Financial Aid for Study Abroad: An Undergraduate Student's Resource

 

Financial aid regulations and sources for study abroad differ for undergraduate and graduate students. This resource focuses specifically on undergraduate students.

Financial aid for undergraduate study abroad consists mainly of federal grants and federal and private loans. However, scholarship money is also available from organizations and sponsoring companies. You likely have many questions about the cost of studying abroad and about how you can fund your abroad experience. Be sure to speak with your campus financial aid officer and study abroad adviser to learn more about specific funding options available at—and required procedures for—your college or university.

You probably have two major questions about financing your study abroad experience:

  1. How much does it cost to study abroad?
  2. How can I fund my study abroad experience?

How Much Does it Cost to Study Abroad?

The cost of your study abroad program will depend on many factors, including your destination country, the type and length of your program, and what is included in the program cost. Be sure to consider costs beyond the program fee, which may include passport, visa, airfare, immunizations, local transportation, meals, books, insurance, and incidentals.

Cost Estimate Worksheets

Talk with your study abroad adviser to see if your school has budget and cost sheets that you can use to estimate your specific costs. A sample budget worksheet (19kb Icon XLS 16) may help you sort through the various costs you may encounter.

Variables to Consider

  • Destination: Talk with your study abroad adviser about the locations you are considering.
  • Exchange rate: Remember that currency exchange rates fluctuate constantly. Visit an online currency converter to stay abreast of the latest rates.
  • Program duration/timing: While short-term programs may be less expensive, you may find that there are more resources available to you for semester- or year-long study. Some costs do not change according to the length of time you are abroad.

How can I Fund my Study Abroad Experience?

There are a variety of financial assistance options available to undergraduate students participating in approved study abroad programs. Some of them are listed below. Read through these options, then talk with your study abroad adviser and financial aid counselor about any additional sources that may be available on your campus and which are most appropriate for you.

There are a number of loans and grants offered by the U.S. federal government.

Federal Aid

Federal Grants

  • Federal Pell Grant
    The Pell Grant is a need-based grant. To qualify, you must be a full-time undergraduate student with an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) below the limit determined each year. Speak with your financial aid adviser for current information.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunities Grant (SEOG grant)
    This need-based grant is awarded to those students demonstrating the greatest financial need. Students typically must qualify for the federal Pell Grant to receive an SEOG Grant. Speak with your financial aid adviser for current information.

Federal Loans

  • Federal Stafford Loan
    The Stafford Loan is in your name and is available to all students, regardless of financial need. If the loan is subsidized, the government will pay the interest while you are in school. If the loan is unsubsidized, you have the option of capitalizing the interest or of paying the interest quarterly during the in-school period. Payment of the principle itself (for both subsidized and unsubsidized loans) does not begin until six months after graduation, provided you remain enrolled on at least a half-time (six credits) basis.
  • Federal Perkins Loan(100kb Adobe PDF)
    The Perkins Loan is a low-interest loan (5 percent) awarded to those students demonstrating the greatest financial need. Speak with your financial aid adviser for current information.
  • Parent PLUS Loans for Undergraduate Students
    PLUS loans are available to your parents—if you are a dependent undergraduate student—to help finance your education. Parents may borrow up to the full cost of your education, less the amount of any other financial aid you receive. There is a minimal credit check required for the PLUS loan, so a good credit history is required.

Federal Scholarships

  • David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarships for Study Abroad
    The National Security Education Program (NSEP) provides scholarships to undergraduate students who wish to study languages and cultures considered to be important to U.S. national security. Students are not eligible to receive the Boren scholarship if they are studying in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, or the United Kingdom.
  • Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
    If you receive a federal Pell grant, you are eligible to apply for a Gilman Scholarship.

Other Types of Aid

  • State Aid
    If you receive state aid, consult with your campus financial aid office to see if it is applicable to your study abroad program.
  • Institutional Aid
    Some institutions will allow you to apply institutional aid when participating on an approved study abroad program. Most institutions will adjust the amount of aid received based on the Cost of Attendance (COA) of the study abroad program. For instance, if the COA for your home institution is $25,000 per year and the COA for the host study abroad institution is $30,000, your home institution may adjust your COA and EFC based on the difference of $5,000. This means that you may be eligible for an additional amount of institutional aid that you ordinarily wouldn't receive were you to stay at your home institution. The reverse may also be true.
  • Study Abroad Scholarships
    Academic performance counts—students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher have greater access to merit-based awards for study abroad. Some institutions offer study abroad scholarships for their own matriculated students.
  • Third-party Scholarships
    Some third-party study abroad programs offer limited scholarships to students who attend their programs. Check with the programs you are considering to verify whether they offer scholarships.
  • Exchange Programs
    Some institutions have established reciprocal exchange programs with universities abroad so that students can attend a foreign university in exchange for their home institution hosting a student from the overseas institution. This option enables students to maintain the same financial aid package regardless of whether they are on-campus or studying on an institution-approved exchange program. If you are matriculated at a public or state institution, exchange programs can be a particularly cost-effective option to consider because you would pay the same tuition and fees as if you were enrolled at your home institution. Contact your campus study abroad adviser for more information.

U.S. Study Abroad Scholarships and Grants List
A variety of organizations and institutions provide scholarships and grants for study abroad from the United States.

IIEPassport Study Abroad Funding
A funding resource that allows users to search by country or subject to find study abroad funding information. The comprehensive database includes study abroad scholarships, fellowships, and grants.

Employment During Study Abroad

While some countries allow U.S. students to work while they attend a host institution, the money you earn while working abroad will not constitute a major funding source. At best, it will contribute to your personal expenses.

Federal Work Study
Most institutions do not apply work-study aid to a student's study abroad financial aid award package. Check with your financial aid counselor for information about your school.

Information on Employment Opportunities in Your Host Country
Visit your education abroad office and career center for more information on employment opportunities abroad and your host country's regulations on working before, during, or after your period of study.

Resources

The following resources will help you become more familiar with financial aid tools and terminology: