Finding the monetary resources to study abroad can be a challenge. In fact, many students calculate the cost of studying abroad and decide they can't afford it. You have to factor in tuition, cost of transportation to your new school, and cost of living while you are abroad.
Unfortunately these costs do not cover the cost of extras like visiting museums, traveling to other cities and countries, purchasing souvenirs, and participating in other activities that interest you. With all these costs adding up, you might quickly realize how much your experience abroad will cost. However, there are great financial aid opportunities for international students to support a study abroad experience.
One of the ways students pay for their study abroad is through grants. Grants to study abroad are a form of financial aid you do not have to pay back once your education is over. However, before you apply for or receive an international grant, you need to make sure that you actually fulfill the requirements and will be able to maintain those requirements abroad. Below, you can learn about grants, the different types of grants, where to find grants, and grants to consider while researching financial aid options.
What Is a Grant?
When you begin the process of finding financial aid for study abroad, you will undoubtedly encounter the terms "scholarship," 'loan," and "grant." As you begin to apply for these different types of financial aid, you need to know the difference and understand why a grant may be your best option when it comes to international student financial aid.
While most grants are awarded to recipients based on income, they are sometimes given out based on academic achievement and income needs.
- Scholarships: Typically speaking, scholarships are given to students based on a merit system, whether it's for students who have performed well academically, competed well in sports, or show talent in a particular extracurricular activity. Scholarships to study abroad are usually based on academic standing and non-sports-related activities such as art or music. Some scholarships are based on an applicant's abilities, heritage, or community involvement. Scholarships are a financial award, so are not required to be paid back.
- Loans: Loans are given to students based on application criteria. Different loans require different things from candidates. One of the biggest differences between loans, scholarships, and grants is that the money involved in a loan is considered "borrowed" and must be paid back by a future date. Loans differ from one another in terms of interest and when repayment must begin. There are two major types of loans: 1) those given to students by government agencies and, 2) those given to students from private banks and other lending institutions.
- Grants: Grants are typically given out to students based on a need for money. They do not require repayment. While most grants are awarded to recipients based on income, they are sometimes given out based on academic achievement and income needs. Other types of grants are awarded based on interest and other needs.
Types of International Grants
As mentioned above, grants are given to students based on need. There are, however, many different qualifications for receiving a grant. As you enter the financial aid process, it may help you to know what types of international grants are available. Here are some of the various categories of grants:
Some grants are awarded based on academic merit and achievements. In most cases they are given based on class rankings and grade point average.
- Income Based: You probably already know that a majority of the grants given to students are based on your income or your family's income. Those with less income need more assistance and are usually the first to receive grants. Income based grants are usually awarded by a government entity.
- Academic Merit: Some grants are awarded based on academic merit and achievements. In most cases they are given based on class rankings and grade point average.
- Artistic/Musical: Students who are artistic or musically talented may be able to secure an artistic grant that can provide support as they study abroad at an art institute. You will most likely be required to show examples of your work before you travel, and when you return you may be asked to show off what you have learned and how you have improved.
- Academic Interests: If you prefer math and sciences to art and music, there are grants out there for you as well. These grants are more academically based since your knowledge and interest can be shown more concretely. You will probably have to be a top student in your desired academic field, and you will need to exhibit signs of commitment to expanding your knowledge.
- Extracurricular Interests: For some, grants can be a little more difficult. If you are not the best student and do not qualify for an income-based grant, you may be able to find a grant that fits with one of your extracurricular interests. If you are a fan of sports, culture, or language, there is a likelihood of finding a grant that fits your interests.
Where to Find International Grants
With all of this information in mind, the international student grant process might have already overwhelmed you. While there is a lot to consider, it is really not that difficult to find a grant that is right for you and your experience. Read through the resource suggestions below to gain an idea of how to begin the research and application process for a study abroad grant.
- Financial Aid Offices: Visit your current school's financial aid office, and reach out to the financial aid office of the school where you'll be studying abroad. Both will be able to help you find grants to apply for and will be able to tell you if you already qualify for certain grants. In some cases they will also be able to tell you if your current grants will be able to help support you while you are abroad.
- Study Abroad Offices: Almost every college and university has a study-abroad or international office that exists to help those who wish to study abroad and those who are studying abroad. In some cases, these offices can provide resources to direct you to scholarships, grants, and other forms of international student aid. Colleges and universities also have their own programs that provide you with stipends or financial assistance based on your reasons for studying abroad and what you will study while you are abroad.
- Fulbright Program: Perhaps one of the most effective methods to find financial aid for international students, including grants, is to check with the Fulbright Program, which exists to help students from the U.S. and foreign countries travel and study in new locations. The Fulbright Program is active in more than 150 countries and could have a grant that you qualify for, so be sure to explore what's available.
Studying abroad is a big decision. Once you decide to study abroad, you'll have even more decisions to consider. Where will you study? Where will you live? How are you going to get there? Who will you live with? How will you get around while abroad? How much is your experience going to cost? How will you cover those costs?
It is easy to get bogged down with all of the details. However, don't allow the price tag on your study-abroad experience to be the thing that keeps you from having this adventure. If you are concerned about paying for your trip, it is important that you understand there is financial aid for international students.
You will have access to different scholarships and grants that are specifically designed for and given to those who are studying abroad. So before you pass on the opportunity of a lifetime, do some exploring for applicable scholarships and grants. Before long you will be abroad studying, learning, and meeting new people.