medical bill invoice

Checking Your Medical Bills for Errors

Medical bills represent a major financial challenge for many families. You can’t always prevent or foresee medical bills, even if you have insurance. By understanding how to check your medical bills for possible errors, you may be able to avoid being overcharged and making unnecessary payments.

How Common Are Medical Billing Errors?

It’s difficult to know what a medical procedure will cost before it’s performed. So, without being sure of the cost, it’s also difficult to know if there is an error on your medical bill. It doesn’t help that the language used on medical bills is not easily understood. It can be hard to spot mistakes when you aren’t clear about what you’re looking for.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last year found a 7.46% improper billing rate for Medicare providers last year, which accounted for $31.46 billion in overpayments. And according to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), 53% of adults who have health care debt — and 43% of all adults — say they’ve received a medical bill they believe contained an error.

With medical bills so complicated and medical errors so prevalent, it’s no wonder that the amount of medical debt in the U.S. is so high. According to KFF, in June 2022 an estimated 17% of Americans had medical debt in collections. Medical debt is the largest source of debt in collections and has increased to $140 billion since 2009.

What Are Some Common Medical Billing Errors?

When medical billing inaccuracies emerge, they can either be purposeful or genuinely accidental. Either way, there are some frequent errors you may want to keep an eye out for.

Was the Bill Sent to Your Insurance Company?

If you have insurance, making sure your provider submitted a timely claim to the insurance company can be a good first step to take. Occasionally, providers may neglect to send the bill to your insurance company at all and charge you for the entire amount.

Your claim could also be denied if the provider didn’t have the right insurance information for you — even if the ID is off by just one digit. You’re already paying an insurance premium, so paying for the entire procedure out-of-pocket could boost your overall medical costs.

Were You Charged for Services You Didn’t Receive?

You may have to ask for an itemized list of all the charges in your bill, but verifying that you are only being billed for services or treatments that you actually received may be wise.

You may also want to confirm that the quantities are also correct — so you’re not being billed for two MRI scans when you only got one. The itemized bill should include prices, so checking that no extra zeros were added by mistake may be a good step in this process.

Pay for medical costs—without
sinking into high-interest debt.


Was the Wrong Billing Code Used?

If your insurer denies coverage for a procedure or medication, you may be able to identify the correct billing code and request that the provider refile the claim. If you have questions about the codes used, checking with the medical provider and insurer may save you some research time.

One type of billing code error is known as upcoding. This is when the provider bills for a longer session than was provided (for example, being billed for a 60-minute session when you were only seen for 15 minutes). Another common error is known as unbundling, which refers to using codes for each component part of a procedure rather than a single code that covers them all.

Appealing an Insurance Denial

If you find an error during your hospital bill review, you may be able to file an appeal with your insurer if the charge was denied and you were billed for it. Appeal instructions can usually be found on the explanation of benefits received from your insurance company. Documentation to back up your appeal, such as medical records, can often help strengthen your case. The Patient Advocate Foundation offers a detailed guide to the insurance appeal process , including a sample letter.

There is usually a time limit to submit an appeal to an insurer, which can range from just 10 days to 180 days, depending on the insurer. Insurers may provide a decision within 60 days. If you disagree with the decision, you can ask for an independent review — your insurer should provide you with information on how to do this.

If your appeals aren’t successful, you may wish to turn to one of several advocacy groups. For example, the Patient Advocate Foundation offers one-on-one assistance at no charge, and its website also lists organizations that provide help for people with specific conditions. People with Medicare can access free counseling through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program.

If you’re still stuck, hiring a medical billing advocate to represent you may be helpful. These professionals typically charge an hourly rate or take a percentage of the money they save you.


💡 Quick Tip: A low-interest personal loan from SoFi can help you consolidate your debts, lower your monthly payments, and get you out of debt sooner.

What Are Some Options for Paying Off Medical Bills?

Even if you find errors in your medical bills and are able to resolve them, chances are this won’t eliminate what you owe entirely. Here are some ways you can approach paying off medical debt:

Negotiating a Reduced Bill or Payment Plan

Even if your bills don’t include any mistakes, they aren’t necessarily set in stone. If you’re having trouble making a payment, calling your provider’s billing department and explaining your situation may be the best first step to take.

Some may be willing to negotiate your medical bills, possibly lowering your fees if you make the payment in cash or in a lump sum.

You may be able to gain additional leverage by asserting, politely and accurately, that the provider charged an unfair rate, bolstered by research on average prices in your area and what Medicare allows for the service.

Even if you can’t get your payment reduced, you may be able to extend the due date. Many providers and hospitals will work with you to set up an affordable payment plan, sometimes without charging interest.

Budgeting for the Unexpected

Medical bills can pack an unexpected punch to an already tight budget. If you’ve already used some of the strategies listed above to reduce what you owe, it might be necessary to reduce expenses or increase income while you pay medical bills.

Taking a look at current spending is a good place to start. Determine whether there is nonessential spending that could be put toward what is owed.

If there is absolutely no wiggle room at all, you might consider increasing your income by taking on a side hustle or asking for a raise. Once you find a way to include medical payments into your budget, using a spending tracker could be a helpful way to make sure you have the funds available each month.

Using a Credit Card

Paying medical bills with a credit card is certainly an option. It might be a quick and initially easy option, but it might not be the best. Credit cards typically charge high interest rates, which could make your medical debt larger over time. One solution might be to look for a no-interest credit card.

You’ll also want to create a debt reduction plan so that you can pay the balance in full before the promotional period ends.

Taking Out a Personal Loan

A personal loan can be a smart way to pay off medical debt. This type of loan is typically unsecured, meaning you are not putting your home or any other asset on the line.

A personal loan can be used for many purposes, including paying off medical bills, but typically comes with much lower interest rates than credit cards or payday loans.

Note that you can use a personal loan calculator to see how much interest you could save by using a loan to pay off a credit card.


💡 Quick Tip: Just as there are no free lunches, there are no guaranteed loans. So beware lenders who advertise them. If they are legitimate, they need to know your creditworthiness before offering you a loan.

The Takeaway

Taking time to review medical bills and making sure there are no errors can save time and money in the long run. Understanding medical bills and the insurance appeals process — if that’s a step you have to take — can be confusing, so getting assistance is sometimes helpful.

Keep in mind that even if you’re able to resolve the medical billing error, you may still owe money. There are different strategies for paying off medical debt. You may decide to try negotiating a reduced bill or setting up a payment plan with your provider. You could try removing nonessential items from your budget so you can pay off your bills. A credit card is another option, as is taking out a personal loan.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Does Paying Off a Loan Early Hurt Credit?

Paying off a loan early could help you save money on interest, but it could cost you a few points off your credit score. Closing loan accounts can affect things like credit utilization, payment history, and credit mix, all of which factor into your score.

Does that mean you shouldn’t pay off a loan early if you have the opportunity to do so? Not at all. But it’s important to consider how your score may be affected if you decide to pay a loan in full ahead of its scheduled payoff date.

What Is a Personal Loan?

A personal loan is a loan that’s designed for personal use. When you get a personal loan, your lender agrees to give you a lump sum of money that you can use for just about anything. Some common uses for a personal loan include:

•   Debt consolidation

•   Credit card refinancing

•   Medical bills

•   Large expenses, such as a wedding or vacation

•   Emergencies

Personal loans are repaid in installments, according to the schedule set by your lender. For example, you might pay $350 a month for 36 months to pay off a personal loan. Each loan payment includes principal and interest, and your lender may also charge fees, such as origination fees.


💡 Quick Tip: Check your credit report at least once a year to ensure there are no errors that can damage your credit score.

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Can You Pay Off a Personal Loan Early?

Unless your loan agreement specifically states that you must agree to pay every installment as scheduled, then you should be able to pay off the balance early.

Keep in mind that paying off a personal loan before the loan maturity date may trigger a prepayment penalty. This is a premium you pay to your lender for ending the loan agreement ahead of schedule. Lenders charge these penalties to recoup any interest they might miss out on if you pay off your loan sooner rather than later.

If your lender charges a prepayment penalty, they should tell you that up front. At a minimum, any prepayment penalties or other requirements for paying off a loan early should be disclosed in your loan paperwork.

Does Paying Off a Personal Loan Early Hurt Your Credit Score?

Paying off a personal loan early can hurt your credit score, at least temporarily. To understand why, it helps to know a little more about how credit scores are calculated.

As an example, let’s use FICO® Credit Scores, which are the most widely used among major lenders. Here’s how these scores break down:

•   Payment history. Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO score. Paying on time builds your score, while late payments can hurt it.

•   Credit utilization. Credit utilization refers to how much of your available credit you’re using at any given time. This factor represents 30% of your FICO score.

•   Credit age. Your credit age is the overall average length of your credit history. This factor accounts for 15% of your credit score.

•   Credit mix. Credit mix is simply the different types of credit you’re using. It makes up 10% of your FICO score.

•   Credit inquiries. Inquiries show up on your credit report when you apply for new credit. They make up the last 10% of your FICO score.

Why does paying off a loan hurt credit? It has to do with some of the factors listed above.

When an account moves from open status to closed, that means you’re no longer racking up points for on-time payments. You’re also affecting your overall credit utilization and credit mix. That combination can mean a dip in your score, though it’s less drastic than what you might see if you were to suddenly stop paying your debts or max out your credit cards.

When does paying off a debt help your credit score? When you have high credit limits but low balances, that’s good for your credit utilization — assuming that you’re not closing credit card accounts after paying them off.

Your score is less likely to suffer a drop after paying off a loan if you have other debts that you’re making on-time payments to and a healthy credit mix. Signing up for free credit score monitoring can help you keep track of score changes over time and the factors that might cause your score to go up or down.

Does It Make Sense to Pay Off a Loan Early?

Paying off a loan early can make sense if you would like to clear the debt and have the cash to do so. Here’s what paying off a loan early might do for you:

•   Eliminate a monthly payment in your budget so you have more cash to direct toward other financial goals.

•   Potentially save money on interest, since you’re not making any additional payments to the lender.

Whether you should pay off a loan early depends on your personal debt repayment plan and strategy. Keep in mind that it’s not always the right solution. For example, say that you plan to take $10,000 out of savings to pay off a personal loan early. If doing so leaves you with nothing for emergencies, then you can find yourself back in debt pretty quickly if you have to charge an unexpected expense to a credit card.

If you’re interested in the fastest ways to pay off debt, there are some options. For example, you can:

•   Use your tax refund or other windfalls to pay off what you owe.

•   Double up on your monthly payments.

•   Make biweekly payments, which adds up to one extra full payment per year.

•   Refinance the debt into a new loan with a lower interest rate.

What matters most when paying off debt is finding a method that works for your budget and situation.


💡 Quick Tip: An easy way to raise your credit score? Pay your bills on time. Setting up autopay can help you keep your account in good standing.

Credit Cards vs Installment Loans

Credit cards and installment loans are very different. A credit card is a revolving credit line. As you pay down your balance, you free up available credit. Installment loans, on the other hand, let you borrow a lump sum. As you pay it off, the balance goes down until it reaches zero.

In terms of how they’re treated for credit scoring purposes, credit cards tend to carry more weight. That’s because credit scores lean heavily on your credit utilization. Does carrying a credit card balance affect credit? Yes, and it can also cost you money if you’re paying a high interest rate.

Installment loans can help you build a positive payment history. They can also enhance your credit mix. Examples of installment loans include personal loans, car loans, federal student loans, private student loans, and mortgage loans.

How much does paying off a car loan help credit? What about student loans? The biggest boost you’ll get from paying off installment loans is with your payment history. As long as you’re making your payments on time each month, your score can benefit. That can show lenders that you’re responsible about meeting your debt obligations.

Additional Considerations About Paying Off a Personal Loan Early

If you’re thinking of paying off a personal loan early, it helps to weigh the pros and cons. Credit score aside, here are a few other questions to consider:

•   Do I have enough money to pay the balance in full without draining my cash reserves?

•   Am I planning to apply for new credit after paying the loan off?

•   Will the lender charge a prepayment penalty? And if so, how much will it be?

You can ask these same questions if you’re paying off a different type of installment loan, such as a car loan or a student loan.

It’s also helpful to think about what you’ll do with the money that you’ll be freeing up in your budget. For example, you might decide to park it in a high-yield savings account or invest it to start growing wealth for retirement.

Keep an Eye on Your Credit When Paying Off a Personal Loan Early?

If you’re planning to pay off a personal loan early, it’s a good idea to check your credit scores regularly. While you’re making payments, you can monitor your scores to see what kind of positive impact they’re having. Once you make the last payment, you can go back and see if doing so helped or hurt your score.

You should make sure that the account has been properly marked as closed on your credit reports. Keeping records of all your payments is a good idea as well, in case the lender tries to come back later and say that you still owe.

Should your credit score go down after paying off a loan, the best way to bring it back up again is to make on-time payments to other debts. Paying down credit card balances and limiting how often you apply for new credit can also work in your favor.

The Takeaway

Paying off a personal loan early can save you some money on interest charges and free up cash for other goals. Before paying off a personal loan before maturity, it’s helpful to consider how it might affect your credit score.

Take control of your finances with SoFi. With our financial insights and credit score monitoring tools, you can view all of your accounts in one convenient dashboard. From there, you can see your various balances, spending breakdowns, and credit score. Plus you can easily set up budgets and discover valuable financial insights — all at no cost.

SoFi can show you how your money comes and goes at a glance.

FAQ

Is there a downside to paying off a loan early?

Paying a loan off early can impact your credit score negatively if it affects your credit mix or payment history. Your lender may also charge you a prepayment penalty to recoup lost interest.

Why does credit score go down after paying off loan?

Credit scores can go down after paying off a loan because you’re no longer benefiting from making on-time payments. You may also see a score loss if you no longer have an installment loan showing in your credit mix.

Does it hurt your credit score if you pay early?

Paying early on a loan can hurt your credit score if you’re no longer seeing on-time payments reported to the credit bureau. However, you can recover your score by continuing to pay other bills on time, maintaining a low credit utilization, and limiting how often you apply for new credit.


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How Can I Use Pharmacy School Loans?

Pharmacy School Loans: Here’s What You Should Know

Pharmacy school student loans are one way for potential pharmacists to subsidize some or all of the costs associated with attending pharmacy school.

There are several pros and cons to taking out a pharmacy school loan, from the opportunity to receive student loan forgiveness to potential fees for late payments or a drop in credit score.

Keep reading to learn how much it costs to attend pharmacy school, a few different ways to pay for it, what a pharmacy school loan covers, and the ins and outs of pharmacy school student loans.

Average Cost of Pharmacy School

The average cost of attending pharmacy school spans anywhere from $65,000 to $200,000.

It’s a wide range but, generally speaking, in-state, public schools are on the lower end of the scale, costing around $14,800 to $82,000 per year, while pharmacy programs at private institutions can run between $74,800 and $160,000.

Average Student Loan Debt Pharmacy School

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP)’s 2021 survey of pharmacy school graduates found that about 85% of PharmD degree holders had to borrow money to get through school.

And the average student loan debt for pharmacy graduates, according to that same report, is $173,561.

There’s good news, though: The return on investment can be promising for pharmacists, whose median pay is around $128,710 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Can You Use a Pharmacy School Student Loan on?

There are several ways a student loan can be used to cover the cost of a pharmacy school education:

Tuition

As evidenced above, tuition is one of the biggest pharmacy school expenses that can be covered by a pharmacy school student loan. Since it can cost upwards of $200,000 to complete a pharmacy program, student loans can be helpful in covering that cost.

Fees

The term “fees” can sound a little bit elusive, and you typically see it thrown alongside the word “tuition.” The fees associated with attending pharmacy college vary based on the type of program the student attends, how many credit hours the student completes, and whether or not they’re an in-state or out-of-state student. In some cases, a pharmacy school may charge “comprehensive fees” that cover tuition, fees and room and board.

Books and Supplies

Pharmacy school student loans can be used to pay for books, supplies and other education-related expenses. To acquire the funds for books and supplies, pharmacy school student loans are first applied to a student’s tuition, required fees, and room and board bills. Then, any remaining funds get refunded to the borrower, either in the form of a check or through direct deposit. From there, the money can be used to pay for books and supplies.

Recommended: How to Pay for College Textbooks

Living Costs

Room and board is another expense that can be paid for with pharmacy school loans. Students can use their borrowed funds to pay for student housing — whether that’s in a dorm room or an off-campus apartment with roommates.

Pharmacy School Student Loans: Pros & Cons

Pros of Using Pharmacy School Student Loans

Cons of Using Pharmacy School Student Loans

Help people pay for pharmacy school when they don’t otherwise have the financial resources to do so. Can be expensive to repay.
Open up more possibilities for the type of pharmacy school a person can attend, regardless of the cost. Can put borrowers into substantial amounts of debt.
Cover a wide range of expenses — from tuition and fees to school supplies, room and board. Borrowers might have to forego other financial goals to pay off pharmacy school student loans.
Paying off pharmacy school student loans can help build credit. Late payments or defaulting on a pharmacy school student loan can damage credit.

Pros of Using a Pharmacy School Student Loan

Using a pharmacy school loan comes with a few pros:

Student Loans for Pharmacy School Can Be Forgiven

In terms of pharmacists student loan forgiveness, there are several options for newly graduated pharmacists who need some help paying off their pharmacy school loans.

Typically, these forgiveness programs are available on a state or federal level.

A few different pharmacy student loan forgiveness options include:

•   Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

•   HRSA’s Faculty Loan Repayment Program

•   National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Programs

•   Substance Use Disorder Workforce Loan Repayment Program

•   State-based student loan forgiveness programs

Salary

As mentioned above, the median pay for a pharmacist is around $128,710 per year. For a pharmacy school graduate with student loan debt, this salary range could mean the difference between paying off loans and still having money left in the budget for living expenses, an emergency fund, and other types of savings.

Credit Score

Paying off pharmacy school student loans can be one way for a borrower to boost their credit score. When building credit history, making on-time payments is a prominent factor, which can potentially have a beneficial effect on a borrower’s credit score. Although their credit score could face a minor dip right after paying off the loan, it should subsequently level out and eventually rise.

Pharmacy school student loans appear as “installment loans” on a person’s credit report, which can diversify the types of credit they manage, thus potentially improving their “credit mix.” Which could also help enhance their credit score.

Cons of Using a Pharmacy School Student Loan

Pharmacy school student loans can also come with a few cons:

Debt

Since a pharmacy school loan is an installment loan, it’s considered a form of debt. As such, potential pharmacists are signing a long-term contract to repay a lender for the money they borrow. Should they find themselves on uneven financial ground, they may end up missing a payment or defaulting on the loan altogether, which could have a damaging effect on their credit report.

Late Payment Penalties

Many pharmacy school student loan lenders dole out fees for late payments. The terms of the loan are outlined by the lender before the borrower signs the agreement, but it’s important to read the fine print because loan servicers can charge a late payment penalty of up to 6% of the missed payment amount.

Interest Rates

Student loans for graduate and doctoral degrees like pharmacy school have some of the highest interest rates of any type of student loan.

Even federally subsidized Grad PLUS Loans have a fixed interest rate of 7.05% for the 2023-2024 school year, which could cause a pharmacy school student loan balance to climb high over time.

Recommended: Grad PLUS Loans, Explained

Average Interest Rates for Pharmacy School Student Loans

Pharmacy students have a variety of student loan options available to them. This table details the interest rate on different types of federal student loans that might be used to pay for a portion of pharmacy school.

Loan Type

Interest Rate for the 2023-2024 School Year

Direct Loans for Undergraduate Students 5.50%
Direct Loans for Graduate and Professional Students 7.05%
Direct PLUS Loans for Graduate Students 8.05%

Private student loans are another option that may help pharmacy students pay for their college education. The interest rates on private student loans are determined by the lender based on factors specific to the individual borrower, such as their credit and income history.

Paying for Pharmacy School

Before looking into an undergraduate student loan option or a graduate student loan option, potential pharmacists might be able to secure other sources of funding to help them pay for pharmacy school.

Scholarships

Scholarships are funds used to pay for undergraduate or graduate school that do not need to be repaid to the provider.

They can be awarded based on many different types of criteria, from grade point average (GPA) to athletic performance to acts of service, chosen field of study, and more. Scholarships might be offered by a college or university, organization, or institution.

For potential pharmacy school students, there are several available options for scholarships through their individual states and other providers. The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) is a great resource for finding a pharmacy school scholarship.

Grants

Unlike scholarships or loans, grants are sources of financial aid from colleges, universities, state/federal government, and other private or nonprofit organizations that do not generally need to be repaid.

The AACP breaks down grants and awards for health profession students and government subsidized grants for pharmacy school students on their website.

Recommended: The Differences Between Grants, Scholarships, and Loans

State Pharmacy School Loans

Some potential pharmacists may be eligible to participate in a state student loan program. The cost of attending a state pharmacy school will vary depending on whether or not the student lives in the same state as the school, so researching the accredited pharmacy programs by state can help them determine how much they’ll need to borrow.

Federal Pharmacy School Loans

The U.S. Department of Education offers Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans to undergraduate and graduate pharmacy school students. The school will determine the loan type(s) and amount a pharmacy school student can receive each academic year, based on information provided by the student on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

PLUS Loans are another federal pharmacy school loan option, eligible to graduate or professional students through schools that participate in the federal Direct Loan Program.

Recommended: Types of Federal Student Loans

Private Pharmacy School Loans

A private student loan is another way for students to pay for pharmacy school. When comparing private student loans vs. federal student loans, it’s important to note that because private loans are not associated with the federal government, interest rates, repayment terms. Benefits also vary depending on the lender. For these reasons, private student loans are considered an option only after all other financing sources have been exhausted.

When applying for a private pharmacy school loan, a lender will usually review the borrower’s credit score and financial history, among other factors.

Private pharmacy school student loans can help bridge the gap between other payment options like the ones listed above, and give potential pharmacists the opportunity to shop around for the option that works best for them.

Income-Driven Repayment Plans

Income-driven repayment plans in particular help borrowers qualify for lower monthly payments on their pharmacy school loans if their total debt at graduation exceeds their annual income.

Here are the four income-driven repayment plans available for federal student loans:

•   Income-Based Repayment (IBR

•   Pay As You Earn (PAYE)

•   Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)

•   Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

The Takeaway

Nearly 85% of pharmacy school graduates have student loans, according to the AACP. Pharmacy school loans can be used to pay for tuition and fees, living expenses, and supplies like books or required lab equipment. Federal student loans can be used in combination with any scholarships and grants the student may qualify for. If you find yourself still looking for a way to pay for your pharmacy school education after exhausting scholarships, grants, and federal student loans, a private student loan option might be an option to consider.

With SoFi’s private student loans, you get a six-month grace period post-graduation before you start thinking about repayment. Interested applicants can find out their rate in just a few minutes.

Learn more about borrowing a SoFi private student loan.

FAQ

How long does it take to pay off pharmacy school loans?

Depending on the type of pharmacy school loan you take out (private vs. federal) and when the funds were distributed, it can take between five and 30 years to repay a pharmacy school student loan.

How can I pay for pharmacy school?

There are several ways to pay for pharmacy school, including federal student loans, private pharmacy school loans, scholarships, grants, and personal savings.

What is the average student loan debt for pharmacy school?

According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the average student loan debt for pharmacy graduates is $173,561.


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SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


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Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


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Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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5 Smart Ways to Pay for Law School

5 Smart Ways to Pay for Law School

When you realize that the average tab for law school tuition approaches $50,000 a year (more than double the average cost of other graduate schools) you may wonder — how will I ever be able to pay for law school?

Fortunately, there are numerous programs that can cover part, or even all, of your legal education, including scholarships, grants, and loans. Read on to learn more about how to pay for law school without going broke.

Average Cost of Law School

The cost of law school will vary depending on where you study. According to educationdata.org, the average total cost of law school is $220,335.

Tuition alone runs, on average, $146,484 (or $48,828 per year), while living expenses average $73,851(or $24,617 per year).

And the cost of law school keeps going up. In fact, law school tuition costs have risen by about $5,350 every five years since 2005. Based on that inflation rate, the average yearly cost of tuition for the 2024-2025 academic year is expected to be $51,624.

Private and Public Law School Tuition

Public law schools generally run about $21,130 a year less per year than private law schools. If you attend a traditional three-year law program, the gap between public and private schools increases to around $63,380.
Based on tuition alone, the most expensive law school is Columbia University at $78,278 a year, while the least expensive is University of Memphis at $12,208 a year.

However, when you include living expenses, the most expensive law school is Stanford University, ringing in at $46,233 a year, while the least costly school is Oklahoma City University, at $12,600 a year for tuition and living expenses.


💡 Quick Tip: You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

How to Pay for Law School

1. Apply for Federal Aid, Grants, and Scholarships

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows you to find out whether you qualify for federal grants, work-study programs, federal student loans, as well as student aid from your state or school.

The FAFSA may be a familiar presence since your undergrad days, but now you may be considered an independent student. You may be eligible for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan (current rate: 7.05%), Direct PLUS Loan (current rate: 8.05%), or the federal work-study program.

Keep in mind that the aggregate federal student loan limit, which includes federal loans for undergraduate study, is $138,500 for graduate or professional students.

Law schools also typically offer some form of need-based financial aid based on information you provide on your FAFSA.

In addition to submitting the FAFSA, you may also want to seek out law school scholarships and grants from non-government sources. Grants and scholarships can be particularly helpful because they don’t require repayment. The Law School Admission Council’s website is a good resource for possible scholarship opportunities.

If you’re going into public interest law, you may also want to research the many programs that offer tuition assistance or law school loan forgiveness for working in eligible legal areas.

You can also check whether your school offers graduate student assistantships, which would cover some of your tuition in exchange for helping with research or teaching.

Recommended: Guide to Law School Scholarships

2. Consider a Part-Time Job or Temp Work

It can be challenging to make a side job jibe with your academic responsibilities, but if you can manage it, making some money while you’re still in school can be one of the best ways to reduce the debt you take on.

It might be a good idea to see if you can get a job that also boosts your résumé, such as working for a professor or as a paralegal.

Even if you can’t commit to a consistent job, you might consider temping during breaks, slow periods, and summers. A staffing agency may be able to quickly set you up with work that lasts just a few weeks or months. Short-term work can include customer service, data entry, or serving as an executive assistant.

If you have additional skills, such as a background in accounting or IT, you may be able to qualify for more specialized roles that demand higher pay. Some temp agencies even specialize in staffing for legal organizations.

3. Attend Law School Part Time

It’ll take longer to complete your degree, but working full time while you go to law school part time is another way to support yourself as you go.

Part-time programs usually allow you to earn your J.D. in four years rather than three. The downside is that you might miss out on opportunities such as clinics, summer clerkships, and student organizations.

4. Look Into Military Aid

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has many educational benefit programs. One of the most popular is the Post-9/11 GI Bill program (Chapter 33), which provides eligible veterans and members of the Reserves with funding for tuition, fees, books, and housing.

Law schools that participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program provide additional funding to veterans, or their children, who are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs matches these schools’ contribution, which could potentially help you to attend law school at a significantly reduced price.

Recommended: What Are Student Loans for Military Dependents?

5. Think About Private Student Loans or Refinancing

After grants, scholarships, and federal student loans, you may want to consider a private student loan to fill any gaps. If you have good or excellent credit (or can recruit a cosigner who does), you may be able to get a lower rate than some federal graduate school loans.

If you have loans from your undergraduate education or your first year or two of law school, refinancing your student loans with a private lender may allow you to take advantage of a lower interest rate and, depending on the loan term you choose, could lower your monthly payment or put you on track to repay your loans faster. (Note: You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.)

Just keep in mind that private student loans don’t offer the same protections you get with federal loans, such as forbearance, income-based repayment plans, and loan forgiveness programs. However, some private refinance lenders provide flexible options while you’re in school or experiencing economic hardship.


💡 Quick Tip: It’s a good idea to understand the pros and cons of private student loans and federal student loans before committing to them.

When we say no fees we mean it.
No origination fees, late fees, & insufficient fund
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Paying for Bar Exam Expenses

Sitting for the bar exam, a two-day affair, requires preparation (and often a bar review course), exam registration fees, and possibly travel expenses.

You may want to hunt around for bar preparation scholarships to help cover these costs. If you’re working for a law firm, your employer will usually cover the cost of the prep course. And many firms will pay review course fees for prospective employees.

Still, if you find yourself short, you could take out a “bar loan” in your final semester of law school or up to a year after graduating. A bar loan is a type of private loan you can use to cover all the costs associated with taking the bar. While rates can be high, they are generally lower than what you would pay with a credit card.

Recommended: What to Do After You Graduate From Law School

The Takeaway

While earning a law degree may lead to a lucrative career, figuring out how to pay for law school can be challenging. The good news is that there are numerous programs, including financial aid, work-study, scholarships, grants, and loans that can help you cover the cost of your legal degree.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

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How to Make Principal-Only Payments on Student Loans

Making principal-only payments on student loans (either monthly or just occasionally) can help speed up the payback time and lower your overall borrowing costs. But just making extra payments on your loan won’t necessarily lower your loan’s principal balance. You typically need to take a few extra steps to ensure that your extra payments actually go toward principal — and not interest on the loan.

Reed on to learn exactly what a principal-only student loan payment is and how to be sure you’re doing it right.

What Is a Principal-Only Student Loan Payment?

To understand what principal-only payments are, it helps to understand how student loan repayment works.

When you take out a student loan, you need to repay the principal balance. (the amount you borrowed), interest (the cost of borrowing the principal) and, in some cases, fees (which are often paid up front).

When it’s time to start repaying your student loan, you are usually required to make at least a minimum payment each month. That payment will go towards both your principal balance and interest. In the beginning, most of your payment will go toward interest and very little towards principal. Over time, however, the balance shifts — more of your monthly payment will go toward principal and less will go towards interest.

Fortunately, student loans have no prepayment penalties. This means that If you make an extra, principal-only payment, it will lower the principal balance of your loan, and the lender will not be able to charge you a fee for paying some of your loan off early.

Unfortunately, when a lender receives a payment beyond the minimum due each month, they may simply apply it to next month’s bill rather than use that money to lower your principal. This means there are certain steps you need to take to make sure the money will only go towards principal (more on that below).

💡 Quick Tip: Pay down your student loans faster with SoFi reward points you earn along the way.

Why Making Principal-Only Payments Can Make a Difference

Since interest on a student loan is calculated daily on the principal balance at that time, the less principal you have left to pay, the lower your interest costs. As a result, paying extra on your student loan — and having that money go directly to the principal — can save you a significant amount of money. It also helps you pay off your student loans faster.

Of course, not everyone is in a position to pay more than the required amount in any given month, and that’s fine, too. You might simply choose to use an occasional windfall — such as a bonus at work or a cash gift — to make a principal-only payment on your student loans.

Recommended: 9 Smart Ways to Pay Off Student Loans

How to Make Principal-Only Payments on Student Loans

Just making an extra payment on your student loan doesn’t necessarily mean you are making a principal-only payment.

Generally, student loan servicers apply your payments first to cover any late fees you’ve incurred and then to accrued interest before they apply anything to your principal. Here are some tips that can help ensure any extra payments you make go toward your principal.

Tell Your lender Where to Direct Extra Payments

If you pay online through the servicer’s website, you might have the option to choose how the money gets applied. There may be an option that says “other amount” where you can enter an extra amount you want to pay towards your loan that month, as well as where that money should be applied, such as to the interest only, the interest and principal, or just the principal.

In some cases, you might see an option for “Do not advance the due date.” Clicking this will ensure that your lender treats your funds as an extra payment rather than applying them toward next month’s bill.

If you want to make a larger payment every month and have the extra applied to principal, you may also have the option of setting up standing instructions online, telling your servicer to send any extra money towards the principal.

If you pay by check or don’t see these options online, you’ll need to contact your loan servicer and ask how to make occasional or regular principal-only payments. You may need to send a standing order in writing.

Apply Extra Payments Strategically

If you have more than one student loan, you can typically request that your student loan servicer apply your extra payments to a specific loan (such as the loan with the highest interest rate) in order to ensure you can save money and meet your debt repayment goals.

There are two common approaches to paying down debt on multiple loans:

•   The snowball method This involves paying off the smallest loan first, then moving on to the next-biggest loan. This approach can give you a sense of making progress, and motivate you to keep going.

•   The avalanche method This tackles the loan with the highest interest rate first. Putting extra payments on the most expensive loan will save you the most money. However, it won’t allow you to cross a loan off your list as quickly.

Recommended: 6 Strategies to Pay off Student Loans Quickly

Keep a Close Eye on Your Statements

To make sure your principal-only payment was just that — it went to principal only — it’s a good idea to check your online account or loan statements each month to make sure any extra payments you made were correctly applied. You’ll also want to make sure the money was applied to the loan you specified.

If your lender didn’t apply your extra payment to the principal balance, you’ll want to reach out to ensure that future payments are accurately applied.

💡 Quick Tip: Federal student loans carry an origination or processing fee (1.057% for Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized loans first disbursed from Oct. 1, 2020, through Oct. 1, 2024). The fee is subtracted from your loan amount, which is why the amount disbursed is less than the amount you borrowed. That said, some private student loan lenders don’t charge an origination fee.

Consider Refinancing Student Loans for Better Rates

Making principal only payments isn’t the only way to lower your interest costs and/or pay off your loan early. You might also be able to do this by refinancing your student loans with a private lender, such a bank, credit union, or online lender.

With a student loan refinance, you exchange one or more of your old loans for a new one, ideally with a lower rate or better terms. This process can be helpful if you have a solid credit score (or have a cosigner who does), since it might qualify you for a lower interest rate. In addition, you could choose a shorter repayment term to get out of debt faster.

You can refinance both federal and private student loans. Keep in mind, however, that refinancing federal student loans can result in a loss of certain borrower protections, such as income-driven repayment and student loan forgiveness. Because of this, you’ll want to consider the potential downsides of refinancing before making changes to your debt.

The Takeaway

The thought of finding extra money — beyond your required monthly payment — to pay down student debt may be daunting. But the benefits could make it worth the effort and sacrifice. Making principal-only payments will help reduce the interest you pay over the life of your student loan. And, the more often you pay down your principal balance, the faster you’ll pay off your student loans.

If you choose to make principal-only payments, you’ll want to communicate with your lender to make sure that those additional payments are applied only to your loan’s outstanding principal.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.



SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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