woman studying

How to Study for the MCATs

So you want to go to medical school and become a doctor? Then you know that the MCAT, a rigorous test, is likely in your future. Since it’s an important qualifying test for medical school and can be challenging, you likely want to arm yourself with info and prepare well for it.

Here, you’ll learn some of the most important information, such as:

•   What are the MCATs

•   How to start studying for the MCATs

•   How to pay for the MCATs and medical school.

Read on, and hey: You’ve got this!

What Are the MCATs?

MCAT stands for Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®). The test, which the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) creates and administers every year, is multiple-choice and standardized. Some important facts:

•   Medical schools have been utilizing it for more than 90 years to determine which students should gain admission.

•   Most medical schools in the United States and some in Canada will require that students take the MCATs. Every year, more than 85,000 prospective medical school students take it.

•   There are four sections to the MCATs:

◦   Critical analysis and reasoning skills

◦   Biological and biochemical functions of living systems

◦   Chemical and physical foundations of biological systems

◦   Psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior.

•   Students will receive five scores: one for each section, and then one total score.

◦   In each section, they can get a score ranging from 118 to 132, and the total score ranges from 472 to 528.

◦   Generally, a competitive MCAT score is a total of 511 or above, which would place a student in the 81st percentile.

The average MCAT score for all medical school applicants is currently 501.3. Usually, students will receive scores 30 to 35 days after they take the exam.

Keep in mind that MCAT scores, while important, are just one part of a medical school application. Medical schools often review other factors, including things like a student’s:

•   GPA

•   Undergraduate coursework

•   Experience related to the medical field, including research and volunteer work

•   Letters of recommendation

•   Extracurricular activities

•   Personal statement.

Because of this array of inputs, If a student has a high GPA from a competitive undergraduate school, for instance, and they don’t score very high on the MCATs, they may still have a chance of getting into a medical school.

Getting a competitive score on the MCAT can give applicants an edge, especially when applying to ultra-competitive medical schools. One way students can help improve their chances of getting a desirable score on the MCAT is to learn how to study for the unique demands of this test.


💡 Quick Tip: Ready to refinance your student loan? You could save thousands.

Studying for the MCAT

One of the first things a student can do when determining how to prepare for the MCAT is to create a study plan. A well-crafted study plan will review what materials the student should review in order to prepare for the exam.

That said, there’s no one best way to prep for the MCAT. Consider these options; you might use one or a variety of techniques.

The AAMC Website

One great place to get started is the AAMC website, which provides an in-depth outline of the test on their website. Obviously, the same questions students will see on the actual exam won’t be listed, but sample questions that are similar to the real questions are. Students may find helpful tutorials and other content as well.

Online Resources

There are a variety of other online resources students can explore to help them review. For example, the AAMC currently recommends students take a look at Khan Academy’s MCAT Video Collection, where there are more than 1,000 videos as well as thousands of questions that students can use to review.

There are also MCAT study apps like MCAT Prep from Varsity Tutors and MCAT Prep by Magoosh that students can download and use to study.

Books, Textbooks, and Class Resources

How else to prep for the MCATs? It may also help to buy or borrow books from the library that go into detail on the MCAT. One word of advice: Students should just make sure that the books they’re reading are up to date. Information (and the MCAT) get refreshed often; you don’t want to be studying yesterday’s medical data.

It can also be helpful to review class notes and study guides from courses you’ve taken that are related to MCAT materials. Some schools have study groups and other academic support resources for students who are studying for the MCAT. If you’re currently enrolled in classes, take a look to see what might be offered at your campus. You might luck out with some great ways to learn more.

Practice Tests

AAMC offers official sample MCAT practice exams online. You can access two for free, and others for a cost of $35 each. Taking practice tests can help students familiarize themselves with the exam. Taking practice tests can also be important in helping students understand the timing of each section.

Study Groups and Tutors

Here are other ideas for how to start studying for the MCAT:

•   Getting an MCAT tutor who has taken the test could also be helpful. A tutor will generally be able to provide guidance on what kind of questions a student can expect. Plus, they will likely have hands-on experience with effective methods and tips for studying.

If you decide that how to prep for the MCAT should involve a tutor, ask friends and fellow students who have taken the MCATs recently for recommendations. There are also test preparation companies that provide resources for students to find tutors online or in person. Do check reviews and references.

•   Study groups can also be a tool to help students who are preparing for the MCATs. Students can find others who are on the same path and work together to build proficiency. If possible, find a group where each student has a different strength and weakness. This can maximize students learning from one another.

•   It may help to use a shared calendar or another tool to make sure everyone is on the same page for dates, times, and locations for when the study group will meet.

•   Want to find a study group as part of how to prepare for the MCATs? Search engines, professors’ recommendations, school bulletin boards/online groups, and fellow students are good bets.



💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.

Important Dates to Keep in Mind

Now that you know the ins and outs of preparing for the MCAT, what about taking the test itself? Students can take the MCATs several times throughout the year, from late January through September. There are hundreds of test locations around the U.S. and Canada as well as select locations around the globe.

If a student’s preferred MCAT test date or location is not available, they can sign up for email notifications to see if it becomes available down the line.

Recommended: Refinancing Student Loans During Medical School

Paying for the MCATs and Medical School

As you explore the best way to prepare for the MCAT and plan your medical school journey, you’ll likely be keeping costs in mind. Here are details to note.

Paying for the MCATs

The registration fee for the MCAT exam is $330, and that includes distribution of scores. There may be additional fees for changes to a registration, a late registration, and for taking the test at international sites.

The AAMC does offer a Fee Assistance Program to students who are struggling to pay for the test and/or medical school applications. To be eligible for the Fee Assistance Program, students must meet the following eligibility requirements:

•   Be a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident of the US.

•   Meet specific income guidelines for their family size.

Note that the Fee Assistance Program will review financial information of the student and the student’s parents, even if the student is considered independent.

Keep in mind that along with the MCAT fee, applying to medical school can be quite expensive. Most medical schools in the US utilize the AAMC’s American Medical College Application Service® (AMCAS®). To apply to medical schools, students will generally pay a first-time application fee of $170, as well as $40 for each additional school.

Some medical schools may require a secondary application, and those fees range depending on the school. Students may also need additional money to travel to and tour schools.

Recommended: Cash Course: A Student Guide to Money

Medical School Costs

The application process is just one portion of the expense of med school. After being accepted, there’s the cost of tuition, books, and more, and these medical school costs have been rising steeply lately.

•   The average cost of the first year of medical school at a public school with in-state tuition is $67,641, which includes tuition, fees, and living expenses.

•   The average cost for the first-year at a private medical school is $93,186. The average debt for medical school graduates is currently $202,453. Debt after medical school can go even higher when you add in undergraduate loans.

Obviously, that’s a significant number and can make you wonder how to pay for medical school. First, do remember that medical school is a path to a rewarding and challenging career, as well as potentially a lucrative one. The average medical school graduate earns more than $150,000, with high earners enjoying salaries above the $400K mark, according to ZipRecruiter data.

Paying for School with the Help of SoFi

Paying for the MCATs and medical school can be a challenge. SoFi understands this, which is why they offer students private student loans and the opportunity to refinance their current student loans.

Keep in mind, however, that if you refinance with an extended term, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan. Also note that refinancing federal student loans means forfeiting their benefits and protections, so it may not be the right choice for everyone.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.


With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.



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.


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

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.

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.

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Tips For Navigating Life After College

Graduating college is a big deal. The time you spent in school has likely taught you a lot about the subjects you studied, being organized and meeting deadlines, and life in general. Once you have your degree, you’ll put those skills to good use as you embark on your career and independent life. No more dining hall, no more dorms…it’s time to launch adult life and figure out how to make your own way.

To help you deal with some of the basics (like a job and banking), read on. You’ll find valuable tips to help you through the first steps of post-grad life.

Life After College

Congrats on your degree! Now, on to the next challenge after graduating college. It’s time to tackle adulting, which can include such things as getting set up in your new living situation, finding your favorite brunch spot, and making new friends if your college pals have scattered to different places.

In addition, there are some major daily-life tasks to wrangle:

•   Finding and holding a job

•   Taking control of your health and your health insurance

•   Keeping your brain active, which may lead to more studies

•   Managing your money.

Read on to get some helpful advice on these last four topics (you can probably find the best brunch spot in your new neighborhood without too much help).


💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.

Getting to Work

Hopefully you enjoyed a few weeks off post-grad to travel or kick back and relax after four years of hard work. But what to do after college for many people is find work.

When you’re ready to begin your job search, it can be a lot to process. Chances are, it’s time to focus on taking steps towards building your career.

First off, don’t let job searching stress you out. New grads are in luck. Unemployment is low, and the labor market is strong. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, companies expected to hire almost 4% more class of 2023 grads than they did from the previous class.

Not sure where to look for work or what you should be earning? Research, network, and research some more.

•   Your school’s career services office may provide job leads, and its alumni office may be able to network you with people in your field who can share insights.

•   Search for jobs online. There are many job boards, such as Indeed and ZipRecruiter, to access.

•   Put out the word among friends, families, past internship supervisors, and others.

•   To gain intel on starting salaries, try an online salary calculator. You provide some basic info like your location and experience, and their tool tells you what the average salary for your desired role is. While this tool can only provide an estimate, it may help you determine if you should try to negotiate for a higher salary when you receive a job offer.

Taking Your Health into Your Own Hands

As part of learning how to navigate life on your own, make sure you take the reins of your healthcare. Mom and Dad likely aren’t scheduling those biannual dental checkups for you anymore.

Whether you’re still on your parent’s policy or are buying your own health insurance, getting more familiar with the resources your healthcare plan provides is never a bad idea.

It can help you stay on top of scheduling check ups, dental cleanings, and eye exams. You may also need to learn the ropes of finding in-network doctors as you move to a new place or get your own policy.

And you might want to start saving for any unexpected medical or dental bills that may arise. Having an emergency fund at the ready can be an important step to financial wellness in this new chapter of your life.

Speaking of wellness: You may feel swamped by post-grad life, but it’s such an important time to prioritize your well-being. It might be helpful to make time to go to the gym each week, meditate, cook healthy meals, and get a good night’s sleep. Getting into good health habits is an excellent adulting accomplishment.


💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.

Continuing Your Learning

It’s normal after college to need a little break from learning. For the first time in your life, there is no one telling you what to read or what classes you have to take. But once the dust has settled and you’ve had a rest from hitting the books, you might try to prioritize learning. Not only does it keep your brain sharp, it can also help boost your career.

For example, you could consider obtaining a professional license related to your career or industry. According to the most recent intel from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24% of workers have some sort of professional license or certification. Having one may give you a competitive boost at work or while job searching. You can go the extra mile to develop more skills needed in your career through an online class or professional conference.

What’s more, additional learning and training could lead to a profitable side hustle or gig work. For instance, you might be able to pick up extra cash during tax season supporting professional tax preparers.

Learning-wise, not all of what you do after graduation has to go towards career advancement, of course. Take that cool history of film class at your local community college. Join a book club or just load up your bookshelf with books you’re dying to read. Exploring your passions can help you feel motivated, fulfilled, and inspired. Now is the time in your life to open doors, not close them.

Recommended: What Should I Do After My Master’s Degree?

Getting Your Finances Organized

Once you graduate from college and join the working world, it’s likely time to look at whether your current banking partner suits your needs.

It can be a wise move to look for a bank that offers a good interest rate on your deposits, convenient access, and tools that help you track your money in a quick and convenient way.

As you organize your money (and don’t forget to start that emergency fund mentioned above), you may realize that one expense that may really be bringing you down is your student loan debt payments.

The average federal student loan debt is currently $37,338, according to the Education Data Initiative. Is student loan debt weighing you down? There are a few strategies you can use to help pay off your student loan debt quicker. You might start your journey to a student loan-free life by creating a monthly budget that can help you get out of debt.

•   To create a budget that can assist with paying off debt, you could start by gathering all of your bills and recent receipts. Review exactly what you need to spend on necessary living expenses (rent, food, health insurance, minimum debt payments), how much you are spending on the wants in life (travel, entertainment, clothing), and how much you can save or put toward additional debt payment.

•   There are different budgeting methods, and it’s a good idea to spend a bit of time finding the one that works for you. For instance, you might like the 50/30/20 budget rule, which says to allocate 50% of your take-home pay to necessities, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings and extra debt payoff.

Whichever technique you choose, do compare the cost of your living expenses to your paystubs to see how much you can afford to pay towards debt each month. Creating a budget can help you not only pay off your debt, but avoid accumulating more debt in the future.

Recommended: Which Debt to Pay Off First: Student Loan or Credit Card?

The Takeaway

Once you have your monthly budget under control, you might be considering refinancing your student loans as part of how you navigate life post-college. You may be able to lower your interest rate, lower your monthly payments by extending your repayment term, or release a co-signer from a previous loan.

Do note that lengthening your repayment term can increase the interest you’ll pay throughout the life of your loan.

Refinancing comes with many benefits, but keep in mind that you lose federal benefits and protections when you refinance federal loans with a private lender. But if you are not planning on taking advantage of these benefits, refinancing might be for you.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


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.


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

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.

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.

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Strategies for Lowering Your Student Loan Interest Rate

When you’re in college, you don’t have a lot of control over the interest rates on your student loans. With federal loans, the U.S. Department of Education sets the rate each year for all borrowers. And if you get private student loans, a limited credit history can make it hard for young people to score favorable terms.

But once you graduate, there are a few things you can try to save money on interest. Here are a few tips that may lower your interest rate on student loans.

Refinancing Your Student Loans

Scoring discounts with your current servicer can help you get a lower student loan interest rate, but there is another option to consider. Depending on your financial profile, you may qualify for a lower student loan interest rate than what you’re currently paying with student loan refinancing.

There are multiple advantages to refinancing student loans. You can potentially lower your interest rate by bundling several loans (federal and private) into one new loan. And if you shorten your loan term, you may be able to pay off your student loans much faster and pay less in interest over the life of your loan.

Student Loan RefinancingStudent Loan Refinancing

Student loan refinancing is ideal for borrowers with high-interest student loans who have good credit scores and know they won’t use any of the federal loan benefits, like student loan forgiveness. (All federal loan benefits, including income-based repayment, will be lost if you refinance.)

Here are a few things that can help you improve your chances of getting a lower student loan interest rate with refinancing:

•   A high credit score: Lenders typically have a minimum credit score requirement, so the higher your score, the better your chances of getting a low rate usually are.

•   A low debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: Your income is also an important factor that lenders consider, especially as it relates to your overall debt burden. If a smaller portion of your monthly income goes toward debt payments, it shows you may have more income to dedicate to your new loan’s payments.

•   A co-signer: Even if your credit and income situation is in good shape, having a co-signer with great credit and a solid income might help your case.

•   A variable rate: Some student loan refinance lenders offer both variable and fixed interest rates. Variable interest rates may start out lower but increase over time with market fluctuations. Fixed rates, stay the same over the life of the loan. If you’re planning on paying off your student loans quickly, a variable rate might save you money.

•   The right lender: Each lender has its own criteria for setting interest rates, so it’s important to shop around to find the best lender for your needs. Some lenders, including SoFi, even allow you to view rate offers before you officially apply.


💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.

Consolidate Your Student Loans

Have multiple student loans floating around that you’d love to combine into one? Consider loan consolidation, where you’ll merge all your student loans into one easy monthly payment with a single interest rate. Here’s the rub, though: Consolidation alone does not necessarily get you a lower student loan interest rate. It just offers you one payment instead of multiple.

When consolidating federal student loans, you can use a Direct Consolidation Loan. Your new interest rate is simply the weighted average of all your current student loan interest rates. The weighted average might be a smidge higher than the interest rates you were paying previously. Often folks utilize consolidation to stretch out the life of their student loan, which lowers your payments but may increase the amount you owe over time.

Even though consolidation itself is not a direct way to get a better rate on your student loans, it can be helpful if you’re having trouble keeping track of your monthly payments. Consolidation may also be useful if you want to merge non-direct federal loans (like Perkins loans) with direct loans, in order to qualify for income-driven repayment and/or loan forgiveness programs.

By the way, the term “consolidating” is often used interchangeably with “refinancing,” but they technically mean different things. When refinancing student loans, you also happen to be consolidating, but it is done with the goal of achieving a more favorable interest rate on your student loans.

Recommended: The Basics of the Student Loans

Set Up Automatic Payments

Many student loan servicers — both federal and private — offer an interest rate discount if you set up autopay on your account. Depending on the servicer, you can lower your student loan interest rate. SoFi, for example, offers a 0.25% autopay discount.

The reason servicers offer this discount is that by setting up automatic payments, you’re less likely to miss payments and default on the loan.

In addition to getting a lower student loan interest rate, you’ll also (hopefully!) have peace of mind knowing that you won’t accidentally miss a payment. If you feel you’re putting a little too much money toward student loans, check with your loan servicer to see whether they offer an autopay discount.


💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.

Get a Loyalty Discount

In addition to an autopay discount, some private student loan companies also offer a loyalty discount when you have another eligible account with them.

If you’re already a member with SoFi, for instance, you receive an interest rate discount of 0.125% on all new loans.

Other lenders may require that you have an eligible checking or savings account with them to qualify for the bonus, and you may even get a bigger discount if you make your monthly payments from that account.

To get an idea of how a change in interest rate would impact your loan, take advantage of a student loan refinance calculator to see what your new payments could be.

Choose the Right Repayment Plan

If you don’t choose a specific repayment path, you’re typically opted into the Standard Repayment Plan. In this plan, your payments are generally based on a 10-year timeline. But this one-size-fits-all plan is not the best option for everyone.

The federal government also offers four income-driven repayment (IDR) plans — Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) — where the monthly payments are based on your income and family size. While choosing one of these plans may lower your monthly payments, it will likely not alleviate how much interest you pay over time. In fact, you might even pay significantly more.

After 20 or 25 years, depending on the IDR plan, any remaining balance is forgiven. However, the amount forgiven may be considered taxable income by the IRS. So even though your student loan debt goes away, prepare yourself for a big tax bill that year.

Another money-saving repayment option for federal student loans is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. If you work in a qualifying public service job — for the government or a nonprofit organization — you might be eligible to have your student loans forgiven after 10 years of service.

You can confirm whether your work qualifies here. You’ll want to submit an Employment Certification as soon as possible to be sure that you’re on track to qualify.

Recommended: 4 Student Loan Repayment Options, and How to Choose

Lower Your Student Loan Interest Rate

There are several ways to get a lower student loan interest rate. It can be as easy as calling your servicer to find out what discounts are available. You can also choose a new repayment plan, consolidate your federal loans, or refinance federal and private loans. With refinancing, you may secure a lower interest rate if you have a high credit score, low debt-to-income ratio, a cosigner, or a variable interest rate. Just know that when refinancing federal student loans, borrowers lose federal protections and forgiveness.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


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.


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

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.

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.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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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Making Sense of the Rising Cost of Medical School

Making Sense of the Rising Cost of Medical School

The costs of medical school are rising at an alarming rate. According to Education Data, the cost of attending medical school rises by $1,500 per year.

Thirty-five years ago, medical students graduated with an average of $32,000 in student loan debt. Now, the average medical school debt for graduates is $202,450, according to the Education Data Initiative, with 73% of students graduating with debt.

The rising cost of medical school, plus the daunting number of years of education and training, is making some prospective medical students ask: Is an MD really worth it? That’s ultimately up to you.

It’s also worth noting that while medical school has traditionally been a path to a lucrative career, the steep up-front costs might be starting to make the endgame look less appealing.

This can be particularly true for would-be doctors interested in working in relatively low-paying fields, such as general practice (as compared to, say, anesthesiology).

While it might be relatively easy to pay down student loan debt for those entering a higher-paying specialty, a doctor going into general practice might take years (even decades!) to pay off their student loans.

To gain a better understanding of how much medical school actually costs, we’ll take a look at the costs of an MD, and some ways young doctors can get out of medical school debt faster after graduation.

How Much Does Medical School Cost?

The average medical school tuition varies depending on factors like whether the student is attending a public or private university.

The average total cost of in-state tuition for a student at a public university is $159,620. At a private school, the average total cost is $256,412.

But that’s only the cost of tuition, fees, and insurance — there’s also living costs to consider, which is why it’s useful to consider the entire cost of attendance (COA).

Each school publishes the estimated costs of attendance for their program, which typically not only include tuition and fees, but also costs like room and board, textbooks and supplies, and travel.

Why Is Medical School More Expensive Than Ever?

The rising cost of medical school tuition is part of a larger trend. It is estimated that the cost of college tuition and fees at private, nonprofit, four-year institutions in America grew at a rate of 3.5% from the 2021-2022 school years.

So what is driving the price increase? In general, college tuition has increased dramatically in the past 30 years, while wages have grown at a much slower rate. But what’s behind the dramatic uptick in college prices? The potential answer is two-fold. One factor is the demand for a college education has also dramatically risen over the last three decades.

Another factor more pertinent to public universities: a decline in state funding. It’s been observed in multiple states that as the education budget gets stripped, tuition costs paid by students also rises. And while lawmakers likely understand such a correlation exists, as long as federal financial aid is so freely available for students, there is likely little incentive to digress from such cuts.

How Long Does Paying for Med School Take?

So why do med students often go into so much debt?

It’s partly because the grueling requirements of their programs don’t often allow for part-time work. As a result, many students apply for financial aid to cover their college price tag, which means they graduate with significant amounts of student loan debt.

How long does it take to pay back the debt? Much of this depends on the student, the career path they take, and the medical loan repayments they make. However, the relatively low salaries young doctors earn during their residencies don’t typically allow for much opportunity to pay back loans until their first position after residency.

Let’s say, hypothetically, a borrower has federal Direct Loans, such as Stafford, PLUS, or a Direct Consolidation Loan. And let’s also say you can prove you have partial financial hardship (PFH), and qualify for an income-driven repayment plan.

In that situation, the monthly repayment would be capped at 10-15% of the borrower’s monthly discretionary income for a period of up to 25 years. After the 25 years, whatever hasn’t been repaid is forgiven (although that amount may be taxable).

However, if after residency, the borrower in question gets a position with an income that removes them from the PFH tier, they could switch to the Standard Repayment Plan for federal student loans and potentially pay off the loan more quickly.

Is It Possible to Shorten the Medical Debt Payment Timeline?

Here are some tips for those interested and able to shorten their repayment timeline, which can lower the amount of student loan interest paid over the life of the loan.

Repaying Loans During Residency

It is possible to start paying down medical school debt in residency. While some students may be tempted to put their loans in student loan forbearance in their residency years, doing so can add quite a bit in compounding interest to the bill.

Instead, consider an income-driven repayment plan to start paying back federal loans with an affordable payment. Another option is to look into SoFi’s medical residency refinance options to compare. Keep in mind, though, that if you choose to refinance your federal student loans, you will no longer be eligible for federal benefits and protections, including income-driven repayment plans, deferment, and student loan forgiveness.

Making Extra Payments

Another tactic to help pay off student loans faster is via simple budgeting. After getting your first position post-residency, consider committing to living on a relatively tight budget for just a few more years. Putting as much salary toward extra student loan payments as possible could potentially help cut time — and interest payments — off the repayment timeline.

Speeding Up Med School Debt Repayment With Refinancing Student Loans

If you refinance your medical student loans, iit may be possible to secure a lower interest rate and/or a lower required monthly payment – depending on the terms you choose, your credit score, and other factors.

A lower interest rate could help reduce how much money is paid in interest over the life of the loan. Extending your loan term could mean a lower monthly payment – but keep in mind that you’ll most likely pay more in interest over the life of the loan.

While refinancing could help borrowers save money over the life of the loan, it does mean giving up the benefits that come with federal student loans, like income-driven repayment, deferment, forbearance, and student loan forgiveness specific to physicians.

But for borrowers who don’t foresee needing these services, refinancing might be a viable option.

The Takeaway

The cost of medical school has risen in the past 30 years, and so has the amount of debt med students take on to pursue a career as an MD. But a career in the medical field can potentially be both lucrative and rewarding, so for some, medical school can be worth the time, effort, and cost.

Borrowers who are repaying student loans from medical school may consider strategies like income-driven repayment plans, making overpayments, or student loan refinancing to help them tackle their student loan debt.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.


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.


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

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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Student Loan Forgiveness Tax Bomb, Explained

Are Forgiven Student Loans Taxed?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) generally requires that you report a forgiven or canceled debt as income for tax purposes. But forgiven student loan debt is different.

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act specifies that student loan debt discharged between 2021 and 2025, and incurred for postsecondary education expenses, will not be counted as income, and therefore does not incur a federal tax liability.

This includes federal Direct Loans, Family Federal Education Loans (FFEL), Perkins Loans, and federal consolidation loans. Additionally, non-federal loans such as state education loans, institutional loans direct from colleges and universities, and even private student loans also qualify.

However, some states have indicated that they still count canceled student loans as taxable income. Read on for more information about which discharged student debt is taxable and by whom.

Different Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Federal student debt can be canceled via an income-driven repayment plan (IDR) or forgiveness programs.

While President Joe Biden’s plan to offer federal debt cancellation of up to $20,000 to those with qualifying income failed — struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court — other forms of student loan forgiveness have been strengthened.

In October 2023, the White House announced at least $127 billion in student loan relief for nearly 3.6 million Americans:

•   $5.2 billion in additional debt relief for 53,000 borrowers under Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs.

•   Nearly $2.8 billion in new debt relief for nearly 51,000 borrowers through fixes to income-driven repayment. These are borrowers who made 20 years or more of payments but never got the relief they were entitled to.

•   $1.2 billion for nearly 22,000 borrowers who have a total or permanent disability who have been identified and approved for discharge through a data match with the Social Security Administration.

Recommended: Guide to Student Loan Forgiveness

Whose Student Loan Cancellation Is Not Federally Taxed?

As stated earlier, under the provisions of the ARP Act, any student debt (private or federal) for post-secondary education that was or is forgiven in the years of 2021 through 2025 will not be federally taxed. This means that the borrowers just listed above were not required to report their discharged loan amount as earned income, and therefore taxable.

Outside of the special five-year window of tax exemption provided by the ARP Act, participants in the Public Service Federal Loan program who receive forgiveness also don’t have to worry about paying taxes on the canceled amount. The program explicitly states that earned forgiveness through PSLF is not considered taxable income.

Recommended: A Look Into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

Whose Student Loan Cancellation Is Federally Taxed?

Borrowers who receive loan cancellation after participating fully in an income-driven loan repayment plan can generally expect to pay taxes. Again, those whose debt was discharged in 2021 and 2022, or will be discharged in 2023, 2024, or 2025, will not need to pay federal taxes on their forgiven loans.

Forgiven amounts that are taxable are treated as earned income during the fiscal year it was received. Your lender might issue tax Form 1099-C to denote your debt cancellation.


💡 Quick Tip: Enjoy no hidden fees and special member benefits when you refinance student loans with SoFi.

Which States Have Said They Will Tax Forgiven Student Loans?

Typically, states follow the tax policy of the federal government. But some states have announced that their residents must include their forgiven or canceled student loan amount on their state tax returns.

As of October 2023, the states that say forgiven loans are taxable are Mississippi, North Carolina, Indiana, Wisconsin, and possibly Arkansas, depending on an upcoming vote in its legislature. More states could decide to do so.

It’s important to consult a qualified tax accountant or someone knowledgeable about forgiveness of student loans in your state to confirm the latest information of how much you owe.

Preparing to Pay Discharged Student Loan Taxes

If you’re anticipating a tax liability after receiving loan forgiveness, there are a few steps you can take today to get ready.

Step 1: Estimate Your Bill

The first step when bracing for a student loan forgiveness tax bill is calculating how much you might owe come tax season. This factor can be influenced by factors including the type of forgiveness you are receiving and the forgiven amount.

To avoid sticker shock, you can use a student loan forgiveness tax calculator, like the Loan Simulator on StudentAid.gov. It lets you see how much of your student loan debt might be forgiven, based on your projected earnings.

Step 2: Choose the Right Plan

Enrolling your federal student loans into an IDR plan can help you keep your monthly payments to a manageable amount while you’re awaiting loan forgiveness. All of these repayment plans calculate your monthly payment based on your income and family size.

The newest IDR program is the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) plan, which offers unique benefits that will lower payments for many borrowers, to as low as 5% of disposable income in 2024 for those who qualify.

Recommended: The SAVE Plan: What Student Loan Borrowers Need to Know

Step 3: Prioritize Saving

If you’re expecting loan forgiveness after 2025, it might be advantageous to allocate extra cash flow toward a dedicated tax savings fund. Incrementally setting money aside over multiple years can ease the burden of a sudden lump sum tax bill down the line.

Paying Taxes on Canceled Student Loan

If you can’t afford to cover an increased tax bill, contact the IRS to discuss your options. Inquire about payment plans that can help you pay smaller tax payments over a longer period of time. However, be aware that fees and interest will likely accrue.


💡 Quick Tip: Refinancing could be a great choice for working graduates who have higher-interest graduate PLUS loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, and/or private loans.

The Takeaway

Thanks to a special law passed by Congress in 2021, post-secondary education loans forgiven from 2021 through 2025 will not count as earned income and will not be federally taxed. That said, state taxes may be due, depending on where the borrower lives.

Looking to lower your monthly student loan payment? Refinancing may be one way to do it — by extending your loan term, getting a lower interest rate than what you currently have, or both. (Please note that refinancing federal loans makes them ineligible for federal forgiveness and protections. Also, lengthening your loan term may mean paying more in interest over the life of the loan.) SoFi student loan refinancing offers flexible terms that fit your budget.

With SoFi, refinancing is fast, easy, and all online. We offer competitive fixed and variable rates.

FAQ

Is loan repayment considered taxable income?

If your employer offers loan repayment assistance benefits, they would typically be considered taxable income. However under the Cares Act, loan forgiveness payments — and employer assistance loan payments up to $5,250 — made each year from 2021 through 2025 are tax-free.

Will refinancing my student loans help me avoid taxes?

Student loan refinancing simply involves reworking one or more existing student loans into a new private loan with more favorable terms. It’s a repayment strategy that does not incur a tax liability.


Photo credit: iStock/fizkes

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.


Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

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

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

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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