Study Abroad Financial Aid

By Brandi Brown , last updated October 15, 2011

So, you have decided to study abroad? Great choice! How are you going to pay for it?

The cost of study abroad can be astronomical and feel daunting, especially for students who will be funding this venture themselves. A number of financial aid options are available, though in many cases students will need to do the legwork themselves to find this aid. The first step to finding study abroad financial aid is to calculate the cost of the trip. Consider the cost of housing, food, travel, entertainment, and exchanging currency. Once you have a hard number, you can begin to piece together financial aid.

Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students often use federal loans or grants to fund their study abroad experiences. Grants are monies that you get, usually because of financial need, and that you do not need to pay back. Take all of the federal grants you can to study abroad after you make sure that you will have enough grant money available for your tuition once you return home. (Speak to a financial aid counselor at your college.) Loans, even low-interest federal loans, should be a last resort to pay for your study abroad experience. Apply for the loans, though, and keep them on the backburner in case you need them.

Some large universities help students with study abroad by offering scholarships for high-achieving students. If you have a good GPA, usually above a 3.0, then you should ask your international studies department and student experiences offices about scholarships available at your school. A number of companies also offer limited scholarships to undergraduate students. Many of these scholarships come with requirements, such as taking a certain course or gaining language fluency, so make sure that you are willing to follow through with the requirements before you apply. Enterprising students can cobble together these scholarships to create a good financial aid package.

Graduate Students

Associations like the American Association of University Women provide funding for graduate students who are going to study abroad. In most cases, you will need to write a proposal. In short, the organizations and companies that fund graduate students want to know that these students are producing quality work during their time internationally. Be prepared to offer a concise statement of your research and how the study abroad experience will help you to further your research goals.

Fulbright scholarships are among the most prestigious scholarships available for graduate students. The students who earn Fulbright scholarships typically go on to successful careers in their fields. These scholarships come with a substantial financial stipend, and students can use this money to study internationally without seeking outside funds. Other scholarship programs, such as the Boren Fellowships, give students around $30,000 but require that the students work for the federal government for a minimum time period after completing graduate school. If the terms of these scholarships are acceptable to you, then the scholarships are well worth the commitment. As a last resort, graduate students also can consider loans to cover any leftover cost of their study and travel.

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