How To Get Medical School Scholarships: The Ultimate Guide

October 12, 2023


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 10/12/23

If you’ve decided to go to medical school, you’ve probably wondered how to get medical school scholarships as well. Let’s face it: medical school is expensive. It’s also a commitment.

Why pay for it all, when you can save your precious dollars? Getting a medical school scholarship is the best way to avoid paying for everything yourself and it can help lift the financial burden. 

There are different types of scholarships awarded based on academic merit, diversity and inclusion, military service, and other criteria. Scholarship criteria depends on the donor’s values and goals. Make sure to know what those are when determining your eligibility.

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What are Medical School Scholarships? 

Medical school scholarships are like any other scholarships. They are a sum of money awarded to students to further their education. Medical school scholarships usually have higher standards and more demanding criteria than undergraduate scholarships. 

You can apply to medical school scholarships during your undergrad or while you are at medical school (provided you are eligible). Different scholarships have different criteria to determine eligibility.  Here are a few examples:

Academic scholarships: awarded to those that have a history of outstanding academic achievement such as high overall GPA or impressive extracurriculars. 

Diversity and inclusion scholarships: offered to underserved communities or communities that are under-represented in medicine. 

Service-based scholarships: for those that have given back to their community through their service (e.g, military). 

Benefits of Medical School Scholarships 

Greater Accessibility to Higher Education 

Scholarships give students of all income levels access to higher education. No one should be unable to pursue higher education because they can’t afford it.

One of the essential benefits of scholarships is that they give us doctors, academics, and researchers who would have otherwise slipped through the cracks due to being unable to manage the financial burden. Most students from lower-income backgrounds benefit from scholarships, and we benefit as a society when they fill these critical roles. 

Better Focus

It can be very challenging going to school full-time and having to get a job to support yourself. The pressure to work makes it difficult for students to perform well academically. Medical school is academically rigorous and unrelenting.

Add a job, and you have an unsustainable work-study balance. With tuition and other fees being taken care of, students can focus on what matters, learning. 

Fewer Loans

Loans are paid back with interest. Scholarships are not paid back at all. Many students graduate with tens of thousands of dollars worth of loans and may spend years paying them back. Scholarships offer a better option, decreasing dependence on loans. 

Extensive Support 

Winning a scholarship means more than just money in your bank account. Colleges offer support to those who win scholarships. Scholarship donors will be with you as a mentor to get the full benefits from the scholarship by providing financial counseling (how to best spend your funds) and academic support. 

Networking Opportunities 

Everyone who wins the scholarship will be in the medical field; it will serve as a great opportunity to network. Through potential mixers or monthly meetings, you will be able to meet others like yourself with similar paths and goals.

It can open doors to academic or research opportunities. Once you have graduated, you will already have a strong network of peers in medicine. 

Research Opportunities

Some scholarships provide opportunities for research. 

Looks Good on a Resume 

When you apply for a scholarship, you are competing against thousands of other applicants. When you win a medical school scholarship, it will distinguish you from the rest of the applicants.

After graduation when you’re securing your first role as a doctor, this achievement will not go unnoticed by future employers. It will serve as a credit to your hard work and dedication in college-if you worked hard in college, you are likely to work hard at your job.

Where to Look for Medical School Scholarships 

Local City and State Scholarships 

There may be multiple scholarships that are a good fit for you but, you will not learn of them unless you know where to look. Don’t fret. There may be city and state scholarships offered in your local area.

These are excellent places to contact: 

  • Local hospitals
  • Churches and other religious organizations
  • Businesses
  • Endowments
  • Clubs
  • Non-profit organizations

These scholarships are at the local level, as a result they are less competitive and easier to get. There’s no telling how many local scholarships are available.Make sure to look for them everywhere. There are also scholarships reserved for state residents. 

You will need to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for most state-run scholarship programs. You’ll need your FAFSA to be eligible for any federal grants as well. Note that your FAFSA is also required to receive federal student loans should you need them.

How do you find city and state-specific scholarships? Ask the higher-ups in your town. Use your current network of people who know who you are to land a scholarship before applying at the more difficult national level.

If you’re a highschooler or pursuing your undergrad, ask one of your school counselors if they know of any medical school scholarships for the area and state residents. Go to your local hospital and talk to someone from the human resources department.

You can also try to get in touch with a well-known business person in your area and ask them if they know any opportunities.

School Specific Scholarships 

Those already in medical school can go to their financial aid counselor’s office because the counselor may know of scholarships available exclusively to students of that school. It is worth noting that wealthier and more prestigious schools like Harvard and John Hopkins have more funds available for scholarships.

Don’t let the cost of attending these schools hold you back from applying. 

Google It

Several websites can help you search for med school scholarships:

  • BigFuture (The College Board)
  • CareerOneStop (The Department of Labor)
  • Fastweb
  • Niche
  • BrokeScholar
  • Chegg 

Be wary of scam scholarship sites. If they guarantee you a medical school scholarship for a price, it’s a scam. No reputable college or institution would ever offer a guaranteed scholarship.

Top Medical School Scholarship Opportunities 

Physicians of Tomorrow Award 

This medical school scholarship gives $10,000 to medical school students in their third year that fits into one of 10 sub-categories. It is sponsored by the American Medical Association (AMA) Foundation. Unlike most scholarships, however, you can’t apply for it – your school must nominate you.

Once selected, you can submit an application along with a personal statement, a letter of recommendation from your dean’s office and a faculty member, your transcripts, and a financial statement.

Tylenol Future Care Scholarship

“Applicants must meet all the following criteria to be eligible for this scholarship:

  • Be a resident of the 50 United States, Puerto Rico or the District of Columbia.
  • Be a graduate student or be a college senior who will be enrolling in graduate school during the 2023-24 academic year.
  • Provide proof of enrollment to a graduate program in medical school, nursing, and pharmacy.
  • Have one or more years of school remaining.” 

Tylenol awarded $10,000 to 10 students and $5,000 to 25 students seeking a career in patient care, in 2019-2020. You must include an essay, your college GPA, academic records, and a description of your community involvement in your application for the scholarship. 

Herbert W. Nickens Medical Student Scholarships

This scholarship awarded by the AAMC is given to five students entering their third year, who have shown exceptional leadership in the effort to eliminate inequities in medical education and health care. The award is named after the late Dr. Herbert W. Nickens. 

Nickens was the first vice president and director of the AAMC’s division of community and minority programs. He sought to increase the number of minority students attending and teaching in medical schools. Each recipient gets $5,000. To apply for the award, you must be nominated by your medical school and complete an application.

Among other materials, you must have a: 

  • Faculty letter of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Resume

National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program

This scholarship requires you to commit to a minimum of two years of full-time service in an underserved area in exchange for a full year of scholarship support. The total number of years you serve depends on the number of school years of support you receive from the program. 

Commitments are between two and four years. The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship is available to those aspiring to be in health care professions:

  • Dentists 
  • Physicians
  • Nurses
  • Physicians Assistants 
  • Certified Nurse-midwives

Your service would begin after your residency.

A range of criteria is used to judge applications: 

  • Academic merit 
  • Your financial need
  • Your commitment to providing primary care to underserved communities

It’s important to note that payments you receive from this program that go toward tuition and fees are not subject to federal tax. Also, the NHSC Scholarship Program will give med students a stipend to help with their living expenses. However, the living stipend is subject to federal tax.

Diverse Medical Scholars Program

This scholarship is available to second, third, and fourth- year medical students and is sponsored by the partnership of the United Health Foundation and the non-profit National Medical Fellowships. Students must identify as African American, Latino, Native American, or Asian American (Vietnamese and Cambodian only) to receive the $7,000 scholarship. 

Unlike many other scholarships, this scholarship is renewable, which means you can receive the full award for multiple years. Recipients of the scholarship must complete 200 hours of volunteering in an underserved community and give a presentation describing their experience. Applicants must include a brief biography, a resume, and two letters of recommendation.

Guide on how to get medical school scholarships

Tips for Applying and Securing Medical School Scholarships 

1. Do Your Research

Start early, research what’s available, and ensure you meet all deadlines. 

  • Look into the criteria of each scholarship.
  • How much money they are offering.
  • Whether the scholarship is renewable or non-renewable. 

2. Apply, Apply, Apply

Apply for scholarships at multiple schools because scholarship deadlines may come before medical school acceptances are given. Look at the scholarships available at each school and apply as if you were going to that school. Of course, there are many non-school-specific scholarships available as well. If you are eligible, apply. Don’t miss out on an opportunity.

3. Pay Attention to Detail

It’s essential to provide everything required of you for the scholarship. Understand what it is that they’re looking for and check for spelling and grammar. Ensure you have time to go over your application. Unforeseen circumstances could interrupt your plans. 

4. Be Careful When Choosing References

The last thing you want is a letter of recommendation that doesn’t positively promote you. Choose your references wisely. Someone who knows you in a way that is relevant to the scholarship is best.

For example, a supervisor who oversaw your 200 hours of community service when applying for the Tylenol Future Care Scholarship. Picking the wrong reference can be damaging to your application. 

5. Tailor Your Material

Make sure that each essay and application is tailored to the scholarship. Understand what they are looking for and demonstrate in your essay how you meet the criteria and why you are the perfect candidate for this award. It is similar to applying for a job.

You would not use the same cover letter and resume for every job to which you apply. You would tailor each slightly to make it more relevant to the criteria of the job. 


1. What is the difference between a non-renewable and renewable scholarship? 

A non-renewable scholarship offers a one-time award. A renewable scholarship can be awarded annually over multiple years, for example. A renewable four-year scholarship worth $3,000 means you will be awarded $3,000 each year for four years for a total of $12,000.

2. Can I lose my scholarship after I get it?

Yes. Most renewable scholarships have criteria, such as maintaining your GPA, community involvement, and keeping with the same college, that you must meet to continue receiving funds. 

3. Can I transfer my scholarship if I go to another school?

It depends on the scholarship. Some scholarships are specific to one school. Some awarded by other institutions may be transferable. If you are unsure, contact the awarding organization for details.

4. My grades are not excellent. Should I still apply?

Yes. Not all scholarships are rigid in regards to academics. Even academic merit-based scholarships have other requirements that factor into a decision like character, leadership, and community service. 

5. Can I apply again next year if I don’t get the scholarship?

Yes. As long as you still meet the criteria, you can re-apply. If your academics have improved, you have more extracurricular hours, and a better essay, you’ll have a better chance with your next attempt

Final Thoughts

More medical school scholarships are available than discussed in this article. They provide many benefits in addition to money, including the promotion of philanthropy, decreased pressure to work, networking opportunities, and resume enhancement.

It is essential to start your research early and apply to as many as possible. While there is no guarantee that you will be awarded a scholarship, it can’t hurt to try. 

If any institution guarantees a scholarship for a fee, that should be a red flag. Hopefully, if you’ve wondered how to get medical school scholarships, this article has given you insight and a place to begin.

The medical school scholarships listed in this article are a great starting point for your research but don’t let them be your only source. It will serve you well to know the different types of scholarships: academic, diversity, and service-based and figure out which type will be best for you. 

Know that there are many benefits to scholarships like being able to focus on your studies due to not having to work. When looking for scholarships, start local and find institutions in your area that may offer scholarships. Work your way up by checking for school-specific scholarships and finally, Google search for online resources that can help. 

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