If you’re attending school or planning to enroll soon, then you may be curious about obtaining financial aid for studying abroad. Students in the U.S. typically receive all kinds of information about domestic financial aid opportunities, but you might be surprised to learn that similar aid is available if you want to spend a year or semester outside the country.
Before you register for classes or pay out of pocket for your overseas education, know that you can apply for financial assistance to offset the cost.
Federal Aid and Grants
According to the NAFSA, which originally stood for the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers, the Higher Education Act of 1992 made it possible for students to receive federal aid for international programs as long as a program was “approved by the home institution.” You don’t have to study a course that’s related to your major, either. As long as what you’re studying is approved for college credit by your home school, you can apply for federal aid to help with the costs.
There are several types of financial aid for studying abroad, just as there are for domestic schools. The federal government offers subsidized and unsubsidized loans, need-based grants and scholarships, and work-study programs. Federally funded scholarships for international study include the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship Program, the National Security Education Program and the Foreign Language & Area Studies Fellowship Program. Individual states can also award need- or merit-based assistance in the form of grants, loans or tuition waivers. You can learn more about the requirements for federal aid on the NAFSA website.
Getting Your Degree Overseas
Not only can you study abroad for a semester or calendar year, but you can also earn your entire degree at an international school using federal financial aid. The Federal Student Aid Office, a division of the Department of Education, offers a complete guide to financial aid as well as a link to participating international schools. The key is starting early to ensure that you make appropriate arrangements. In the U.S., financial aid can be awarded relatively quickly, but the process takes time if you’re attending an international school. You’ll also need to make sure that the school you want to attend allows students to accept American federal aid.
Applying for Assistance
To apply for financial assistance from the government, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, which is available online. Schools use this form to determine how much assistance students are eligible to receive based on income and the amount that students can contribute to their own education. The FAFSA will also show you if you’re eligible for grants and need-based scholarships, which don’t need to be paid back. If you want to take advantage of private aid opportunities through your school or another source, then you should contact the institution to request more information.
There are a variety of options for attending college, one of which is to supplement your education with international study. From England to China, many countries allow U.S. students to earn course credit by completing experiences abroad, and the program that you choose doesn’t necessarily have to be integral to your major. Once you decide to study overseas, check with your home school’s financial aid office to learn more regarding financial aid for studying abroad.