amount of aid if you are willing to seek them out and apply. The School of Medicine will distribute some scholarships as a part of your aid package (based on the Scholarship Application we send you upon acceptance), but there are many more private and external scholarships available that you will need to apply to on your own. You can check out some of these options in our Scholarships section, and can also use the AAMC Loan Repayment/Forgiveness and Scholarship Programs Database to find even more.

Be aware of tuition billing dates and amounts.

Tuition is billed per semester regardless of what part of the Transitional Education at Carolina (TEC) curriculum you are enrolled in during that time. For billing purposes, Fall enrollment is July through December and Spring enrollment is January through June (May if you are a first year or graduating student). The number of hours you are enrolled will determine whether you will be billed the full tuition or reduced tuition rate. If you are enrolled for 14 or more hours, you will be charged the full tuition rate. If you are enrolled 13 hours or less, you will be charged the reduced rate. You will automatically be billed based on your enrollment.

Use the MedLoans Organizer and Calculator to track your debt.

The MedLoans Organizer and Calculator is an incredibly helpful tool for tracking your loan programs and overall debt. We highly recommend making regular use of this tool throughout your financial aid process.

Ask questions.

Your financial aid officers are here to help support you in this process. Use us as resources and don’t hesitate to contact us or schedule an appointment for help with budgeting, evaluating your options, or other financial planning.