Financing options

Like many of your fellow 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 availability and application deadlines for grants and scholarships.

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 or visit organization websites, such as ADEA.
    • 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. 
              • The armed forces, National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and Indian Health Service (IHS) offer programs. Your FAO can help.

            Student Loans
            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 are known 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.

            Work-Study Programs
            Working during dental school may be challenging due to the curriculum demands of dental school. However, if you want to work during dental school, ask your FAO about work-study programs.  

            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