Refinancing Student Loans During Medical School: What to Know

Refinancing Student Loans During Medical School: What to Know

Editor's Note: For the latest developments regarding federal student loan debt repayment, check out our student debt guide.

A career in medicine can be rewarding, but the high cost of medical school means many students take on additional student debt on top of their existing undergraduate student loans.

Some students defer student loan payments while they’re in medical school and others choose to refinance their student debt. The right choice for you depends on a number of factors, such as whether you have federal or private student loans. Here’s what to know about refinancing student loans during medical school.

What You Can Expect to Pay

Going to medical school is expensive: The average cost of medical school is $264,704 for four years at a private institution and $161,972 at a public medical school, according to the Education Data Initiative.

Many students need loans to cover the high cost of medical school tuition and other educational expenses. In fact, 70% of medical school students use loans specifically to help pay for medical school (as opposed to undergraduate debt). The average medical school graduate owes $250,995 in total student loan debt, which includes undergraduate debt.

If you don’t have the option for in-school deferment for your undergraduate loans while you’re enrolled in med school, refinancing your undergraduate student loans might be worthwhile and may help lower your loan payments while you’re in medical school. Here’s what you need to know to decide if refinancing loans as a medical student is right for you.

Can You Refinance Student Loans During Medical School?

Whether you have federal or private student debt, you can technically refinance your student loans at any time along your journey toward becoming a physician.

During a student loan refinance, you can combine multiple student loans of any type — federal and private — into one new refinance loan. This new loan is from a private lender, and comes with a new interest rate and different loan term.

The lender will repay your original loans that were included in the refinance process. You’ll then repay the lender, based on the details of your refinance loan agreement, in incremental monthly payments.

Another Option for Federal Student Loans During Medical School

It’s important to know that if you have federal student loans, refinancing them will remove you from the federal student loan program.

Keeping your federal student loans within the Department of Education’s loan system gives you access to benefits and protections that can be useful while in medical school, like extended deferment or forbearance.

Generally, automatic student loan deferment is applied to federal Direct Loans of borrowers who are enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. If your federal student loans from your undergrad program weren’t placed on in-school deferment status, reach out to your school and ask them to report your enrollment status.

This student loan refinancing alternative can postpone your monthly payment requirement until after you leave school. However, if you borrowed Direct Unsubsidized Loans or Direct PLUS Loans, you’re responsible for repaying interest that accrues during this time.

Pros of Refinancing During Medical School

A student loan refinance during medical school can offer benefits.

Extend Your Loan Term

Generally, once you’ve signed your student loan agreement you’ve committed to a specific repayment term. For example, if your private student loan has a 5-year term, you’ll need to repay the loan’s balance, plus interest, in that time period.

However, repaying your loan balance while attending medical school might be difficult. With a student loan refinance, you can choose to prolong your repayment timeline over a longer term, like 10 or 15 years.

Lower Monthly Payments

By extending your student loan refinance term, your monthly installment payments become smaller since they’re stretched over a longer period. Prolonging your loan term can result in paying more interest over the life of the loan. However, it affords you a lower monthly payment so you have more funds in your budget toward the day-to-day cost of medical school.

Some Refinancing Lenders Offer Deferment

Some refinancing lenders offer borrowers the option to defer their student loan refinance payments while in medical school. Generally, you’ll need to meet the lender’s minimum enrollment status and possibly meet other requirements.

This benefit, however, isn’t offered by all lenders so always confirm with the lender before finalizing any student loan refinance offer.

Recommended: A Guide to Refinancing Student Loans

Cons of Refinancing During Medical School

Although there are benefits to refinancing your student loans, there are downsides to this repayment strategy as well.

You Could Pay More Interest Over Time

Extending your loan term causes you to pay more interest throughout the life of the loan, assuming you don’t make extra monthly payments. This means that you’ll ultimately pay more overall for your undergraduate degree.

You’ll Lose Access to Loan Forgiveness

If you refinance federal student loans, you’ll lose access to federal benefits and protections. Physicians who expect to work in the government or nonprofit sector might be eligible for loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

To be eligible for forgiveness, you must have eligible Direct Loans, and have made 120 qualifying payments toward your federal loan debt while working for a qualifying employer. After PSLF requirements are met, the program forgives the remainder of your eligible federal loan balance.

You’ll lose access to this significant benefit if you refinance federal loans into a private refinance student loan.

Should You Refinance Your Student Loans?

Student loan refinancing is a strategy that can be advantageous for certain borrowers in specific circumstances. For instance, it might be a good option for borrowers who already have a private undergraduate loan and simply want to lower their interest rate to save money.

It can also be a strategy to extend your term if your main goal is to lower your monthly undergraduate loan payments. Borrowers who have adequate savings, reliable income while in medical school, and who are confident that they won’t participate in programs, like PSLF, might benefit most.

Assess your current financial situation, and talk to your loan servicer or undergraduate loan lender to get a full understanding of your repayment options during medical school.

Refinancing Student Loans With SoFi

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

Can you refinance student loans in residency?

Yes, you can refinance student loans while in residency. However, if you refinance federal loans, it will make that portion of your student debt ineligible for federal loan forgiveness in the future.

Do doctors ever pay off their student loans?

Yes, doctors pay off their student loans, though how they do so can vary. Some start making small payments during residency or apply for an income-driven repayment plan, while others refinance or pursue loan forgiveness programs.

When should I refinance my medical student loans?

Exploring a private student loan refinance can be done at any time, especially if your income is stable and your credit has improved since you first took out the loan. If you have federal student loan debt, consider whether you’ll pursue loan forgiveness at any point along your career journey. If you might, your student loans must be kept within the federal loan program to be eligible for forgiveness.


Photo credit: iStock/Edwin Tan

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.


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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.


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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A Guide to Nursing Student Loans

Guide to Nursing Student Loans: What You Should Know

Pursuing a nursing program can lead to a rewarding career, but as the cost of higher education grows, paying for nursing school might just cause your blood pressure to rise.

Financial aid, including nursing student loans, can help fill the gap between money on hand and education costs, but it’s good to think about your future pay compared with the debt you’re willing to take on.

Keep reading to learn more on nursing school loans, the different types of student loans available, and alternative ways to pay for nursing school.

What Are Nursing School Loans?

Nursing school student loans are a type of financial aid available to eligible college students who are enrolled in a program for licensed practical or vocational nurses, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, or nurse anesthetists.

Depending on the loan program, federal student loans for nursing degrees can either be need-based or not. Another option to fill in gaps in need: private student loans.

Unlike grants and scholarships, nursing school loans must be repaid, though special programs like the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program and National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program offer loan forgiveness.

Most loan programs, federal and private, have a grace period during school and after graduation before repayment must begin.

Types of Loans Available for Nursing School Students

The Department of Education provides options for federal nursing student loans under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program.

Eligible borrowers can also explore private student loans for additional funding, if needed.

If you do borrow, you’ll be in good company. Take a guess at how many people have student loans. The answer is about 45 million Americans; the vast majority have federal student loans.

And the cost of nursing school? It varies by institution and length of study. Getting a Bachelor of Science in Nursing generally costs the same as most bachelor’s degrees.

Direct Subsidized Loans

A Federal Direct Subsidized Loan is available to undergraduate students who are enrolled at least half-time at a participating school. Students are required to demonstrate financial need to qualify.

If a nursing student qualifies for a Direct Subsidized Loan, the school determines how much they can receive for that academic year. The government pays the interest that accrues on the loan while the student is enrolled at least half-time, during a six-month grace period after leaving school, and during any deferment granted for economic hardship, cancer treatment, or a few other reasons.

In comparing subsidized vs. unsubsidized loans, the first type favors borrowers more, thanks to how accrued interest is paid.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students. These loans are not based on financial need, but schools still decide how much students can borrow toward an academic year.

The key difference with this nursing loan option is that students are responsible for interest charges as soon as the loan funds are disbursed.

Direct PLUS Loans

Another federal option for nursing student loans is the Direct PLUS Loan. Grad PLUS Loans are available to graduate students who are pursuing an advanced degree like a Master of Science in Nursing.

Parents of an undergraduate student can help fund their child’s education through a Parent PLUS Loan; undergrads don’t have direct access to this loan option.

Direct PLUS Loans are non-need based and require a credit check. Borrowers are responsible for all interest that accrues. They can receive up to the school’s cost of attendance minus any other financial aid received.

Private Student Loans

Nursing students who need funding beyond federal student loans can consider private student loans. Private student loans are offered by private financial institutions like banks, credit unions, and online lenders.

Each lender has its own eligibility requirements, interest rates, and loan terms. If you’re eligible for a private student loan, your interest rate and loan details will depend on various factors, including your credit score. Most lenders welcome your bringing a solid cosigner aboard.

Pros and Cons of Loans for Nursing School

The average student loan debt among all health care professionals can be eye-opening, yet healers usually feel the need to heed the call, no matter the cost.

Nursing student loans can be a fast way to finance your college education. However, before jumping in, weigh the benefits of student loans against their disadvantages.

Pros

Cons

Quick financing for college costs Will make years of payments after leaving school
Some student loans let you borrow up to the cost of attendance Can cause borrowers to postpone other life goals during repayment
Can make paying for higher education possible for those who are ineligible for other types of financial aid You may need a cosigner to qualify
Repaying student loans on time can help build your credit history Defaulting on student loans can harm your credit and result in additional financial hardship

Applying for Nursing Student Loans

The process to apply for nursing student loans depends on the loan option chosen.

Comparing Loans

If you’re thinking about taking out student loans, you might want to compare federal student loans you might be offered in your aid package, as well as private student loans.

Prioritizing federal student loans before private student loans can be a good idea, since federal loans offer advantages like income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which forgives any remaining federal student loan balance after certain borrowers make 120 qualifying payments.

If private nursing student loans are still needed to pay for college, check offers across multiple private lenders. Comparing a handful of private student loan offers can help you find competitive rates and terms.

Applying for Loans

Federal nursing student loans and private student loans have distinct application processes. You must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) before the academic year to see if you’re eligible for federal aid.

Private student loans don’t require the FAFSA. Instead, private nursing student loan applications can be submitted online, in person, or by mail, depending on the lender. They require the would-be borrower, or a cosigner, to meet credit and income requirements.

After Applying

It’s a good idea to start the process early when seeking federal student loans for your nursing education. The time between submitting the FAFSA and disbursement of the loan funds to your school can be months.

The turnaround time after applying to receive private student loan funds can be notably shorter. Getting pre-qualified for a loan can take just minutes.

In general, if you’re approved for a private nursing student loan, you can expect to wait up to 10 weeks after your loan is approved to receive the funds.

Alternative Financing Options for Nursing Students

Securing nursing school student loans is only one of many ways to finance your higher education. Other options include personal loans, grants, and employer sponsorship.

Personal Loans

Personal loans are a general-purpose loan option that can be used toward nursing school. A credit check is required.

Repayment begins as soon as funds are disbursed. Check your rate and decide if a personal loan makes sense. One perk of personal loans is you could get funding within 24 hours of loan approval.

Grants

Grants are provided through the federal government, state, your school, nonprofit entities, and private organizations. Since grant funding doesn’t need to be paid back, this aid alternative lets nursing students leave school with less student debt.

Employer Sponsorship

If you plan on working while you’re enrolled in nursing school, you can ask if your company has a sponsorship program. Generally in this situation, your employer will send funds directly to your school.

Private Student Loans From SoFi

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.

FAQ

How do nursing students get loans?

Nursing students can see if they’re eligible for federal student loans by submitting the FAFSA. Private nursing student loans are also available through various private lenders.

Can nursing school loans be forgiven?

Nursing professionals might be eligible for loan forgiveness through federal programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the Nurse Corps Loan Repayment Program.

What is the average student loan amount for a nurse?

The median student loan debt among nurses ranges from $40,000 to $55,000, according to the most recent report by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Those who pursue a Master of Science in Nursing are often left with more than $47,000 in student loan debt, according to NurseJournal.

For perspective, in terms of educational investment and earnings, registered nurses earned a median annual wage of $86,070 in 2023, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. RNs usually have earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing or a diploma from an approved nursing program.

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, who complete a state-approved educational program that typically takes about one year, had median pay of $59,730 per year.
Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, who must earn at least a master’s degree, had median pay of $129,480 per year.


Photo credit: iStock/erdikocak

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 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.

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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Changing a Secured Credit Card to an Unsecured Card

A secured credit card can help you establish credit for the first time or build your credit if you’ve damaged yours with missed payments, defaults, or bankruptcy. While secured credit cards offer many of the same advantages as traditional credit cards, they do have some limitations.

Eventually, those who start out with a secured card may want to switch to a traditional credit card. Here’s a closer look at how to transition from a secured credit card to an unsecured card.

What Is A Secured Credit Card?

A secured credit card requires that you put down a cash deposit, which serves as collateral for the charges you make with the card. Usually, the amount of the deposit is the same as your credit limit. So if you deposit $1,000, you’ll be able to borrow up to that amount.

If you miss payments, the bank can cover their losses by drawing on money from the deposit. That said, making on-time payments is just as important with secured credit cards as it is with traditional cards, especially if you are using the secured card to build credit.

As with traditional credit cards, secured cards require that you make a minimum monthly payment. Beyond that, you can carry a balance from month to month, but you will be charged interest on that balance. Pay your balance off in full each month to avoid interest payments.

Recommended: Differences Between a Secured and Unsecured Credit Card

Benefits of Secured Credit Cards

Secured credit cards offer users and banks a number of advantages.

Easier to Qualify

Because secured cards require users to put down a deposit, banks are taking on relatively little risk. As a result, it can be much easier to qualify for a secured card than it would be a traditional credit card.

Can Help Build Credit

If you have no credit or poor credit, it can be difficult to get approved for credit cards or loans. Making small purchases regularly with a secured card and paying off your bill in full and on time can help you establish credit or rebuild your credit.

If you’re looking to build credit, you may also consider becoming an authorized user on a credit card.

Convenience

You can use secured credit cards anywhere traditional cards are accepted. Secured credit cards allow you to shop in person or online without carrying cash around with you. It’s also difficult to accrue too much debt because you’re limited by the amount of your deposit.

Drawbacks of Secured Credit Cards

Alongside the benefits offered by secured cards, there are limitations to be aware of.

Coming Up With the Deposit

In order to get a secured card, you will have to come up with the cash that will serve as your deposit. That may require you to save for a period of time before you apply.

Once you deposit that cash, you can’t access it while your secured card is in use. That said, your deposit is refundable when you close the account or convert your secured credit card to an unsecured card.

Higher APR

The annual percentage rate (APR) is the interest rate you’re charged when you carry a balance on your card. Secured credit cards may offer higher interest rates than traditional cards, which can end up costing you more money if you carry a balance.

Spending Is Limited

Most credit cards, whether they’re secured or unsecured, have spending limits. For a secured credit card, your limit will depend on the size of the deposit you make, which will typically range from $200 to $2,000. If you’ve only deposited $1,000 and need to replace your transmission for $1,800, you won’t be able to put the repair on your card.

In comparison, the average credit limit across all cards is upwards of $30,000, according to a recent report from the credit reporting bureau Experian®.

What Is an Unsecured Credit Card?

An unsecured credit card is a traditional credit card that does not require a deposit as collateral. Instead, your credit limit is determined based on your creditworthiness. If you fail to pay off your credit card, your card company can send your bill to a collections agency, and your credit score will take a hit.

There are a variety of types of credit cards to choose from when it comes to unsecured cards, including rewards cards and balance transfer cards.

When You Might Keep Your Secured Credit Card Open

The biggest reasons to keep your secured credit card open have to do with the potential implications closing the account can have for your credit score.

For one, closing an account may result in a dip in your credit score. Additionally, closing the account may decrease the age of your credit history, another factor that goes into determining your credit score.

When You Might Upgrade to an Unsecured Credit Card

You may consider upgrading to a traditional, unsecured card if you’re able to manage a secured card responsibly and are looking for a lower APR or a higher credit limit. Ultimately, making the move requires that your credit is in decent shape.

To do so, it’s important that you stick to credit card rules. That includes being sure that you’re not in the habit of overspending, you’re able to pay your bills on time and in full, and you can keep your total purchases lower than your available credit. Experts suggest keeping your total balance at 30% or less of your available credit.

However, whether you can change a secured credit card to unsecured will also depend on your credit card issuer. Not all card companies offer unsecured options that you can upgrade to. In those cases, you’ll need to apply for a new card.

Guide to Upgrading from a Secured Card to Unsecured Credit Card

If you’re looking to upgrade to an unsecured card, make sure you’re following these steps.

Monitor Your Credit Score

Many credit cards require that you have at least a good credit score to qualify. That means, you’ll need a FICO® score of 670 or higher. Not only are you more likely to qualify for a card with a higher score, you’ll also be more likely to secure more favorable terms and lower interest rates.

If you’re considering trying to convert a secured credit card to an unsecured card, monitor your credit score regularly. You might check with your card issuer to see if they offer you free access to your credit score.

Making the Minimum Monthly Payment

Getting approved for a change from a secured credit card to an unsecured credit card requires displaying responsible credit card behavior. Ideally, you’d avoid interest payments by paying off your credit card in full every month. But if that’s not possible, be sure you are making at least your minimum monthly payment, as payment history is one of the biggest determinants of your credit score. On-time payments are a big part of using a credit card responsibly.

Managing All Your Accounts Responsibly

Before opening an unsecured credit card, make sure you’re able to make other debt payments on time as well. This includes student loans, car payments, or a mortgage. If you’re not displaying good credit behavior elsewhere, that will show up on your credit report and potentially hurt your chances of qualifying for an unsecured credit card.

Limiting the Number of Credit Accounts You Open

Opening new accounts requires a hard inquiry, which will result in a temporary dip in your credit score. Additionally, if you open too many new accounts in a short period of time, it can lower the average age of your credit accounts, which is another factor that influences your credit score.

Ideally, you’ll avoid activities that will cause your credit score to drop as you’re trying to work toward being able to qualify for a secured credit card. A better score will improve your chances of getting approved.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

The Takeaway

A secured card is an important tool for building or rebuilding credit. However, once you’ve established healthy credit card habits and good credit score, it may serve you to switch from a secured to unsecured credit card.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Can I upgrade my secured credit card to unsecured?

Some lenders will allow you to change a secured credit card to an unsecured card. However, others will require that you apply for a new card.

How long does it take to convert a secured credit card to an unsecured one?

To move from a secured credit card to an unsecured one can take anywhere from several months to a couple of years. How long it takes will depend on the credit card issuer’s policies as well as what your credit score was when you opened the account.

Does converting a secured credit card to an unsecured card hurt your credit score?

Closing your secured card to open a traditional credit card may cause your credit score to take a temporary dip. However, you shouldn’t notice a huge impact.

Do all credit card issuers allow the conversion from a secured to unsecured card?

Not all credit card issuers will convert a secured card to an unsecured card. More often than not, you’ll have to close your secured account and open a brand new card.


Photo credit: iStock/Ridofranz

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.

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 .

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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Guide to Lowering Your Credit Card Interest Rate (APR)

The annual percentage rate (APR) of a credit card represents how much someone pays in interest on an annual basis if they carry a balance on their credit card. The lower someone’s APR is, the less they would pay in interest. Because of this, it makes sense to try to secure the lowest APR possible.

Keep reading to learn how to lower the APR on a credit card.

What Is Credit Card APR?

A credit card’s APR represents the total cost of borrowing money using a credit card. The APR on a credit card is the interest rate charged to carry a balance, plus any fees. A credit card can have a fixed or variable interest rate, meaning the rate can either stay the same or change over time based on index rates.

Understanding what APR is can help credit card users know how much they’d need to pay in interest if they don’t pay off their credit card balance in full each month. If they don’t carry a balance, they can avoid paying credit card interest.

Recommended: What Is a Charge Card?

Ways a Lower Interest Rate Can Help

Having a good APR for credit cards is important for a number of reasons. A lower interest rate can save you money. In turn, this can make it easier and faster to pay off debt. Doing so is one way you can help build your credit score.

The higher your interest rate is, the harder it can be to chip away at your credit card balance, as the bulk of credit card payments will go toward interest. This is why achieving a lower credit card APR can make escaping high-interest credit card debt easier.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

How to Lower APR on a Credit Card

If you are interested in lowering your credit card APR, there are steps you can take to try to do so.

Apply for a Balance Transfer Card

If your card has a high APR, one option for how to get a better rate can be a balance transfer card with a lower interest rate. You can then transfer your balance from the high-interest credit card to the balance transfer card.

Usually, this new balance transfer credit card can’t be issued by the same company or any affiliates of the original card. Balance transfer cards may offer a 0% APR promotional period. During that period, you won’t pay any interest, which means all of your payments will go toward paying down the principal.

However, once the promotional period ends, a higher APR will kick in (this is one example of what can increase your credit card’s APR). Additionally, a balance transfer fee may apply to move over the existing credit card balance to the new card. It might make sense to calculate your credit card interest rate on your old card to ensure you’ll save money.

Negotiate With Your Credit Card Issuer

When it comes to figuring out how to get lower APR on a credit card, it’s possible to simply ask for an APR reduction with a credit card issuer. This strategy may be particularly effective if the cardholder has used their credit card responsibly and consistently paid their credit card bill on time — one of the cardinal credit card rules.

You can also provide a reason why you’re requesting a reduction. You may have experienced a job loss or have unexpected medical bills to pay. Maybe you got a raise and are really motivated to pay off your debt, and having a lower interest rate would help you do that. It’s also possible to leverage new credit card offers with lower interest rates to try to negotiate a current APR down.

Consumers can also ask for a temporary reprieve if the credit card issuer won’t offer a lower rate indefinitely. For example, it may be possible to request a one-year rate reduction of one to three percentage points.

Low-Interest Credit Cards

If you can’t quite figure out how to get a lower interest rate on a credit card with your current issuer, you could also step away from using that specific credit card. Instead, you might apply for a low-interest credit card to use in lieu of the card with the higher APR.

Cardholders who have consistently made on-time payments and taken other steps to build their credit score may be able to secure a new card with a lower interest rate. As an added bonus, doing so can make it easier to negotiate a lower APR with a current credit card.

Some different types of credit cards even reward cardholders for their good behavior by lowering their APR.

The Takeaway

If you pay off your credit card balance in full each month, you won’t have to worry about your APR too much. That being said, it’s always smart to try to secure the lowest APR possible in case it’s necessary to carry a balance from time to time.

Having a lower APR on a credit card means the cost of borrowing money is lower. More of your monthly payments can go toward paying down the principal balance instead of interest. In turn, this can help you pay off your debt faster, save money, and even build your credit score.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

How can I reduce my credit card interest rate?

You have a few options for lowering the interest rate on a credit card. You can try to negotiate a lower interest rate on any current credit cards by calling your issuer and trying to come to an agreement. If that doesn’t work, you can apply for a new credit card or a balance transfer card. If you can secure a lower interest rate on a new credit card, you can choose to use that credit card or take that offer back to your current lender to try to negotiate a lower APR.

Why do credit card issuers charge varying APRs?

Credit card issuers use a consumer’s credit score to help determine what the APR on a credit card should be for a specific consumer. The reason that APRs vary is because credit card issuers give a custom APR to each applicant based on their financial history. Generally, the lower someone’s credit score is, the higher their APR will be.


Photo credit: iStock/Charday Penn

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.

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 .

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Paying for Pharmacy School Need to Knows

A Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree is a four-year, licensed professional degree that teaches students how to fill prescription medications and how to educate patients about using prescriptions safely. Pharmacy school can be expensive, adding up to nearly $200,000 dollars on the high end.

With that price tag, it’s not a surprise that pharmacy students may have to rely on a few different sources of financing to pay for school, sometimes using a combination of savings, grants, scholarships, and student loans. This article will review the pharmacy school costs, the amount pharmacists can make, and nine tips for paying for pharmacy school.

How Much Does Pharmacy School Typically Cost?

The cost of pharmacy school can vary depending on where you enroll, the location, and the extent to which public dollars support the university you plan to attend. As mentioned, the complete cost of pharmacy school can add up to $200,000. The cost can swing higher for students who opt for an out-of-state institution. The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) lists the tuition and fees for pharmacy school for the 2022-2023 academic year on its website, which can help you compare costs at the pharmacy schools you may be considering.

For example, the first school on the list, Auburn University, costs $22,736 for in-state pharmacy students and $43,508 for out-of-state students. Mandatory fees cost $410 for 33 credit hours for students in their first year. However, in the fourth year, it costs $27,216 for in-state students and $58,374 for out-of-state students, with $210 for mandatory fees for 46 credit hours.

It’s worthwhile to compare the costs of various institutions before you make a decision. However, remember that financial aid can potentially bring the costs down further, so don’t rely completely on the published tuition prices. A conversation with the financial aid office at each school may give you a more in-depth analysis of how much it will actually cost, taking your personal situation into account.

Is Pharmacy School Worth It?

For the right individual, pharmacy school can be worth it. The costs of pharmacy school may seem daunting, but the professional perks, ability to become a part of a healthcare team, job opportunities, and career stability can mean that pharmacy school is the right option for many individuals. The high salary of pharmacists may also make pharmacy school worth it.

How Much Can Pharmacists Make?

The 2023 median pay for pharmacists was $136,030 per year, or $65.40 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job outlook from 2022-2032 will increase 3% per year, which is as fast as average.

9 Tips for Paying for Pharmacy School

Think of paying for pharmacy school as a pie. There are many ways to pay for pharmacy school by dividing that pie. For example, various pieces of the pie might make up scholarships, grants, loans, and money out of your own pocket. No matter how you slice the pie, every dollar you contribute is an investment into your career and your future. We’ll discuss scholarships, including university, pharmacy, and private scholarships, as well as grants in the next section.

1. Scholarships

Scholarships are funds that you don’t have to pay back. You can get scholarships as a pharmacy student from a number of different sources, including from the university that you plan to attend as well as through designated pharmacy scholarships and private scholarships.

It’s worth considering other interests beyond pharmacy. Scholarships may be awarded based on heritage, location, or even hobbies or special skills. Maybe you have talents in another area that qualify you for additional scholarships.

University Scholarships

Pharmacy colleges and schools traditionally offer direct financial assistance to pharmacy students through various sources, including alumni associations and local chapters of pharmaceutical organizations and fraternities.

Consider setting a meeting with the financial aid office at the university you plan to attend to learn more about specific scholarships from each pharmacy school you’re interested in attending.

Pharmacy Scholarships

Local and state pharmaceutical associations, practicing pharmacists, drug manufacturers, and wholesalers may offer pharmacy scholarships to promising pharmacists, as well.

For example, 10 pharmacy students annually can receive a $5,000 Walmart Health Equity Scholarship. Students must be accepted or enrolled in the professional curriculum at a U.S. college or school of pharmacy, and show evidence of leadership skills, academic success, and must have a preference to serve rural or medically underserved patients.

Here’s another example: Five underrepresented minority students can receive the CVS Health Minority Scholarship for Pharmacy Students annually. Students must be African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and/or Pacific Islander students, as well as U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Each successful candidate will receive a single $7,000 scholarship.

Private Scholarships

Private scholarships come from companies, service groups and organizations, foundations, and individuals. For example, Tylenol offers a scholarship for students pursuing careers in healthcare, including pharmacy. There may also be scholarships available from local or regional organizations.

2. Grants

Like scholarships, you do not have to repay the money you receive from grants. Grants, which are typically based on need, can also be awarded based on merit. Filling the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) automatically considers you for federal grants based on need. You may also become eligible for state grants. Your college or university can give you more information about the types of grants you’re eligible for through your pharmacy program.

3. Federal Student Loans

You may be wondering how to pay for pharmacy school without loans. It’s possible to do it through a combination of scholarships, grants, and savings, though many people take advantage of federal student loans through the U.S. Department of Education. Federal student loans have fixed interest rates and benefits such as income-driven repayment plans. Just like obtaining an auto loan or a mortgage, you must pay back loans with interest.

Federal student loans are a type of federal financial aid, and to apply, you must file the FAFSA. Learn more about the requirements for this application in SoFi’s comprehensive guide to the FAFSA.

You can qualify for two types of federal student loans for pharmacy school: Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Direct PLUS Loans

Pharmacy students can take advantage of Direct PLUS Loans, also called graduate PLUS loans or direct grad PLUS loans, to help finance graduate and professional school. The Graduate PLUS Loan comes from the U.S. Department of Education for graduate or professional students. In order to get one, your school must participate in the Direct Loan Program.

The Direct PLUS Loan is not need-based, which means you can get it no matter your income level. You can borrow up to the full cost of attendance and can use the money to pay for tuition, room and board, and fees. Your school will subtract other financial aid you receive (such as scholarships, grants, and fellowships) from the full cost of attendance and award you the difference with a Direct PLUS Loan.

The interest rate is 8.05% for Direct PLUS Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2023 and before July 1, 2024.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Similar to student loans for undergraduates, you can tap into Direct Unsubsidized Loans. You can borrow up to $20,500 per year with the Direct Unsubsidized Loan, and the interest rate is 7.05% if disbursed between July 1, 2023 and July 1, 2024 for graduate students. “Unsubsidized” means that the government doesn’t pay the interest while you’re in school and during the grace period.

It’s generally a good idea to first consider opting for the Direct Unsubsidized Loan, over a Graduate PLUS Loan. Why opt for the Direct Unsubsidized loan first?

You’ll pay more in interest for the Direct PLUS Loan (8.05% interest rate).

4. Private Student Loans

Private graduate student loans do not come from the federal government. They can come from a bank, credit union, or another financial institution and can be used to help finance college or career school. The amount you can borrow depends on the costs of your degree, but also depends on personal financial factors (such as your credit score and income).

You may have gotten advice that suggested exhausting all of your federal grant and loan options before you consider private loans because interest rates are usually higher compared to federal student loans. Additionally, private student loans don’t qualify for the same borrower protections as federal student loans, like income-driven repayment plans or deferment options. However, private student loans can be an option to consider if you need additional funding to cover your pharmacy school expenses.

Recommended: Things to know before applying for private student loans

5. PSLF Programs

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program is a federal student loan forgiveness program. More specifically, you may qualify to have the remaining balance on your Direct Loans forgiven after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan. You must work full-time for a qualifying employer in order to qualify and your employer must be a qualifying organization such as a federal, state, local, or tribal government organization or other nonprofit organization.

You must have Direct Loans or consolidate other types of federal student loans into a Direct Loan, repay loans under an income-driven repayment plan, as well as make 120 qualifying payments toward your student loans. The requirements for PSLF can be quite strict, so be sure to read the requirements closely.

For more information about PSLF programs and to learn more about your eligibility, contact your loan servicer, which is the entity that services your loan.

6. Pharmacy Internships

Pharmacy internships can be instrumental in your budding career as a pharmacist in helping you understand how pharmacies operate, learning the ins and outs of customer service, helping you dive into inventory management, and learning the professional skills necessary to become a pharmacist. You may also learn more from pharmacist professionals about leading a pharmacy team and help you bring tangible professional experience back to the classroom.

You may also want to look into pharmacy fellowships, which provide financial support in an external or internal capacity (in or out of the university environment). Assistantships also provide financial support in an academic department through teaching, research, or administrative responsibilities.

7. Work Part Time

You may want to consider working a part-time job in conjunction with pharmacy school. For example, if you attend school from 8am to 4pm, you may want to seek a part-time job after hours.

However, it’s important to consider your time constraints and whether you can succeed in your coursework. Consider your ability to manage your time before you take on a part-time job. However, for the right student, taking on a job can help pay for college tuition and give you an additional source of income. Networking opportunities and skill development can come from a part-time job, even if it doesn’t relate to pharmacy.

8. Borrow From Family

Do you have a family member who really wants to give you money for your education? You may seriously consider borrowing from your parents or a sister or brother (or whoever else wants to lend you money).

Just remember that it could strain family relationships if you fail to pay back the loan. It’s a good idea to have a plan in place to repay your relative(s) as well as create boundaries, so both parties feel good about the arrangement.

9. HRSA Loans

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, improves health care for geographically isolated and vulnerable individuals.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the HRSA, also offers several loans for health services students. For example, Health Professions Student Loans are available to individuals who study pharmacy (as well as dentistry, optometry, podiatry, or veterinary medicine). Pharmacy students who show financial need may also be able to tap into Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS). Health professions student loans have fixed interest rates of 5%, lower than both Direct Unsubsidized Loans and PLUS loans. They also allow 12 months of grace periods, while most other loans only offer six months of grace periods. In addition, health professions loans are subsidized, which means you don’t pay interest on the loan while you’re in school, nor do you pay additional loan fees.

However, they come with a few downsides: Not all schools participate, and there are no set borrowing limits. You also can’t tap into income-driven repayment plans or PSLF.

Private Student Loans for Pharmacy School

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.

FAQ

Can you use FAFSA for pharmacy school?

Absolutely! It’s generally a smart idea to file the FAFSA for pharmacy school, no matter your financial situation. The FAFSA can give you access to a range of financial aid options, including scholarships (your school will consider your eligibility based on the FAFSA results), grants, loans, and work-study. You want to be able to put together the best financial aid options for your needs, and the best way to do that involves filing the FAFSA.

Does CVS or Walgreens pay for pharmacy school?

CVS and Walgreens both offer pharmacy scholarships, like the ones we listed above, the Walmart Health Equity Scholarship and the CVS Health Minority Scholarship for Pharmacy Students. If you work for either company, you may also qualify through each company’s employee tuition reimbursement program. Check with the human resources department at each company for more details.

How much can pharmacists make after graduating?

The 2023 median pay for pharmacists was $136,030 per year, or $65.40 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The job outlook for pharmacists is 3% from 2022 through 2032, which is as fast as average.


Photo credit: iStock/cagkansayin

SoFi Private Student Loans
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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.

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.

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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