Paying for Your Degree Abroad: Student Loans, Savings, & More

by Published

When seeking out international universities, you need to come up with a plan for paying for your degree abroad. Getting a degree is not cheap, or is it? Depends on where you decide to go, you may actually spend less than your home country! Whether you are working while in school school, have some savings, apply for scholarships, or plan on receiving student loans for international study, you will need to plan out how you will fund your degree abroad.

And since #teamworkmakesthedreamwork, we’ve put together this handy guide on paying for your degree abroad. Let’s do this!

putting money in a brown leather wallet

When you’re paying for a degree abroad, every little bit helps.

Understand the cost of your tuition

Consider length of program, university prestige, etc.

Are you getting your undergrad, master’s, or PhD abroad? Depending on your major and level of study, you will have different costs associated with that degree. And it’s a-okay if you need to take out student loans. For graduate school abroad it could take as little as two year and for an undergrad just three years. Finish in less time and save money! The average cost for an MBA in the US can be an average of $40,000 per year while Italy, Spain, Germany, and France are a tiny fraction of the cost. 

[15 Little-Known Study Abroad Fundraising Ideas]

Do you have to keep a specific amount of money in your bank account?

When you go abroad for your degree, you will want some cushion in your bank account. Think about having enough for a flight home and/or a medical emergency. You want to have enough for unplanned expenses. Some international student visas require that you have a certain amount of money in your account at all times while others may require that you have a certain amount of money in your account upon arrival. Check in with those visa requirements before you get overseas. 

Understand the cost of living at your university abroad

When you choose to get your degree abroad, you need to understand what the cost of living will be in your new country. Taking out a student loan for overseas study could even lighten the load on your fees for the time being and make it easier to live abroad. Since this is not just a quick trip away where you feel the urge to splurge, it’s good to have a sense of budgeting when living in a new country. Make a budget plan before you head out so you can have an idea of where your money will be going when you are abroad. 

[Wait—What? Figuring Out Study Abroad Grants]

checking stocks on a phone

If you’re brave enough and have the time, making a little extra cash off the stock market miiiiiight help.

Along with tuition, you will need to consider the cost of housing, meals, emergencies, phone, books, clothes, and any extra bucks to put in your “fun jar.” Some countries may have very cheap tuition, but a high cost of living, so keep into account that you need to check up on both when considering finances for your degree abroad.

Some cheaper countries to get your degree abroad are Taiwan, Germany, France, Mexico, India, Argentina, Poland, Malaysia, and South Africa. Although you can basically get your tuition for free in a country like Norway or Slovenia, the cost of living is much more expensive. So keep in mind what they mean when they say “free!”

Make a payment action plan

Get student loans for international study

Loans for students studying overseas are a great way to help fund your degree abroad. If eligible, you can receive $5,500 - $20,500 per year. Many schools abroad don’t even cost that much! If you are going to be using student loans for the majority of your degree, make sure to check which international schools are a part of Federal Student Loans Programs. Whether you are seeking out student loans for graduate school abroad or for your undergrad abroad, you will need to fill out your FAFSA form as soon as possible so that you can get the cash rolling in on time. Loans for students studying overseas will make it easy so that you can go abroad stress free. 

[Read up on all our best money tips for traveling abroad]

finances on a computer

Open up an online savings account and start socking it away.

Use your savings

Paying for your degree abroad will be a lot easier if you have a bit of savings. Check your savings account and double check those zeros. Hopefully you have a bit of cushion for the move abroad. If it’s looking pretty slim at the moment, make a savings goal that you can start ASAP to start a fund for your degree abroad. Remember, paying up front comes with zero interest and the peace of mind that part of your schooling is pre-paid for. 

Apply for international scholarships

Apply for scholarships. Seriously, do it. If there is ever a chance for free money, take it! Even if the university that you go to is inexpensive, there will be costs for housing, books, events, meals, and more. Any little bit will help. So apply for an international scholarship so that you can spend even less on getting your degree abroad. Plus, mom and dad will be thrilled!

Get creative!

Fundraise or crowdsource. ee if you can put together a fundraiser before heading out to get your degree. There are many ways to do this. You could host a dinner with friends and family, sell what you won’t need when you go abroad online, send out letters to people in your network explaining the importance of an overseas education. You can also use online forums such as blogging about your stories while overseas, FundMyTravel, or GoFundMe to get some cash for your dream education abroad. Through stories and explanations, people will be curious about your adventure and want to pitch in.  

[5 Things Nobody Tells You About Getting a Degree Abroad]

Ask your parents. If your parents are able to help you, see how much they will offer for your degree abroad. Were they going to help with the costs of your degree? Can they even lend you some money that you can pay back later? Sit down with them regardless and come up with payment ideas so that you can see what would be best for your financial situation. They want what’s best for you!

signing paperwork

You can still use student loans to pay for a degree abroad... so like… where do I sign?

Rack up credit card points. Since you are going abroad long-term, it’s a good idea to consider getting a credit card that offers points or miles while you are away. You likely will be flying back and forth between your host and home countries during the duration of your degree. Obtaining flight miles can help you save loads while away. Some good credit cards to consider for traveling are Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, Venture from Capital One, chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card, Discover it Miles Travel Credit Card, and FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card. If you go about getting a travel credit card, make sure to pay it off on time! The higher the reward, the higher the interest rate.

Work part time before you go abroad. Can you start working toward your overseas degree in the meantime? See if you can get a job before heading out. If you are are saving money for tuition by working, it will make you appreciate your education much more since you were the one working for it. Maybe working now will give you the freedom to not have to take out a student loan for overseas study. You will know that it was worth it because of the hard work you put into funding your degree abroad. 

[Prepare early: Download this planning timeline we made just for you]

Should you open a bank account abroad?

Consider getting a bank account abroad if you will have a job in your host country where they will be depositing money for you on a regular basis. It can also be nice to transfer money from your home country so that you can have easy cash with less fees while abroad. Since you are gone long term, it could end up saving you a lot! Having a bank account abroad could help you save on your ATM fees,  transfer fees, and give you full access without the hassle. 

However, if you want to skip out on opening a foreign account, consider banking through Charles Schwab as it has great perks for life abroad. There are no foreign transaction or ATM fees worldwide! Even if you are not American, a foreigner coming to America to get their degree can sign up by using the American address. Other great banks that are good for travelers are Capital One 360, HSBC, and Citibank.

If possible, try to have a monthly spending budget. At the beginning of each month, withdraw the cash and use that for your month—and only that! If you don’t want to carry a bunch of cash, use a credit card for your transactions, as that is usually the best way to minimize fees. 

[The COMPLETE Guide to Study Abroad Scholarships]

women in graduation caps blowing confetti out of their hands

All that work will pay off, and hopefully your degree abroad will start to pay you back (with interest).

Can you work while you attend university abroad?

Many countries will allow you to work a limited number of hours which can help with paying for your degree abroad (just make sure to double check with your academic counselor beforehand!). Working while abroad will not only give you cash to pay for school, but it will give you experience working in a different culture! Win-win. Who knows, you may learn how to make the perfect espresso, meet all sorts of people at the campus library, or be a nanny for a little kiddo who teaches you their native language. Working abroad is both fun and keeps your wallet happy.

If you decide to work abroad, make sure to go about it legitimately. Ask questions regarding your permit or visa and do research which jobs you are eligible for. Getting deported instead of a diploma is so NOT what we want for you! 

[Can I Work While Earning My Degree Abroad?]

Keep in mind you will also need to be aware of your pay and how taxes work, as it will likely be a lot different than what you are used to. 

Paying for your degree abroad isn’t impossible!

A degree abroad is not as expensive as you may think! Going abroad for your degree will open doors to a brand new world and expand your network for life. Get out of your hometown and comfort zone and cease the opportunity to obtain that international education. You could end up saving a lot of money which could give you a headstart post-grad to have financial freedom that not many young adults have. Research, be smart, be realistic, and be ready to grab that degree overseas. 

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