My name is Alex, and I’m an HRSA National Health Service Corps Scholar. I know that probably just sounds like a bunch of acronyms and random words put together, but it’s actually a long-winded way of saying that I am getting my dental school tuition paid for in full. If you’ve ever considered any kind of professional schooling in the health care field, you’re probably aware of the crazy price tag on your education. For me, that's at least $300K for four years of dental school—not an ideal way to enter my future career!

So, here is where NHSC comes in: 

NHSC is a federally funded scholarship program for people pursuing education to be a Physician (DMD, DO), Dentist (DMD, DDS), Nurse Practitioner (NP), Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM), or a Physician Associate (PA). Upon applying, you indicate the number of years you wish to seek coverage for, which can range from just 1 year to your entire time in school (I chose to apply for all 4 years of dental school). You will also need the information for the school you will be attending, some personal general and background information, and then 2 letters of recommendation (one academic, one non-academic). If you do receive the scholarship, you will serve in a Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) after you graduate for the number of years you received financial assistance for. Pretty straight-forward. 

But what’s the catch?

There aren't many drawbacks to this program. I am fortunate to get my (very expensive) schooling paid for, and on top of that I receive a stipend every month! The only thing that turns some people away form this opportunity is that if you do intend on pursuing a post-graduate training program, NHSC does limit your options in which area of interest you can defer your service for. For example, if you really want to do surgery after medical school, you’re going to have to wait until after your service in the HPSA is done and then apply into that residency program. Personally, I have always been interested in pediatric dentistry, so I’m lucky that they approve 2-year residency training programs before starting my committed service. Another thing that you must consider is the concept of working in an HPSA after graduation. Some people want to go straight into private practice or corporate settings—not into community clinics or rural areas. You do generally have the opportunity to choose your HPSA site once you graduate, and I would encourage you to look at the HPSA Job Portal on their website. 

Why did I choose NHSC?

I’ve long been interested in public health and volunteered in community clinics during my undergraduate years and gap year. I got to see first-hand the disparities existing in the health care field—especially dentistry—in the communities surrounding me. I knew that either during dental school or after, I would want to work within these communities in some capacity. To be able to do so through NHSC while also coming out of dental school with no student loans is a dream come true. They provide me with the flexibility to pursue my dental education while also giving me the financial freedom to enjoy other pleasures and hobbies at the same time. I look forward to finishing dental school and learning more about pediatric dentistry. Beyond that, I look forward to entering underserved communities and applying my knowledge and skills to making their lives a little bit better. 

Great, where can I learn more?

Feel free to browse their website:

They also have other Loan Repayment Programs available if you’re already out of school too!

If you ever want to ask me more about my experiences or get additional information on applying, please feel free to leave a comment on this post.

Alex graduated from UCLA with a degree in Molecular, Cell & Developmental Biology. She's currently a National Health Service Corps Scholar at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM).


academics study skills MCAT medical school admissions SAT expository writing college admissions English MD/PhD admissions writing LSAT strategy GMAT GRE physics chemistry math biology graduate admissions ACT academic advice interview prep law school admissions test anxiety language learning MBA admissions premed career advice personal statements homework help AP exams creative writing MD study schedules Common Application test prep summer activities computer science history philosophy organic chemistry secondary applications economics mathematics supplements PSAT admissions coaching grammar research 1L law statistics & probability legal studies psychology ESL CARS SSAT covid-19 dental admissions logic games reading comprehension engineering USMLE Spanish calculus mentorship parents Latin case coaching verbal reasoning DAT PhD admissions excel political science AMCAS English literature French Linguistics MBA coursework Tutoring Approaches academic integrity chinese medical school Anki DO STEM Social Advocacy admissions advice algebra astrophysics biochemistry business classics diversity statement genetics geometry kinematics letters of recommendation mechanical engineering mental health presentations quantitative reasoning skills study abroad technical interviews time management work and activities 2L IB exams ISEE MD/PhD programs adjusting to college algorithms art history artificial intelligence athletics business skills careers cold emails data science first generation student functions gap year information sessions international students internships linear algebra logic networking poetry resume revising science social sciences software engineering tech industry trigonometry 3L AAMC Academic Interest DMD EMT FlexMed Fourier Series Greek Health Professional Shortage Area Italian Lagrange multipliers London MD vs PhD MMI Montessori National Health Service Corps Pythagorean Theorem Python Sentence Correction Shakespeare Step 2 TMDSAS Taylor Series Truss Analysis Zoom acids and bases amino acids analysis essay architecture argumentative writing art art and design schools art portfolios bibliographies biomedicine brain teaser campus visits cantonese capacitors capital markets cell biology central limit theorem centrifugal force chemical engineering chess chromatography class participation climate change clinical experience community service constitutional law consulting cover letters curriculum dementia demonstrated interest dental school dimensional analysis distance learning econometrics electric engineering electricity and magnetism enrichment escape velocity european history evolution executive function finance freewriting fun facts genomics graphing harmonics health policy history of medicine history of science hybrid vehicles hydrophobic effect ideal gas law induction infinite institutional actions integrated reasoning intermolecular forces intern investing investment banking lab reports linear maps mandarin chinese matrices mba medical physics meiosis microeconomics mitosis music music theory neurology neuroscience object-oriented programming office hours operating systems organization outlining pedagogy