Enrolling in veterinary school to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree means four years of additional coursework and clinical training beyond your undergraduate degree. The top options for paying for vet school involve accessing money you don’t have to pay back, such as scholarships, grants, and fellowships.
Many vet schools offer these types of awards based on academic achievement, financial need, clinical proficiency, leadership, and more. There are many other ways to pay for vet school in addition to these opportunities, such as through federal and private loans.
Read on to learn more ways on how to pay for vet school.
How Much Does Vet School Typically Cost?
In general, the cost of attendance (including tuition, fees and living expenses) for can vary widely, though is often upwards of $200,000 over for years. The VIN Foundations offers a comparison tool that provides information on vet school costs across the U.S. The cost of vet school can vary based on a number of factors, including whether you choose to attend an in-state vet school or a private school.
Continue reading for strategies to help students pay for veterinary school.
1. Choose an Affordable School
Choosing an affordable school means taking a look at a wide variety of colleges and universities and comparing the costs. Consider all costs involved, including tuition, fees, and living expenses. It’s a good idea to look beyond the sticker price on each school’s website — you may not pay the full sticker price.
Meeting with the financial aid office at each school will give you an idea about the types of financial aid you could potentially receive in order to offset the sticker price. Once you have an idea of the costs as they pertain to you, then you can more accurately compare the costs of vet schools.
When developing your list, consider looking at the list of American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-accredited schools in the United States. These schools have achieved the highest standards, commitment to quality, and continuous improvement for veterinary medical education.
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Scholarships are a form of financial aid that you don’t have to pay back. You can find scholarships from vet schools themselves as well as through independent sources.
Colleges and universities often offer scholarships to first year as well as currently enrolled students. For example, Cornell University offers a list of available scholarships on its financial aid website.
Each college and university has a different approach and criteria for awarding scholarships. Contact the financial aid office of the schools on your list to understand the eligibility factors and process that each school uses to award each scholarship. For example, first-year students at the Ohio State University receive scholarships during the admissions process for the first year, while second-, third-, and fourth-year veterinary students must fill out a separate scholarship application.
Outside scholarships may come from any source, including local veterinarian offices, kennel clubs, businesses, and professional organizations. For example, the AMVA-American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AMVF) offers scholarships for first- through third-year students.
Fellowships and externships for veterinary students usually occur during the summer and often involve research-based and specific career development opportunities. For example, the Ohio State University lists a variety of summer-based internships and externships available for students.
In another example, the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) and the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR) combined to create a three-month summer fellowship which focuses on food security on a global scale as well as sustainable animal production.
Various stipends are available for veterinary fellowships — it’s a matter of finding the right program to meet your goals.
If you receive grants, you typically do not have to pay them back. Grants for college are need-based awards, which means you’ll qualify for them based on the level of your financial need. Withdrawing from school or failing to maintain eligibility for the grant means you may have to refund part or all the grant.
You may qualify for grants your state government , your college or career school, or a private, corporate, or nonprofit organization. Veterinary schools often offer research opportunities for those who demonstrate financial need.
In order to qualify for federal grants, and possibly institutional grants, you’ll need to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). The FAFSA allows students to apply for all forms of federal financial aid, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans.
5. Federal Loans for Health Profession Students
Loans must be repaid with interest, but there are a wide variety of loans available for veterinary students, including federal student loans. Federal student loans come from the federal government.
Students can borrow up to $20,500 each year in Direct Unsubsidized Loans for veterinary school, up to a cumulative aggregate limit of $138,500. “Unsubsidized” means that the loan begins accruing interest immediately. The aggregate amount includes loans you received for student loans for undergrad.
As mentioned, you must file the FAFSA to qualify for federal loans for veterinary school.
The U.S. Department of Education isn’t the only government entity that offers loans. The Health Professional Student Loan (HPSL) is a need-based loan from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which offers help paying for pharmacy school as well as dentistry, podiatry, optometry, and veterinary loans.
For veterinary program students who apply , these loans come with a 5% interest rate (compared to current Direct Unsubsidized Loans at 5.28% and PLUS loans at 6.28%). The Department of Health and Human Services will consider your parents’ information to award HPSL funds. Interest does not accrue as long as you are enrolled at least half-time and there’s a 12-month grace period available as well.
There are other types of federal loans available. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) that offers up to $25,000 each year to veterinarians who agree to serve for three years in areas where a designated shortage of veterinarians occurs.
6. Graduate PLUS Loans
A Graduate PLUS Loan, also called a Direct PLUS loan, is also available to graduate or professional students enrolled at least half-time who do not have an adverse credit history and meet the general eligibility requirements for federal student aid.
The Graduate PLUS Loan, which can cover the full attendance for veterinary school (minus other aid received, such as scholarships, fellowships, grants, etc.) currently has a fixed interest rate of 6.28% for loans disbursed between July 1, 2021 and before July 1, 2022. Interest begins accruing as soon as your loan is disbursed.
Grad PLUS Loans are eligible for certain federal perks such as deferment programs and the opportunity to apply for loan discharge through programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
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7. Private Student Loans
Private student loans, which are not offered by the federal government, usually come with a higher interest rate than federal student loans. However, they may have their place in paying for veterinary school, particularly if you need to fill in other gaps between scholarships, federal student loans, grants, and other types of financial aid. It’s a good idea to compare the interest rates, fees, repayment terms, discharge options, and in-school repayment options for various private student loan lenders.
You can apply for a private student loan on a private student loan lender website. You’ll provide certain personal information as well as information about your vet school program, graduation date, and the loan amount you need. Requested personal information may include the following:
• Social Security number
• Proof of income
• Identification, such as a driver’s license or other government-issued ID
• Financial aid you expect to receive
You must also agree to the lender’s terms and conditions in order to receive the loan. Every student loan lender will have a slightly different process, so follow the steps for the student loan lender you choose.
Private student loans aren’t required to offer the same benefits or perks as federal student loans (things like income-driven repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness). For this reason, private student loans are generally considered an option after all other resources have been exhausted.
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How Much Can Vets Make?
The 2021 median veterinarian pay was $100,370 per year, or $48.26 per hour. From 2020 to 2030, the profession is projected to grow 17%, much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It’s a good idea to consider this figure but remember that you may not make that amount right after graduating from vet school — the amount reflected is the median pay of many practicing veterinarians.
Paying for vet school requires some research. You’ll likely want to research the best “free money” opportunities at various veterinary schools like grants and scholarships in addition to loan options to determine the best combination of how to pay for your graduate school education.
If your vet school doesn’t offer enough financial aid to cover the costs, SoFi may be able to help. SoFi offers flexible private student loan repayment options and a platform to handle them online. You also won’t have to worry about paying for “extras” like origination fees, late fees, or insufficient funds fees.
Can you get scholarships for vet school?
Yes, you can get scholarships for vet school, though they vary widely in the amounts you can receive. Scholarships can come from a number of sources, including the institution you attend, professional organizations, kennel clubs, veterinary practices, and even local businesses. You may need to do some research to learn more about the scholarship options available to you and the requirements for each scholarship. Each scholarship carries deadline dates, so carefully mark them on your calendar and turn the applications in well before deadlines.
Can FAFSA be used for vet school?
Yes, you can file the FAFSA for vet school. In fact, you must file the FAFSA if you want to qualify for federal student aid, which includes federal student loans, grants, and some institutional scholarships. One of the best ways to understand more about your eligibility for federal student loans involves talking to multiple financial aid offices of the vet schools on your list.
How much can veterinarians expect to make?
In 2021, the median veterinarian pay was $100,370 per year, which equates to $48.26 per hour. However, it’s worth noting that the median pay may not reflect the amount you may earn as soon as you graduate.
Photo credit: iStock/herraez
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