Is it Possible to Use US Federal Loans to Go Abroad for Medical School?

Go Abroad for Medical School?

The short answer is YES.  There has been a growing number of US citizens going abroad for medical school and returning for residency and to ultimately practice in the USA. Why do US students go abroad for medical school? The top common reasons for going abroad to medical school is: 

  • Cheaper tuition (in some cases): There are medical schools, particularly in Europe that charge significantly less tuition than US medical schools. In countries like Italy, Romania, and Poland, you can go to medical school for as low as $3,500 a year. That’s a HUGE difference compared to $65,000 a year in the US! 
  • You can start after high school: You can begin medical school as early as 18 years old, mainly because most of those medical schools are a 6-year medical program. In the USA, medical school is 4 years after university, totaling 8 years. There are medical schools in Poland that have two tracks, one 4 years and another 6-year medical program. 
  • No MCAT needed (in some medical programs): A big reason why so many medical students want to go abroad is because they do not want to prepare for the dreaded MCAT exam. Some medical programs abroad have their own entrance exam that students must take prior to attending, and other medical schools only require a transcript and another type of exam result (SAT). 
  • Rejected from US Medical School: Now, there is a common myth that US medical students say about US citizens going abroad for medical school – they weren’t good enough to be accepted into a US medical school. This is not entirely true – there are many students who chose to go abroad for many reasons – the ability to live in a different country, to not have any student loans, and to finish medical school when they are 24. Considering that the average age for entrance into a US medical school is 24 and that students can GRADUATE from an international medical school at 24 is a huge factor. After all, it is time.

Now, US students who graduated from an international medical school and wants to return to the USA for residency has a slightly better chance at matching for a US residency program than a non-US citizen. According to ECFMG, in 2014 Of the 5,133 U.S. citizen IMG participants, 2,722 (53.0%) were matched to first-year positions. This means that a US citizen studying abroad and participated in the residency match has a 50/50 chance of being matched. Those odds are pretty good if you have prepared for the USMLE well.

Which International Medical Schools Accept US Federal Loans?

Only a select handful of medical schools abroad are eligible for US federal loans since they require a meticulous monitoring and evaluation from the US Department of Education, NCFMEA. The list below will be regularly updated based on the NCFMEA information. You can read more about the NCFMEA here: http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/ncfmea.html

Australia

Canada

Carribean

Czech Republic

Dominican Republic

Ireland

Israel

Mexico

Poland

United Kingdom

*This list is in the process of being updated to reflect all the medical schools that are eligible for US federal funding.

How Much Student Loans Could I Receive?

As of 2010, according to the Department of Education guidance, students who are enrolled in eligible foreign medical schools:

• Must generally be U.S. citizens, nationals, or eligible permanent residents to qualify for federally guaranteed student loans.

• May borrow up to $20,500 in subsidized and unsubsidized loans1 annually. Total borrowing through the program for students enrolled in foreign medical schools is limited to $138,500.

• May borrow additional loan funds up to the cost of attendance minus other federal assistance in loans for graduate and professional students, available as of 2006 if they have met the federal student loan program limit. Source: http://web.jhu.edu/prepro/Forms/GAO.Foreign.Med.pdf

Bottom Line

Choosing to go abroad for medical school is a serious decision and its important to do your research THOROUGHLY. For example, going to a medical school in the Caribbean and realizing they are not accredited by the Caribbean medical council is a DANGEROUS step which could put you thousands of dollars in debt and waste your precious years. Talk to students who are currently attending medical school abroad and read reviews of the medical school here: https://medrookie.com/community/reviews.

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