How to pay for a study trip abroad
Tired of the same old campus routine?
Ready to see the world?
Dreaming about a year exploring Paris? Or how about
a semester in Tokyo, Rome or Sydney?
With a study abroad program, you could have the fantastic
overseas adventure that you're longing for and still earn credits
toward your college degree.
Finding the financing
If you're worrying about how you'll ever pay for it, don't.
There are a lot more financial aid options available than you may
And if a yearlong or semester program still is out
of your price range, a less expensive program of three or four weeks
may not be.
"Any student that wants to go should be able
to have some kind of experience overseas," says William Cressey,
vice president and chief academic officer of the Council on International
It really boils down to how much you want to study
and live overseas. You've got to be pretty determined to pull this
off. It's not like registering and paying for classes on campus.
You'll need to do lots of research, jump through quite
a few hoops and plow through a pile of paperwork to make an overseas
dream a reality.
You'll need to work with an academic adviser, a study
abroad adviser and a financial aid counselor.
"There's a lot of people who have to all be in
sync for this to go smoothly," says Carl Buck, vice president
for financial aid services at Peterson's,
a provider of education and career information.
Finding a program
When should you start your study abroad research? Near the
end of your freshmen year or at the start of your sophomore year
is a good time to dive in.
High school students who are already dreaming about
studying overseas may want to ask about study abroad options while
visiting colleges and universities.
"This is a great question to ask in early college
searches," Buck says. "Do comparison shopping."
The best source of information is the study abroad
office on campus. The folks there will be able to steer you toward
programs suitable for your major.
"There's a study abroad program available for
every major on campus and more and more students are going because
of that," Cressey says.
Program costs vary widely. Much depends on the cost-of-living
in the country you choose and the location of the school. Studying
in a small town tends to be cheaper than studying in a city, just
as living in a small town tends to be cheaper than living in a city.
When researching study abroad programs, you'll want
to do more than compare price tags. Every program is structured
a little bit differently.
"Sometimes it covers tuition and room and board
and sometimes it's just tuition and room," says Jodi Malmgren,
coordinator of advising for the Global Campus at the University
Some programs include air fare, others don't. Some
programs include meals and weekend trips. Will you be living in
an apartment or will you be living in a dorm room? All these details
"There are programs in the same location that
vary very widely in cost," Malmgren says.
Another thing to consider when studying overseas programs
is the level of assistance and counseling you'll receive once you
arrive. With some programs you'll have help every step of the way.
With other less-expensive programs, you'll be much more on your
"Students need to balance their need for assistance
and support in country with the cost of the program," Malmgren
says. "The cheapest program isn't always the best bet if you're
required to be on your own."
Worried that a study abroad program will push back
your graduation date? Don't be.
"If you find a good program match with your curriculum,
you won't have to delay graduation," Malmgren says.
At the very least, study abroad courses can be counted
as elective credits. Why sit through another history lecture on
campus when you could be living and studying in another country?
The more time you have to integrate a study abroad
program into your course schedule, the better off you'll be. Start
early and do plenty of research.
Whatever study abroad program you choose, you must
get it approved by your home college and university. If you don't,
you won't receive credit for the courses and you won't be eligible
for financial aid.
Only students that participate in an approved study
abroad program may apply for federal financial aid, including Stafford
"As long as the program is accepted for credit
by the student's home school than the school can award federal forms
of aid," Cressey says.
Finding help at home
What about a university's own institutional aid, including
scholarships and grants? Can it be transferred to a study abroad
"Some schools do and some schools don't,"
Cressey says. "The best source of information is usually the
study abroad office."
The study abroad office may also have information
on specific scholarships and grants that are available to students
that take classes in another country.
Feel free to search for additional aid on your own.
The Web can be a great source of scholarship information. Be sure
to check out sites such as FastWeb
and the College
Board. Avoid sites that charge you to search for scholarships.
And don't limit your search to study abroad scholarships.
Many different kinds of scholarships can be used for overseas study.
"Sometimes even if it's not designated
as study abroad it can be used for study abroad," Malmgren
says. "That is something you need to find out from the scholarship
Don't overlook hometown organizations such as the
Club. The Rotary Foundation's Ambassadorial Scholarship program
is the largest privately funded international scholarship program
in the world.
It's also a good idea to talk with a financial aid
counselor who specializes in handling aid for students who travel
overseas. An aid counselor can help you sort out the details of
your particular situation.
If you're going to need a good deal of financial aid
for your trip, you may want to start your program in the fall when
more financial aid is available.
Aid coffers are filled to the brim at the start of
each academic year. There may be more money available for a student
who studies in Madrid in the fall than for a student who studies
in Madrid in the spring.
"If you go to an aid officer in October for spring
aid, some aid may be gone already," Buck says.
Plus, the bulk of financial aid money gets distributed
during the fall and spring academic terms. There's very little aid
available for students during summer sessions, whether they stay
on campus or travel overseas.
"It's far more difficult to get financial assistance
for study abroad in summer sessions than any other time of the year,"
"Even if you're staying on campus, there are
very few dollars."
In addition, if there is some aid available in the
summer, you may not qualify for any if you've already maxed out
your aid for that academic year.
"If you're doing a program in May or summer and
if you've already maxed out your aid for the year, you may not qualify
for more aid. So that's something to keep in mind," Malmgren
As you can see, there's a lot more to studying in
Paris than simply packing a bag and going. There's plenty of work
to be done.
The only one who can make your travel dream a reality
is you. So hop to it. There will be plenty of time for daydreaming
later on the long flight over.
Finding time to have fun
Once you've got the money secured to pay for your overseas
courses, you need to think about what you'd like to do outside your
Do you plan on shopping and loading up on souvenirs?
Will you be checking out the local nightlife? Traveling on your
own on the weekends or after your program ends?
All these things cost money and financial aid won't
You may want to get a part-time job. Instead of birthday
and Christmas gifts, ask family and friends for cash for your trip.
Save up as much money as you can.
Every hour you work and every dollar you save will
be well worth the effort. Ditto for all the forms and paperwork
and meetings with advisers on campus.
Once you're away on your overseas adventure none of
the hassles or the headaches you've endured will matter in the least.
Something that will matter? The grades you receive
in your overseas classes. They'll be recorded on your academic record
just like any other class.
So even though there's bound to be plenty of distractions,
you'll still want to take your overseas classes seriously.
"The quality of your grades still matter,"
So have fun, but not too much fun, while you've
got classes to attend.
-- Updated: July 18, 2003