Funding Study Abroad: For American Students

by Kristine Ibanez

Studying abroad is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It is essential for students to take the opportunity of gaining international experiences that will provide long-lasting benefits personally and professionally. However, many students do not consider studying abroad because of financial constraints, unaware that there are financial assistance options available to help them fund their study abroad programs. Most schools and some private organizations offer scholarships and grants for students who are interested in exploring the world, they are only an application away.

Unique Funding is Available for Studying Abroad in Turkey.
Unique Funding is Available for Studying Abroad in Turkey. Photo by Donna Perry

1. Federal Aid is monetary assistance granted by the government out of federal revenues. There are two grants available that can aid a student’s need for funding:

  • Federal Pell Grant is need-based grant and is only granted to undergraduate students. The loanable amount depends on the students financial needs, the cost of attendance if the student will go full time, part-time, or for a full academic year versus a semester or short term program. Payments can be given directly to the student, sent to the school, or both.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunities Grant (SEOG grant) doesn’t even need to be repaid at the conclusion of your studies. This aid opportunity is granted to students with the greatest financial need. Campus-based financial aid centers can help you apply for this grant.

2. Federal Loans are loans guaranteed by the U.S. government.

  • Federal Stafford Loan is available to all students regardless of financial need. If the loan is subsidized, the government will pay the interest while you’re in school, but if the loan is unsubsidized you can capitalize the interest or pay the interest while studying.
  • Federal Perkins Loan is a five percent loan approved to students with the greatest financial needs.
  • Parent PLUS Loans for Undergraduate Students are granted to student’s parents, as long as the student is a dependent undergraduate. A credit check is required for this loan, so a good credit standing is a must for parents who want to apply on behalf of their children. After students complete their studies, their parents are held responsible for ensuring their children repay the loans.

3. Federal Scholarships are granted to students based on certain merits and are not expected to be paid back to the loan supplier.

  • David L. Boren Scholarships and Fellowships are scholarships granted by The National Security Education Program (NSEP) to undergraduate students who wish to study abroad to extensively gain knowledge about unique cultures and gain fluency in a new language. Students who study in certain countries, including Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, are not qualified for this scholarship.
  • Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is for students who are given to students who typically are not represented in student populations abroad and to those who choose nontraditional study or intern abroad countries. Applicants must be Federal Pell Grant recipients to be eligible for the scholarship and recipient’s financial needs are taken into consideration greatly.

4. Financial Aid

  • State Aid. First check if you qualify for this, then check with your school’s financial aid officer to see if it is applicable towards your study abroad program.
  • Institutional Aid. Some independent financial institutions specifically help those students who want to study abroad. The amount granted depends on the cost of study and your specific study abroad program.
  • Study Abroad Scholarships. These scholarships are merited to students with a minimum GPA. Some schools offer this scholarship based on academic performance to their matriculated students, while some are more based on need.
  • Third-party Scholarships. A select number of study abroad providers themselves offer scholarships to participants interested in participating in certain programs. 
  • Exchange Programs. These programs allow students to study at a foreign university in exchange with a student from that university, who will study in their home university for a similar length of stay. This student exchange allows both students to maintain their financial aid packages from their home university or pay the same tuition fees at the foreign university as a local student would.

5. Online Crowdfunding Sites. There are a lot of websites that can help you find funds for your creative, international endeavors, including studying abroad. Most sites are open and accessible for worldwide campaigns. With crowdfunding sites, you can ask your network of friends and family to contribute to a certain goal or cause, and most importantly advertise your meaningful potential program to a larger network of individuals.

  • Among the many crowdfunding sites, is one that can definitely help you fund a study abroad trip. On this website, you can customize your campaigns, focusing on your study abroad program type and destination and most of all, the benefits the experience will have for you well into the future. You can set up an overall goal amount or individual sponsor goal amounts per person. Campaigns can be linked to the participants social media sites to help them increase their reach and allow for efficient sharing.

These options will help you achieve your dream for an international study adventure. Take time to coordinate with the right people and institutions. Just remember, it’s not all about the money but the international experience that might change your life.