Finding Financial Aid
The choice to study in a country other than your own is an exciting step that enhances your educational experience and changes your outlook on life. But the path to studying abroad usually comes with financial obstacles. The cost of books and tuition, coupled with the cost of travel and living expenses, often poses a significant financial barrier for many students and their families. And although some students study internationally with a host family or self-funding, many are still unable to afford the costs out of pocket.
The good news? You’re not alone.
Because studying abroad is so expensive, there are many sources of financial aid for study abroad students. These funds can either help offset or completely cover the cost.
Financial Aid for International Students and Study Abroad
Whether you’re a student traveling outside of the U.S., or you’re a student going to study in America, there are plenty of reliable sources of financial assistance. The most popular financial aid opportunities for students are grants, scholarships and student loans.
Grants – Many of the grants that are available for domestic study are also available for international study. By far, the most widely used educational grant is the federal Pell Grant, followed by the Supplemental Educational Opportunities Grant, both of which are awarded based on financial need.
Scholarships – Scholarships are available to study abroad students from schools themselves, or from third party organizations. Institutional scholarships tend to be associated with academic merit and in-house exchange programs, while third-party scholarships may be more niche-specific and related to particular majors or areas of study. The federal government also offers international study scholarships that are awarded based on study criteria.
Loans – Federal student loans can help finance an education abroad. Interest rates are typically much lower than those associated with traditional loans, and no payments are due until after graduation or after the borrower leaves school – whichever comes first. Students who qualify for a subsidized student loan can even avoid accruing loan interest while attending school. Financial aid for international students is not as widely available, although there are some options available. The majority of this assistance is available through schools and universities that offer tuition discounts or other financial assistance to international students in an effort to attract a more diverse student population. Institutional aid is often merit-based, although some grants and scholarships are awarded based on financial need. Institutional aid may be found at the university level, as well as from academic programs and schools within each university.
Financial Management in a Foreign Country
Whether you are an international student studying in America or an American student traveling abroad, living in a country other than your own requires careful financial management. It is important to plan ahead and budget both for expected and unexpected expenses. Some of the expenses that should be listed in every international student’s budget include:
• Personal Items
• International Student Insurance
• Currency Exchange Fees
• Communication (Internet, phone, etc.)
Students who plan to live away from home for an extended period of time may support themselves with a job in their host country. For example, international students coming to America may be eligible for a work-study program that provides work for students on a university or college campus. Domestic students traveling abroad may or may not be eligible to work and earn money depending on the host country’s laws.
Careful consideration should be given to the cost of living in the host country, as well as the currency exchange rates, which are subject to fluctuate from day to day. Making frequent currency exchanges can incur high fees, although it is important to pay for expenses with the host country’s currency to better ensure fair purchase prices. As a general rule, it is best to avoid using exchange services available at airports and hotels, and instead to opt for currency exchange via local banks that are more likely to offer the lowest exchange fees.
Students should never begin studying in another country without taking steps to protect against potential financial pitfalls. For example, standard health insurance often does not provide international insurance coverage for students who are living abroad, and government health coverage is not available to non-citizens in most countries. Before traveling, it is important to obtain international student health insurance that will provide medical benefits around the world with a global network of health care providers.
Figuring Out the Cost
Before you decide that you cannot afford the cost of studying abroad, you need to actually determine how much it is going to cost. In order to do that, you need to know when and where you are going to be studying.
When : As you think about when you are going to study abroad you need to keep in mind that different types of programs happen at different times which can significantly impact finding financial aid. This can affect or even ultimately determine how much money you need. The duration of the program is also a huge factor when it comes to the cost of the program. For instance, a study abroad program that lasts a full academic year is going to cost more than just a semester abroad or a few weeks away in the summer. The timing of your travel needs will also play a role in the overall cost because transportation can be more expensive during certain parts of the year.
Where : The location of your study abroad destination also affects your expenses. Each and every city has an entirely different cost of living, and each country’s currency has a different exchange rate with the U.S. dollar. For example, studying in Britain would typically require more money than studying in, say, The Gambia. You need to research and find out how much local transportation is going to cost you and how much you will need to go out, explore, and have a good time on the weekends. After all, studying abroad is about experiencing things outside of the classroom as well as inside the classroom.
After you have determined how much programs are going to cost you, it is time to start finding financial aid for studying abroad.
As you begin doing your research for finding financial aid, you also need to keep in mind the different options you have available to you. In the end, the cost of your experience will be most influenced by the type of program you decide to partake in. To help you understand that, here are some different types of programs:
Summer Abroad : Summer abroad programs typically allow for more flexibility than other programs, but they can cost more and finding financial aid can be slightly more difficult.
School Programs : In some cases, your school might have a sister school or have relationships with other schools in other countries. This can make it easy for you to apply and possibly transfer your existing financial aid.
Travel Program : Some study abroad programs are designed as travel opportunities that allow you to travel and learn about history and cultures firsthand. These programs offer some aid, but it is usually limited.
Semester and Full Year Abroad : Many students choose to study abroad for a full academic semester or year. When you choose one of these options, you are far more likely to receive financial aid because the cost is most likely going to be higher.
Financial Support from Your School
Most financial aid for studying abroad comes from your home campus. However, there are most likely going to be stipulations on that financial aid. Some students will simply be able to use their existing financial aid, but you will need to double check with your school before you make the assumption that you have financial aid. Here are the things you need to be on the lookout for when finding a program that will allow your financial aid to transfer to your study abroad program.
• Number of credits: Most colleges and universities will not allow your financial aid to be used while you study abroad if you are not taking enough credit hours. This also means that the program you want to attend must offer you credits that will transfer back to your school. In most cases, you will still need to maintain a full-time student status as you study abroad.
• Schools commitment to studying abroad: The truth about studying abroad is that some schools are more in favor of it than others. If your school has a history of not being very supportive of students that travel and study abroad, then you may have trouble finding financial aid, at least from the school. However, some schools encourage students to travel and study abroad and they will do whatever they can to help you pay for the opportunity.
• Approval from your school: Your school must give approval to the program you wish to participate in. Every school has a different approval system in place and most likely they have a relationship with certain schools and/or programs. It will be easier to receive financial aid for approved schools, but even if you go off of the beaten path, you may still be able to receive financial aid.
• An existing relationship between the schools: You may have luck convincing your school to start a new relationship with another school or program, but there is a good chance they have established relationships. It is in your best interest to try and attend one of these schools or use one of these programs, if you need your financial aid to transfer.
Financial Aid Resources: Study Abroad Office
Visit your school’s study abroad office to learn about schools and programs abroad that your home campus has approved. This is the best way to find out where you can go and still receive your existing financial aid. Almost every college and university has a study abroad office or an international division office that exists simply to help students find programs, financial aid, and establish relationships with schools abroad. The office will be able to help you:
• Find a school: If you are having trouble locating a school or study abroad program, then the study abroad office will be able to show you several that they have worked with in the past. Most likely, you will be able to put your financial aid toward these programs and lower the cost.
• Use your existing financial aid: If you have found a program or school you want to go to, you can take the information to the office and see if they can help you transfer your financial aid to that program. The study abroad office is used to working with these issues, so they will be able to guide you through the entire process.
• Find grants, loans, and scholarships: If your existing financial aid will not transfer or if it is not enough, then you can always apply for grants, loans, and scholarships to offset program costs. The study abroad office will be able to help you find these other forms of aid and help you apply to them.
If you have always had a desire to study abroad, but have never pursued it because of the cost, you should know that the cost of studying abroad is not insurmountable. Yes, you need to keep cost in mind and keep it reasonable, but the cost should not be the reason you do not take the opportunity to study abroad. The truth is that there are always forms of financial aid; you just have to take the time and find that aid and apply it to studying abroad. The cost of certain programs may be too high, but that just means that you need to do more research and find other programs. If you are having trouble finding forms of financial aid to help offset the cost of studying abroad, then you need to make sure you contact the program and your school’s study abroad office. Do not let money keep you from this wonderful experience that will continue to enrich, challenge, and change your life for a long time!
International Student Health Insurance Options
HCC Medical Insurance Services, LLC (HCCMIS) is a service company that is a subsidiary of HCC Insurance Holdings Inc. HCCMIS is regulated by the State of Indiana in our capacity as Third Party Administrator. HCCMIS has authority to enter into contracts of insurance on behalf of the Lloyd's underwriting members of Lloyd's Syndicate 4141, which is managed by HCC Underwriting Agency Ltd.