Like anyone pursuing a medical career, dental students know that it takes more than a lot of time, energy, and focus to complete their education. There is also a lot of money involved. Dentists have one of the highest student loan debt totals for any profession, so you’ll want to reduce that as much as possible.
The average dentist leaves school with nearly $ 300,000 in debt, according to the ADA. It can take over a decade to pay off. So how can you walk out of dental school with a less daunting amount to pay? How can you save money during your studies to be in a better situation after graduation?
Careful planning and a strict budget can help you save money in dental school and graduate with less debt. Everything from where you go to school to how you handle daily bills makes a difference when it comes to saving money as a dental student.
Choose your dental school wisely
Even if you are accepted into a reputable dental school, you may want to consider other options. A private school will cost you thousands more each year in tuition than a public school, but that’s not the only reason to look across the country for schools where you can get a great education for less.
The cost of living in some cities is considerably higher than in others. For example, attending the highly rated dental school at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) will charge you one of the highest living costs in the country to settle in the Bay Area while you study.
Meanwhile, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill not only offers lower tuition fees, but also a much more reasonable cost of living (and it’s a top dental school, too). This means that you can always choose from the best dental schools And save.
This is not all to keep in mind. Non-resident tuition fees are higher than what is charged to residents of that state at each college. This means that considering dental school options that are in your home state can save you a lot on tuition. It can also give you the option to live at home while you are at school and avoid moving expenses.
Minimize your student loans
Whichever school you choose to attend, dental school tuition is always going to add up. While it is likely that you will need some loans, it is always a good idea to consider the other options available to offset the amount you need to borrow.
Finding money that you don’t have to save or pay back is the obvious first step. Apply for as many grants and scholarships as you can find. Even small grants of a few hundred dollars can help. Don’t limit yourself to scholarships specific to dental students; there are many grants you may be eligible for.
If possible, ask around for loans from parents, guardians and other family members. They might be willing to lend you money at a lower interest rate or even no interest at all.
You can also look for an assistantship program that will allow you to lower tuition fees in exchange for a part-time job. You will learn valuable skills on the job and accumulate less debt. Anything you do to lower your tuition fees will also reduce your loans.
Avoid additional debt while studying
Student loans can be avoidable, but other forms of debt are easier to avoid. While you are in dental school, you might be tempted to use credit cards to defer payment for things you want or need, but that will only force you to pay off that debt before you even have to pay it off. ‘have started your first job as a dentist.
The same goes for any other major purchase. While you’re in school, now is not a good time to buy a new car or take out a mortgage. If you already own a home, you will likely have to postpone expensive renovations until you have a stable income after graduation.
Dentists make a good living even at the entry level, so your day to buy the car and home of your dreams will likely come; avoiding a bunch of debt while in school so you can end up with fewer student loans and a better financial situation will be worth the wait.
Check your cost of living
Tuition is not the only thing you have to spend money on during your dental school years. You will need a place to live, you will need to eat, and chances are you will need transportation. There is a lot of ways to save money on daily expenses while you are in dental school.
The ideal situation is to avoid the cost of housing entirely while you are in school by continuing to live at home with your parents or guardians. Of course, this is not desirable or even possible for everyone, so you may have to look for other ways to reduce the most basic and expensive costs of living.
Living on campus in a dorm is a cheap option, and if you sign up as a residential counselor or a similar role, you will be able to live on campus for free. Otherwise, look for a roommate to help lower the cost of living.
Apart from your place of residence, you can also seek to reduce other costs. Stick to a strict budget for groceries and make dining out more of a treat than the norm. Even reducing your Starbucks habit can make a big difference. And when you spend, consider using a cash back app or coupon app.
Using public transportation is the cheapest way to get around, but there are many reasons why you might need or want a car. Make sure to shop around for low auto insurance rates; the best auto insurance for new college graduates and for dental school students can be found by comparing your options.
The same goes for any other insurance you need. The ADA offers health insurance plans at special prices in each state, but you should always compare and shop around to make sure you get the best price on the coverage you need.
Sticking to a strict budget and avoiding the urge to spend on instant gratification items takes some discipline, but so does your journey through dental school. When you do both, you’ll come out of school in a strong position and ready to begin your career and move towards your financial goals.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leslie Kasperowicz is an insurance and finance expert who is the editor-in-chief of AutoInsurance.org. She is a former CSR Farmers Insurance and Financial Services and has been helping people understand insurance and finance through education for over 10 years.
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