Complete Works of Department of Education Guidance on Loans and PSLF

Hoping for PSLF?

If you suspect you may one day qualify for PSLF, you’ll want to ensure you remain eligible and also maximize your forgiveness by paying the least amount possible towards your loans. Several different types of mistakes can result in many thousands (if not hundreds of thousands!) of dollars of lost forgiveness. All of the following can be very costly mistakes: choosing the wrong payment plan; failing to consolidate loans when appropriate or consolidating the wrong loans at the wrong time; forgetting to re-certify your income annually by the deadline.


You need to be an expert.

You must become an “expert” on PSLF. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to do. 95% of the information you need to know about PSLF is available on a finite set of web pages maintained by Federal Student Aid or the Department of Education. The entire text could be one small chapter of “First Aid for Boards”. At minimum, read through each link to see which terms or concepts may be relevant to you, and then explore in more detail things that you do not understand.

Take advantage of the fact that we’ve aggregated the information in one spot, and physician “educate thyself”!

In addition, we’ve included two non-government links at the end, one to a very good AAMC guide on student loans, and another to a (free!) comprehensive book on loans and PSLF.



Understanding Repayment

Just the basics on payments in general. And remember, never pay a penny more than your required monthly payment if going for PSLF.

Repayment Plans

Get an introduction to “PAYE”, “REPAYE”, and “IBR” (the PSLF eligible payment plans). Ignore ICR and ISR. But if you are eligible for PAYE, you can also ignore IBR (because PAYE is always better than IBR).

Income-Driven Plans

More details on the “IDR” payment plans which are required for PSLF. This is all stuff you really need to know. But again, ignore ICR, and if you are eligible for PAYE, you can ignore IBR too!

Apply for Income-Driven Student Loan Repayment

This is where you’ll actually sign-up for a payment plan (or change an existing one). It’s an online process, or you can choose to use the PDF form (next link).

Income-Driven Student Loan Repayment (PDF application)

We recommend filling out this paper form prior to use as a guide when applying for a payment plan online.

Income-Driven Plans Questions and Answers

This page has just about every possible question you can come up with, along with many examples. It’s long, but you should read every section which applies (or may one day apply) to you.



Loan Consolidation

All medical students should consolidate immediately after graduation in order to eliminate your grace period, and potentially make certain loans eligible for PSLF.

Begin the Loan Consolidation Process

Consolidation starts here. Be sure to print out a pdf copy of the application and use it as a guide when applying online.



Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Ah, now the fun starts! You simply MUST understand everything on this page, or you risk costly mistakes.


This is an extremely comprehensive set of common questions. A must read for everyone.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employment Certification Form (PDF Form)

This form is required to periodically “credit” your qualifying months of PSLF. Submit it after your first few months of payments, and then annually after that, and at any time you leave your employer.

THE HOLY GRAIL (aka Applying For Forgiveness)

This is what you submit when you reach 120 qualifying payments.



Student Loan Glossary

A fairly comprehensive list of definitions relevant to loans.


Additional Resources

AAMC Debt Manager [Free download using the “Quick Download Link] This is a great guide to loans and repayment options. It’s long and can seem confusing, but it’s very much worth reading because there is some additional education and explanation not included in the official web pages. Focus on the PSLF-eligible repayment plans (PAYE, REPAYE, IBR, and ignore anything which has to do with “ICR”).

Medical Student Loans, a book recommendation. Lot’s of good information in an easy to read book form, at a decent price. And, also available for free if you provide Ben your email address.


Questions? Use the forum!

If you have any questions about loans, or PSLF (or any other financial question for that matter), please ask in our new online discussions boards and forum. As always, free, no ads, no spam, no solicitations. Just register a screen name and ask away!