Your first and most important contact for information on paying for dental school is your school’s Financial Aid Office (FAO). They are the best source of information regarding ways to pay for dental school.
In general, two types of financial assistance are available to dental school students:
- Gift assistance (grants and scholarships) and
- Student loans.
Gift assistance in the form of grants and scholarships is your best financing option because these funds never have to be repaid, thus every dollar you receive in gift assistance is a dollar you may not need to borrow. 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 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
These are based on need and/or merit. Check with your school’s FAO about applications and deadlines.
- Outside Scholarships
- These are 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, to find outside scholarships; 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, including outside scholarships, from all sources can never exceed your total cost of attendance (COA).
- 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 reduce how much you borrow or eliminate borrowing altogether.
- The Armed Forces, NHSC and Indian Health Service 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.