Hopefully, you have thought of “how on earth am I going to afford graduate school?!” in your mind, at least once. It is so freaking expensive and the price of medical and dental school will only increase. If you are uncomfortable with the thought of having the debt of $400,000 (little above average for dental student debt) hang over your head after graduation, then you may want to consider applying for the HPSP.
What is HPSP
The Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) is a scholarship offered by a specific branch of the military. Now, this scholarship is very special. The main reason why it is special is that the HPSP covers all tuition and required fees, which is amazing. There is no tuition limit either! So if you are accepted to multiple schools the cost of tuition wouldn’t be a determining factor!
The fees mean that they will pay for all the required textbooks (you know the ones you won’t read.) It will also cover things like “small equipment items and supplies needed for study.” Not only do they cover all school costs but they also provide a monthly stipend (pay-check) for living expenses.
Each branch offers two general types of scholarships. There is a 4-year scholarship or a 3-year scholarship. With the 3-year scholarship, they will only pay for the last 3 years of school. You will need to withdraw some loans or have another method of payment for that first year of school.
All the military asks in return is your time. The 4-year scholarship requires 4 years of service and the 3-year scholarship for 3 years of service. During those years of service, you are guaranteed a salary no matter how many patients you see that day, which is comforting to think about.
I wanted this sections to show the different offers each branch had. After looking up the benefits of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to see if there were any differences… I found out that there really are none. Sooooooo… the perks for all the branches are as follows:
As a student
- Full tuition (up to 4 years)
- Reimbursement for books, equipment, other school fees
- $2,200+ monthly stipend (Taxed)
- $20,000 sign-on bonus* (Taxed)
- Officer’s pay during school breaks
*Note the sign-on bonus is ONLY for the 4-year scholarship (I actually never have heard of anyone receiving the bonus with the Air-Force.)
The real choice is simply between choosing in which branch you want to serve. I have 3 colleagues that are enrolled in the Navy HPSP. So the choice is yours! (I’ve heard the Army isn’t the greatest to in which to serve)
When/How Do I Apply
The best time to apply for the 4-year scholarship would be the same time you start your application for Med/Dental school. As you are applying for the graduate program of your choice, you should also be working with your recruiter to apply for the scholarship. When I was interviewing at some schools, many interviewees I talked with already were rewarded the 4-year HPSP. If this is something you know you want to do, you have to apply simultaneously as your applying for dental/medical school.
If you are wanting the 3-year HPSP, you should start the application process right after you have been accepted into a school.
Scholarships are awarded on a rolling basis, this means first come first serve. So applying early will greatly increase the chances of you receiving the scholarship.
Just like you need a competitive GPA and score on your DAT to get into dental school, the same is true for these scholarships. Plus side is the higher your test score, the lower your GPA can be and vice-versa. When I talked to the Navy recruiter he told me that with my DAT score all I needed was a 3.2 GPA (I think… this was a while ago.) Point is, work hard and apply for the scholarship if you want.
Why I Didn’t Choose HPSP
My father received the Air Force HPSP to pay for his medical schooling and enjoyed it greatly. He said he would do it over again in a heartbeat. Actually, every dentist, doctor, PA, etc. I asked, that paid for school with the HPSP, said it is something they would do again if they had to. So a ton of positive feedback about the military paying for your education.
It makes sense financially to go this route. So I called the recruiters for both the Navy and the Air Force. I obviously had some interest in it. BOY oh boy, the recruiters were super friendly, they really know how to sell. Just so you know, when you call them, be prepared to receive many calls back. You go through school debt free, you receive a monthly check, and you get the benefits of active duty. My dad even encouraged me greatly to apply for the scholarship. Why on earth would I not choose this?
Well, it never felt right.
That’s the biggest thing, you Should Not join the military if you are only doing it for the financial reasons. That was the only drive I had for going the military route, which is why it never felt right. Also, after having people tell me again and again that it was the “only smart way” to pay for dental school, it made me want to prove them wrong.
Is It For You?
I can’t answer this question for you. It is completely a personal decision. I will say, don’t choose the scholarship if you simply don’t think you have any other way to pay for school.
If you have contemplated paying for school through the military then go and ask someone that has paid for school with the HPSP. Find a doctor and pick his brain. Ask him questions Such as:
Where were they deployed? What did they enjoy about serving? Did he fly an F-16 (my dad got to do this! Kinda cool)? Did you feel like you received sufficient experience? What did you do in the military? What was training like? Were there things they didn’t enjoy? What rank did they achieve? What was the pay the benefits? Was it worth it? Ask them any type of question you can think of.
I’m not saying don’t go the military route, it simply wasn’t for me and isn’t for everyone. But, if it is for you and you know it is for you then, by all means, go for it. Put forth the effort, apply and be awarded the health scholarship. Gain your health education debt free.
Tell me how you decided to pay for graduate school. Did you decide to take out loans? Did you go with the military and what are your reasons for choosing them? Tell me in the comments below.