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Financial Aid

Frequently Asked Questions

Financial Aid Process




Parental/Spousal Information



Debt Forgivenss/Repayment


Financial Aid Process

Q: Can you give me an overview of financial aid at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine?

A: Need-Based Financial Aid awards are based entirely on need, where "need" is defined as the difference between the cost of attending Penn and the ability of the student and the student's family to pay this cost. Penn considers the financing of a student's education to be a family responsibility, including the student, the student's parents, and the student's spouse (if married). The goal of the financial aid program is to provide resources that will fully meet all financial need, thereby enabling any accepted student to attend Penn without unreasonable personal or family hardship.

A fixed amount of money is available for financial aid. In some cases, policies to distribute financial aid funds are set by Federal guidelines and cannot be changed by Penn.

Q: Is a set formula used to determine financial aid awards? If so, what is the formula?

A: Yes, a formula is used, and this approach works well to determine awards that are fair and equitable. The formula is:


Student Budget = total cost for one year, including tuition, room/board, and all other expenses.

Student and Family Contribution = funds available from the student and the student's family (usually parents)

Financial Need = difference between the total budget and total available resources

Q: How is the "Student and Family Contribution" determined?

A: Financial information is gathered via two principal sources: The Need Access Application and tax returns (both student and parental).

Q: My financial aid award from Penn is very different from the financial aid packages I received at other medical schools to which I have applied. Why is there such a difference?

A: Each medical school uses different awarding policies. Each school has a unique budget and funding strategy. We will be happy to discuss these differences with you on an individual basis to assist you in your decision making process.

Q: What forms must be provided to document income information?

A: Copies of income tax returns submitted to the Internal Revenue Service, including Form 1040 (if submitted), as well as copies of all schedules completed for the IRS. If Form 1040A or 1040EZ were submitted, copies of those forms must be provided. If no tax return was filed, a statement of earnings and documentation of earned income must be provided. In all cases, W-2 Forms are required.

Q: I am an accepted applicant and would like to know my preliminary financial aid award even though my financial aid file is incomplete. Can I call the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid with my parent's income figures and receive some preliminary numbers?

A: You must submit a completed Need Access Financial Aid Application along with the required IRS Federal Tax Return(s) in order to receive a financial aid estimate. Awards are based on many variables, not on income levels alone.

Q: I have submitted all required information and documents, but the Financial Aid Office does not have a record of them. How can this happen?

A: Most of the information received by the Financial Aid Office is date-stamped, entered in the database, and placed in the student's file on the day it is received. However, some correspondence may be misplaced. The best way to avoid this problem is to take the following steps when submitting financial aid forms:

Q: What happens to my financial aid if I take a time out study?

A: The medical school curriculum provides students with the ability to extend their education in order to pursue other academic opportunities. These activities include, but are not limited to, research, study abroad, and scholarly pursuits. To be eligible, students are responsible for completing and submitting all necessary documents to the Registrar's Office.

Tuition is not charged during the time out period. Individuals are charged general, tech, and disability fees which permit them to maintain their full time student status, defer student loans, and continue their use of the University's facilities and Student Health Services. Students must maintain health insurance either through Penn or provide evidence of another plan approved by Student Health.

Because tuition is not charged during the time out, the student budget will be reduced accordingly. Time out students are not eligible for School of Medicine funds (school scholarships/school loans). Depending on the amount of aid, such as grants, students may be eligible for loans to cover living expenses, fees, and insurance. The amount of loan eligibility will be reduced by the amount of other aid the student receives.


Q: I was recently taken off the waitlist and was accepted to Penn. I have missed the preferred filing date, Does this jeopardize my chances of receiving financial aid?

A: No, you are still eligible for financial aid. Once your financial aid file is complete, a financial aid award will be calculated and discussed with you.

Q: I was recently accepted at Penn, but my FAFSA application is on file at another medical school. How can I transfer this information to Penn?

A: FAFSA information must be sent to Penn. Therefore, you need to complete the "Release" section of your SAR (Student Aid Report sent to you from FAFSA once it is processed) by filling out "University of Pennsylvania" and be sure to include our School Code 003378. Sign the SAR and mail it back to FAFSA at the address indicated on the form and they will release the information to us. You will need to complete our Penn Financial Aid Application, as well, in order for us to determine your financial aid award package.


Q: What are the sources of scholarship funds?

A: Most School of Medicine scholarship funds come from income generated by the School's endowment. In addition, generous donors have contributed to the financial aid program over the years. These donors include alumni, faculty members, and other friends of the School.

Q: Do I have to apply for Penn’s merit scholarships?

A: No, all accepted students are automatically considered for School of Medicine merit awards.

Q: What happens if I am awarded an outside scholarship?

A: Students may receive scholarships specifically defined to cover the cost of the education such as the MD/PhD program, an Armed Forces Scholarship, the National Health Service Corps Scholarship or Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship. From the financial aid perspective, such scholarships increase the student's available resources. This in turn decreases the student's need, which means that the total financial aid award must be decreased by the scholarship amount.

Scholarships from other "outside" sources, such as Medical Society will reduce the loan obligations in the financial aid package, starting with the highest interest-rate loans. Only after all loan obligations have been eliminated, will the outside scholarship affect the Penn scholarship award.


Q: What kinds of educational loans are available?

A: Direct Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, Perkins Loans, Penn School of Medicine Loans, and various private lender loans. Each type of loan has its distinctive requirements and features, and it is helpful to be aware of these differences.

Q: What is a Master Promissory Note?

A: A Master Promissory Note is a contract the student signs when taking out loans. This includes the Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, Direct Grad PLUS Loan and Private Loans. It is a legally binding agreement that the borrower signs to promise to repay the loan, with interest, in periodic installments.

Q: How are the Federal Perkins Loans divided up among the classes?

A: Perkins loans are not divided by class. Any qualifying student who has a need for a Perkins Loan is given such a loan in the financial aid package as long as funds are available.

Parental/Spousal Information

Q: Why must I include parental information when they give me no financial support?

A: If financial aid awards were based only on the resources of students, without taking parental resources into consideration, the needs of students from more affluent families would likely be equivalent to the needs of students from more disadvantaged backgrounds. And because the total amount available for annual scholarships is finite, eliminating parental resources from the financial aid formula would result in sharply diminished scholarship support for students with the greatest real need. This in turn would inevitably reduce the School's ability to attract a diverse and talented student body.

Q: What if parents won't or can't contribute the money expected of them?

A: If either the student or the student's parents decide not to contribute the amount of resources specified in the financial aid award, these funds may be replaced with loans up to the entire amount of the annual budget.

Q: If my parents are divorced, do I need to provide financial information from both parents, or just from the custodial parent?

A: In order to fully evaluate the applicant’s total financial situation, in cases of divorced, separated, or unmarried parents, the School of Medicine requires information and tax returns for both custodial and biological parents.  

Q. If it's impossible for my parents to have their taxes ready by April 9, what can I do if I need to know what my financial aid award will be like?

A: Your parents can submit last year's taxes or a current year's estimated tax return and a preliminary financial aid award will be calculated for you.

Q: Why do married students have to submit financial information from both their parents and their spouse? Is this required even if my parents don't contribute to my education?

A: All resources available to a student must be considered when determining financial aid. The spouse might be wealthy, and it would be unfair to other students if that wealth were not considered in calculating financial aid. The goal of the financial aid program is to meet "real" need.

Q: Where are the boundaries to the brackets used to determine how much my parents' income would have to be to cause me lose aid?

A: Precise Boundaries are difficult to define because each family is different. Many factors are used in determining what parents are expected to provide. Income is indeed taken into consideration, but so too are assets, the size of the family, and the number of family members currently enrolled in college. All of these factors affect the parents' ability to contribute to the cost of education.


Q: How can I view my current bill?

A: You may view your University bill on the Penn Portal website at, under the Financial Matters tab, for the most up-to-date information available.

Q: Which kinds of financial support will be reflected on my bill?

A: Grants, loans, fellowship stipends, tuition allowances, and payments received from outside agencies will appear as credits on your bill. Earnings from assistantships will not; you will receive your wages semi-monthly through the University payroll system.

Q: Not all of my financial support is listed on the Penn Portal; how do I know whom to contact for which type of support?

A: Student Financial Services (SFS) awards and disburses student loan funds and outside scholarships. The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Med School awards and disburses grants, Perkins and School of Medicine loan funds.  Please contact the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid should you see a discrepancy on your bill.

Q: How much should I pay if I'm expecting financial support that is not yet reflected on my bill?

A: To avoid late fees, you should plan to pay any portion of the balance that will not be covered by funds listed as "temporary credit" on the bill, or funding that has been committed to you--preferably in writing--by outside or University sources.

Q: Will I owe late fees if my bill isn't paid by the due date?

A: The University must receive the FULL AMOUNT DUE on or before the due date indicated on the bill. If full payment is not received by the due date, a late payment penalty of 1.5% of the amount past due will be assessed, and future registration and continuing enrollment may be jeopardized. For more information regarding the late payment policy and payment due dates please visit the following website:

Q: What if I need cash now, but my student loans and other funding have not been applied to my bill?

A: Cash advances, charged against financial aid for the term, are granted on a student-by-student basis. Students must have excess aid to cover the advance.

Q: If we take out loans for more than tuition (to pay for rent and other expenses) when and how do we receive that money?

A: A student who receives financial assistance for more than the items billed to their account will be issued a refund for the difference.


Q: What is your tuition policy?

A: Further information on our tuition policy can be found on the Student Portal under Policies.

Debt Forgiveness/Repayment

Q: Are there programs for debt forgiveness if I want to go into primary care medicine, work in a rural or underserved area, or in another country where my income will not be as great as it would have been if I entered a specialty or worked in the United States ?

A: Yes, there are many debt repayment programs. Some of them are listed below:

Q: I plan to practice medicine in another country, where the average doctor's salary will not cover the expenses of paying back my loans. Are debt repayment programs available to those desiring to serve in such a scenario?

A: The only program available at this time is the Peace Corps, which does not repay the debt, but does allow participants to defer loan payment for up to three years while doing Peace Corps work. Some other organizations with which graduates might be affiliated have funds to help with debt repayment, but the Financial Aid Office is not aware of any programs specifically intended for work in other countries.

Q: I'm from another country and plan to return home to practice medicine. Since my financial status will be based on the much smaller economy of my native country, is debt forgiveness available to me?

A: Not unless the country itself has a program to support young doctors in this way.

Q: Do you have to start repaying your loans in residency, or is it possible to continue deferring them or pay smaller amounts during that time?

A: Repayment begins on the first day of the seventh month after a student is no longer enrolled on at least a half-time basis. However, payments may be lowered by taking advantage of various repayment options. Check VC2000 for presentations on this subject.

Q: I ended this semester with a bit of extra money. What should I do?

A: Contact the Financial Aid Office to discuss options.

Page Updated: 03-Feb-2015