“Careful planning and a strict budget can help you to save money in dentistry school and graduate with less debt.”
Like anyone pursuing a medical career, dentistry students know there is more than just a lot of time, energy, and focus needed to get through your education. There’s a lot of money involved, as well. Dentists have one of the highest student loan debt totals of any profession, so you will want to cut that down whenever possible.
The average dentist leaves school with nearly $300,000 in debt, according to the ADA. That can take over a decade to pay off. So how can you get out of dentistry school with a less daunting amount to pay off? How can you save money while you study so that you’re in a better place when you graduate?
Careful planning and a strict budget can help you to save money in dentistry school and graduate with less debt. Everything from where you go to school to how you handle everyday bills makes a difference when it comes to saving money as a dental student.
Choose Your Dentistry School Wisely
Even if you are accepted to a big-name dental school, you might 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 around the country at schools where you can get a great education for less.
Cost of living in some cities is considerably higher than in others. For example, attending the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)’s highly ranked dental school will have you paying some of the highest cost of living in the nation to make your home in the Bay Area while you study.
Meanwhile, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill not only offers lower tuition, but also a much more reasonable cost of living (and it’s also a top-ranked dental school). That means you can still choose from the best dental schools and save.
That’s not all to keep in mind. Non-resident tuition is higher than what’s charged to residents of that state at every college. That means considering the dental school options that are within your home state can save you a lot on tuition. It may also give you the option to live at home while you’re in school and avoid costs of moving.
Minimize Your Student Loans
Regardless of which school you choose to attend, tuition for dental school is still going to add up. While it’s likely you’ll need some loans, it’s always a good idea to look at other options that are available to offset how much you need to borrow.
Looking for money that you don’t have to save up or pay back is the clear 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 grants specific to dentistry students; there are a lot of grants out there for which you might qualify.
If possible, ask around for loans from parents, guardians, and other family members. They might be willing to lend you some money at a lower interest rate or even with no interest at all.
You can also look for an assistantship program that will provide lower tuition costs in return for part-time work. You’ll learn valuable skills on the job and also amass less debt. Everything you do to reduce tuition costs will also reduce your loans.
Avoid Additional Debt While in School
Student loans might be avoidable, but other forms of debt are easier to stay away from. While you’re in dental school you may be tempted to use credit cards in order to put off paying for the things you want or need, but it will only put you in a position of needing to pay off that debt before you’ve even started your first job as a dentist.
The same goes for any other major purchases. While you’re in school it isn’t a good time to buy a new car or take on a mortgage. If you already own a house, you will probably need to put off expensive renovations until you have a steady post-graduation income.
Dentists make a great living even at entry level, so your day to buy the car and house of your dreams will likely come; avoiding a pile of debt during school so that you can finish with fewer student loans and a better financial situation will be worth the wait.
Check Your Cost of Living
Tuition isn’t the only thing that you need to spend money on during your years in dental school. You’ll need a place to live, you’ll need to eat, and odds are good you will need some form of transportation. There are a lot of ways to save money on everyday expenses while you’re in dental school.
The ideal situation is to skip the cost of a place to live entirely while you’re at school by continuing to live at home with your parents or guardians. Of course, that’s not desirable or even possible for everyone, so you may need to look at other ways to lower the most basic and expensive costs of living.
Living on campus in a dorm is a cheap option, and if you sign up to be a residential advisor or similar role, you may get to live on campus for free. If not, look for a roommate to help bring the cost of living down.
Outside of where you live, you can look to cut other costs as well. Keep to a strict budget for groceries and make eating out a treat rather than the norm. Even cutting back on your Starbucks habit can make a big difference. And when you do spend, consider using a cash back app or coupon app.
Using public transportation is the cheapest way to get around, but there are a lot of reasons you may need or want a car. Make sure to shop around for low car insurance rates; the best car 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 specially priced plans for health insurance in each state, but you should still compare and shop around to make sure you are getting the best price on the coverage you need.
Keeping to a strict budget and avoiding the impulse to spend on instant-gratification items requires some discipline, but then so does making your way through dentistry school. When you do both, you’ll come out of school in a solid position and ready to start your career and move towards your financial goals.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leslie Kasperowicz is an insurance and finance expert who is the managing editor of AutoInsurance.org. She is a former Farmers Insurance and Financial Services CSR and has been helping people understand insurance and finances through education for more than 10 years.