7 Practical Tips To Minimize Optometry Student Loan Debt
Updated: Aug 17
How do you minimize optometry student loan debt?
In this video, I share what you need to know about optometry school debt and student loans, including how to minimize the optometry student loan burden.
My optometry school student loan debt journey
For most, borrowing money to pay optometry school tuition and living expenses is a fact of life. Personally, I graduated from optometry school in 2012 and had 160K in student loan debt.
During my optometry residency, I decided to enroll in the pay as you earn student loan program. At one point my student loan debt reached 190K.
In 2017, I decided this wasn't the right strategy for me and started aggressively paying off my loans using the snowball method from Dave Ramsey. Doing so allowed me to pay off my optometry student loans in 2019.
Optometry school tuition cost and debt expectations
Today, optometry school tuition can run as little as 20 to 30K for in-state public schools. For out-of-state public schools or private schools, tuition can run as high as 50 to 60K a year. Unfortunately, this does not include living expenses.
In 2019, the reported average optometry student loan debt was 173K for optometrists.
I have news for you, I have friends that graduated well north of 200K and some were approaching 250K to 300K in optometry student loan debt.
Here are 7 tips to minimize your optometry student loan burden.
1) Minimize your undergraduate student loan debt
In high school, proactively take AP classes and tested out of these courses to gain college credit.
Also, consider going to a community college before going to a four-year institution. They’re a fraction of the cost of larger institutions and a great place to know out some general education credits.
2) Consider going to an in-state school
if you're taking out student loans for undergrad another way to decrease the student loan burden is to go to in-state, public schools. For these schools, tuition is significantly less than going out of state or to a private institution.
Personally, I went out of state for optometry school when I could have gone in state and saved myself a lot of money.
3) Apply for scholarships
Scholarships come in many forms. Some are directly through where you go to school while others are third-party scholarships you can use toward tuition and living expenses.
Also, keep in mind military scholarships. Those who commit before they start optometry school can have their entire optometry school cost covered by the US military.
4) Work-study jobs
Every optometry school provides students with the opportunity to do work-study jobs.
If you elect to do so, the extra income can help decrease the burden on some of your grocery bills or some of your ancillary expenses.
5) Take out federal instead of private student loans
Federal student loans have better interest rates and subsidized federal loans have the interest paid by the Education Department while you're enrolled in optometry school.
Also, federal student loans are often eligible for more flexible, income-driven repayment plans.
6) Student loan forgiveness
If you work for a non-profit or in a qualified underserved area of the country, there’s a good chance you’ll qualify for federal student loan forgiveness.
I have classmates who paid on their student loans for 10 consecutive years and had the rest forgiven based on the income-driven repayment plan they qualified for at the time of graduation!
7) Live like a student
What better way to minimize the student loan burden than by taking out fewer student loans for lifestyle and living expenses?
Don't go and get your own place that's in a high-end area of where your optometry school or spend a ton of money on groceries or eating out.
Find a way to get through optometry school and have a fantastic time without spending a ton of money.
Optometry school is an investment in your future as an optometrist. While not cheap, the investment is worth it and your loan debt can be minimized by making a few smart decisions.
What are your thoughts on optometry school debt and ways to minimize the student loan burden? Let me know in the comments below and stay tuned for my next video where we can reflect and grow stronger together.
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