The Funnel: How to Master Study Abroad Scholarships for International Students

by Megan Lee

Whether you realize it or not, there are thousands and thousands of unspent scholarship dollars collecting dust in piggy banks each year, solely because students didn’t apply to receive them. Those poor lonely coins!

Young girl on airplane looking out window

Every dollar helps your study abroad dreams take flight

To score some serious study abroad cash, use the resources at your disposal. Think of it like an upside down funnel. Exhaust your immediate resources before casting a wider net to more farflung ones – in other words, check out all possible leads in your vicinity, and then extend your reach further. Here’s where to start your study abroad scholarship search:

Resource #1: Your University Study Abroad Office

Check in with your neighborhood study abroad advisor to see if they have any inside access to extra scholarship funds. It is not unlikely that your university will have special awards set aside for exceptional students.

Resource #2: Your Program Provider

If you happen to be going on a study abroad program through a provider, such as API Study Abroad or IES Abroad, be sure to check in with them about any scholarships available to general participants. Inquire as well about any work-trade possibilities; sometimes you can get an upfront scholarship for contributing to their blogging, social media, or other marketing efforts.

Resource #3: Your University Academic Advisor

Unless you have one of those amazingly cool academic advisors with open door policies, set up a meeting in advance to discuss possible campus scholarship resources.

Getting off a public bus in a city

The journey to studying abroad involves taking calculated steps to secure funding

Resource #4: Your College Department

Your academic advisory will likely be privy to the same information as the department chair (for instance, for the College of Sciences or the College of Arts), but just in case, do a little more digging by speaking with the chair directly. You never know if there’s budget oversight that magically leads to a surplus, perfect for your pocket.

Resource #5: Your University Career Center

If your university is anything like mine, even if they don’t have information about additional scholarships, you might still be able to score a PayDay candy bar on your way out. Ask your university employment whiz if they know of unusual ways to offset your program costs, such as graduate schemes with prospective employers or international internships that can double for college credit (or a stipend!).

Resource #6: Your University Community

You’re an active member of the city/town your university is in, right?! Drum up the support of the local community by researching nearby organizations that support students traveling abroad. Chapters of more international institutions, like a Rotary Club or an Eagles Club, will also prove useful on your hunt for funds.

Highway heading towards the countryside in Belgium

Don’t be afraid to look outside of your community for funding opportunities.

Resource #7: Your Hometown

Just because you now wear your university t-shirts more than your high school’s doesn’t mean you aren’t still proud to be a Pirate, Bulldog, or {insert mascot}! Hit up your old haunts to pioneer new financial avenues. Similar organizations in your hometown or county might wind up being your best reserves. Leverage your parents’ networks, too, to find out about scholarships unbeknownst to you.

Resource #8: Your Local Government(s)

What kind of government doesn’t love the idea of supporting its citizens on their academic endeavors? Even those politicians who are less-enthusiastic than Leslie Knope can find something to get excited about. Write letters to your local representatives or call their offices to find out if there’s a sneaky scholarship that can have your name on it.

Resource #9: Your State Government

Expand the funnel; don’t stop with your local reps. Scour information from your state governor or other elected bodies to see if you can represent your state abroad. Take those earmarked funds for “Education” and make a way to transfer them to your bank account.

Three friends in the sunset raising their arms in the air

Making lifelong besties while studying abroad shouldn’t have to come at a major price.

Resource #10: Your National Government

The federal government of your country is likely to support study abroad on a national scale (good humanitarian work and all that jazz). Examples of U.S. scholarships of this caliber include the Gilman Scholarship or the Critical Language Scholarship. These scholarships are incredibly competitive, as eligible applicants can be found nationwide; that being said, no one quite matches your academic prowess and personality. Apply away!

Resource #11: Your Study Abroad Destination’s Government

Cast your funnel wider still by doing some research on scholarships offered through the government of your intended study abroad destination. Many foreign governments actively seek the participation of international students in their university programs. Be on the lookout for these funds, they may not be in dollars but they’re still useful cheddar.

Resource #12: The World Wide Web

Do you even realize the incredible amounts of money you have waiting for you at your very fingertips?! A number of scholarship programs exist and are solely advertised online. Take your laptop addiction and channel it for good; research the various generous funding bodies and take stock on the necessary application steps to ensure you score the cash. (Psst: The GoAbroad Scholarship Directory is a one-of-a-kind online resource to help you do just this!).

Stylish kids shoes

Start your journey on the right foot (and with a bank account that’s not in the negatives)

Resource #13: Outerspace

Okay, so resource #13 isn’t actually sound advice (aliens are quite stingy, you know). But this is just to encourage you to be creative, think outside of the box, and to know that no one can give you money for studying abroad if you don’t ask. Make your quest known! Maximize your network by asking friends of friends if they know of any untapped financial resources for academic pursuits (whether at home or away).

Even when the going gets tough, don’t stop applying for scholarships and reaching out to new people. Keep the big picture in mind: when you’re sitting in a cafe on an infamous colorful street in your foreign destination, sipping on your warm drink and smiling, all of this extra effort will feel more than worth it.