The Basics of Financial Aid for Study Abroad
Make study abroad affordable with the help of financial aid.
By Kathryn Knight Randolph
January 11, 2018
The number one reason students don’t study abroad during college relates to personal finances and the assumed cost associated with living in a foreign country. However, before students jump to a decision to not study abroad, they should consider the multiple financial aid opportunities that are actually available to them. With that kind of unexpected help, students may find that studying abroad is actually pretty affordable.
What kind of financial aid is available for study abroad?
Take a look at your current financial aid package – that is what’s available to you for study abroad. Your loans, grants, work-study and scholarships that you’re receiving from your current institution will help pay the way to study abroad. This includes both federal and state financial aid.
In addition to financial aid from the federal and state governments as well as the school of attendance, students can find scholarships specifically for study abroad to help offset costs. These scholarships can be found at schools that students are currently attending, schools at which they wish to study abroad and third-party organizations.
Unlike academic or merit scholarships awarded automatically when a student applies for admissions, students are going to have to seek out study abroad scholarship opportunities; they won’t simply come to them. Fortunately, the Fastweb scholarship database has a multitude of studying abroad scholarships available for students to explore.
How is financial aid or scholarship money applied to study abroad?
Applying financial aid or scholarship money to a study abroad program requires students to be very hands on with the process. Don’t expect everything to fall into place.
Once a program has been decided on, students should contact the financial aid or bursar’s office at the study abroad institution to talk through tuition costs, financial aid status at the current institution and any gaps between what the student is currently paying versus what is required to pay the study abroad institution in full.
Students should also pay a visit to their home institution’s financial aid office. Talking face-to-face with a financial aid officer helps to better clarify the situation as they can provide visuals on how financial aid and scholarships can be applied to the study abroad tuition bill. Essentially, it’s vital that students talk with the financial aid professionals at both institutions as well as keep proper documentation of conversations and forms for reference.
Generally, for financial aid to be “portable” to a study abroad program, the student must carry at least a half-time load at the foreign institution and receive credit for the program toward his or her degree. The study abroad program must advance the student toward a degree and not merely be providing an enrichment experience. There may also be other eligibility restrictions, depending on the financial aid program.
But as a general rule, many students will be able to take their Title IV funding (Pell, Stafford and PLUS) overseas with them. If the study abroad program is approved for credit by the school, and the student meets the usual eligibility requirements for federal aid, the school is not allowed to deny federal aid to the student just because he or she is participating in a program of study abroad. Institutional aid, however, is subject to the school’s own policies.
Students who participate in study-abroad programs that cost more than the usual cost of attendance for their school may be able to get an increase in their Federal Pell Grant to help cover those costs.
Where can additional grants or scholarships for study abroad be found?
Students should first seek scholarship opportunities or grants through their home institution as well as their study abroad institution. Each of these may have award opportunities for students that are specific to their study abroad programs, fields of study and interests.
There are also a plethora of third-party organizations and scholarship opportunities that provide funding specifically for undergraduate and graduate study abroad. Here are a few:
- British Chevening Scholarships
- Marshall Scholarships
- George Mitchell Scholarships
- Rhodes Scholarships
- AIFS International Scholarships
- CIMO Scholarship Programs
- Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
- International Student Loan Center
- The Rotary Foundation
Finally, the Fastweb scholarship database contains scholarships for studying abroad. Users can update their profile under “Educational Experience” to indicate that they are searching for study abroad scholarships.
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