Like many of your fellow dental students, you may need financial aid to help pay for school, and that likely means taking out student loans.
However, responsible borrowing starts with looking at all of your financial aid options first.
Grants and scholarships
Grants and scholarships are your best financing options because they never have to be repaid. Grants and scholarships directly from the school may be based on need or merit, or a combination of these. Some scholarships are tied to a service commitment (for example, the National Health Service Corps [NHSC] and the armed
forces). Check with the financial aid office (FAO) at your institution about the availability of grants and scholarships and important deadlines for applying for these opportunities.
In general, there are three categories of grants and scholarships to consider:
- Institutional Grants and Scholarships
Based on need and/or merit. Check with your school's FAO about applications and deadlines.
- Outside Scholarships
- Awarded by organizations other than the school.
- You must apply for these independently.
- Use free search engines such as www.fastweb.com or visit organization websites, such as ADEA (it is not necessary to conduct a paid search for outside scholarships).
- Report receipt of these scholarships to your FAO, as your total financial aid from all sources can never exceed your total cost of attendance (COA), including outside scholarships.
- Service Commitment Scholarships
- Provide financial support while you are in school in exchange for your service after graduation.
- These are similar to loan repayment programs except you make the commitment earlier and receive the funds earlier, thereby helping to reduce how much you borrow or eliminate borrowing altogether.
- The armed forces, National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and Indian Health Service (IHS) offer programs. Your FAO can help with additional information, including application deadlines.
Unlike grants and scholarships, student loans must be repaid. The majority of dental students use student loans to help pay for dental school. The most common types of loans used by dental students are the federal direct unsubsidized loan and the federal direct PLUS (formerly
known as Grad PLUS). Dental school graduates have a great reputation for responsible and timely repayment. Make sure you understand the different types of loans and the benefits and downsides
of each before applying for them. Once again, your FAO can help.
While it's unlikely that you will have time to work during dental school due to the curriculum demands, if you do want to work and have the time, you may be eligible for work-study programs. Ask your FAO for information about work-study programs at your school.
Fellowships and Traineeships
Talk with your FAO regarding availability of these funds and any application deadlines.
Education Tax Breaks
Tax breaks tend to be “back end” benefits for some students and graduates who file a tax return. Consult with a professional tax advisor or other qualified financial advisor for more information or check out IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, at www.IRS.gov.