Question about military scholarships

I’m still involved in my quest to figure out how to afford school and support my family at the same time, and I was doing a little more research into the military option and had a question about that. Hopefully someone here knows, or can point me in the right direction.

Here’s the main question:

  • Does the monthly stipend that the services offer count as financial aid?

    I’m asking this to determine if I could take out additional loans to cover living expenses for my family, in addition to the stipend. If so, this may be the answer to my question of how to support the family while I’m in school.


In case anyone’s interested, I got in touch with an Air Force recruiter and this is what they had to say.

  • Quote:
The monthly stipend is not financial aid. It goes directly to you, almost like a paycheck for working a job. The financial aid aspect is the full tuition that we cover, as well as any fees/books etc that are required for your medical school (excluding electronics). Currently the stipend is $2157 per month.

Feel free to hit me up for any questions - I’m currently active duty Air Force and took the HPSP scholarship.

I also interviewed an Air Force recruiter and was able make sure her answers were the truth! - you can listen to that at

Did the recruiter mention the age limit? By the time I apply, planning for 2016-2017, I’ll be 41-42 respectively.

I spoke to the AF recruiter at the conference, told him I was 51, BUT that I had 18 years experience in mental health, specializing in trauma and wanted a degree in psychiatry…he didn’t even blink and said my age requirement would be waived.

Every situation is different with age - and anything has the potential to be waived, but nothing is guaranteed. You can only just start inquiring.

thanks for that, it’s encouraging.

The army recruiters stated that they subtract each year of prior service from your age when figuring the limit, btw. I presume that navy, air force and etc are similar…

Better question is why take the scholarship? Better to pay for school with loans and after residency if still interested, apply then. The military isn’t going anywhere and this way it gives you a better shot of getting residency of your choice and even fellowship if you so choose.

I don’t understand why the recruiters make such a deal about doing this because you want to be in the military and yet dangle money and debt. It’s like offering a starving person a meal but telling them they should only eat it if they really like the food.

I’m a 12 year Navy vet and would never take the scholarship until after being board certified. It is always best to have a chip you can play than begging for scraps. Board certification is a huge chip and like I said, the military ain’t going anywhere.

To each there own but I was more than tired of working for military physicians who abhorred the military and the only reason they joined was because of their fear of paying back the debt. There are more physicians who fit this bill than those who love the military. Unfortunate but true. Forewarned is forearmed.

Take what is useful, discard the rest.

Thanks for sharing that with us

Thanks for a different perspective

To answer your original question:

I currently receive tuition payments and a housing stipend for my undergraduate degree from the VA. My wife and I have talked with FAFSA folks many times over the phone and have been told not to count monies we receive from the military as financial aid or income. Now, the VA is not the military, but I believe their message remains the same - that military scholarship funds should not be counted as financial aid.

Croooz always gives quality advice - certainly you should know why it is you wish to take a military scholarship. In my case, I want to rejoin the Navy as a medical officer with the Marines - a highly UNcoveted tour of duty - and therefore I don’t think I’ll need anything to bargain with in order to get that…it’s typically seen as duty mandatory to advance the career ladder. But it’s what I want, so I’m willing to take a HPSP scholarship upon acceptance to med school. It all depends on what you want and are willing to do to get it.

croooz - the only negative of doing it this way is if you are in a specialty that the branch you want to join doesn’t need.

Just because you are offering your services, doesn’t mean the military is hiring.

There are negatives of both ways. The majority of people think not getting the specialty of your choice is the biggest negative.

I have found not getting my first choice as an awesome sidetrack.

But you hit the nail on the head - don’t sign up JUST for the money. The military isn’t just another job, just as being a physician isn’t just a job. You have to WANT to be a military officer - OR - you have to be willing to have a fun adventure and be flexible.

DocGray, either route requires flexibility. If going the private loan route then you have to be flexible as to which branch to join and even IF you can join because of your chosen specialty. This also proves a bit of my point in that there are plenty who’ve chosen their specialty not because that is what they really wanted to do but because going the HPSP route limited their choice. Can it be done? Sure. I worked for THE Navy transplant surgeon. He was deferred for residency and fellowship. He wrote hundreds of letters to get deferred and he was finally able to get a “yes” in writing and rode that to the bank. Longshot but he was a very good writer and made a very good point. He was also a Ph.D. and was able to relate how his transplant research also would help the Warfighters with skin grafts and the like. Brilliant physician-scientist who was also an OPM…even spoke at the first OPM conference.

For me, at this stage of my life, and having given to the military 10 years active and 2 reserve will not allow debt to dictate what specialty I’ll go into, which translates into I will not allow my aversion to debt have me make a decision that relinquishes my control over my specialty. I’ve done plenty of the exciting stuff, riden, shot, climbed, jumped, dove…but my specialty is more important than any sidetrack. I’ve been sidetracked enough.

I’m not against the military, heck if my app is approved I’ll be a Navy Reserve Chaplain by the end of the year. I just opine that people should not make a decision out of fear. Some might retort that I’m afraid I won’t get the specialty I want in the military and hence I am violated my own premise by going the loan route. The thing is I don’t know what specialty I want and going the private loan route allows me the flexibility to look around and really see what is out there.

Heck…I might take the NHSC scholarship which locks me into primary care anyway. LOL!

For those who are deciding with HPSP just go into it with your eyes WIDE OPEN. It is the best job in the world as well as the worst. Your expectations will dictate which as will each command you work at. Some commands are notorious for wrecking a person’s love for the military.

  • VickiV Said:
I spoke to the AF recruiter at the conference, told him I was 51, BUT that I had 18 years experience in mental health, specializing in trauma and wanted a degree in psychiatry...he didn't even blink and said my age requirement would be waived.

I got the same response from the Army and I also used to work at USUHS, so I'm quite familiar with how desperate the military is for Docs despite age. The BIG caveat (as of 3 years ago) is that they won't allow you to put 20 years in and retire, thus no military retirement benefits. And hopefully, that's changed since I last looked into it.

  • croooz Said:
going the HPSP route limited their choice

I agree with everything, except this one statement - and I just want to clarify for anybody else that may be reading this thread.

The military DOES NOT dictate what specialty you can or cannot do. You HAVE to match into the specialty you want, but they will not make you do a residency in something arbitrary.

The only thing they may "make" you do is a one year internship if you don't get the specialty you want, and then a general medical officer tour if you apply again and still don't get the specialty of your choice.

So if don't get the specialty you want, eventually you will get to do what you want.

I clarify, only because, this seems to be the biggest question asked of me.

My fault. I never meant to imply that a limited choice was somehow a mandated choice. By limited I mean you are not going to have free reign into any and every specialty especially if you want to subspecialize. The issue I have with the HPSP option for OPM’ers is that most of us have waited long enough to have the dream deferred even longer. For someone younger, like a traditional student, I could see the attraction and for those who’ve already worn the uniform and know what to expect. But for an OPM without any military experience who has a spouse and kids I think it’s asking a lot of the family in the longterm

  • Doc Gray Said:

Just because you are offering your services, doesn't mean the military is hiring.

The exception to this are posts - like Navy GMO duty - which no one wants and are always undermanned. Just like 8404 Corpsman, a rating so consistently undermanned that congress allowed the very controversial National Call to Service Act. If you are bent on service, don't want to specialize right away and love that kind of lifestyle, then chances are on your side.