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FAFSA and Studying Abroad: What American Students Need to Know

Study Abroad FAFSA

The decision to study abroad is both an empowering and an exciting one that opens up countless opportunities to make new friends while also making yourself marketable to future employers. Yet, many prospective students do not consider studying abroad a viable option for several reasons.

One reason that is frequently cited, however, is the very real concern over cost. If you are considering a study abroad experience, or have already been accepted to an international university, you may begin to wonder how you are going to fund your studies.

The good news is that options exist for you as an American citizen. Because the funding options are fewer if you plan to study abroad, however, it’s important to educate and plan in advance to ensure the application process runs smoothly.

Where Do I Start?

You are not alone in thinking that tracking down all of the funding options available to you seems like a daunting task, to say the least. But, once they know where to start, most students realize that there are plenty of resources out there to get them started on the right track.

The best place to start for most American students, whether you are studying domestically or internationally, is going to be the government’s Federal Student Aid website to fill out the free application for federal student aid, or FAFSA.

The FAFSA now accepts applications starting October 1st for programs that commence in the following autumn. Make sure to submit your application as soon as possible.

Is It Possible to Receive Aid to Attend Any International University?

No. Unfortunately, you are only eligible to apply for aid if the university you are applying for participates in the federal student loan programs.

However, this is only applicable if you are planning on studying your fill degree program abroad. To see a comprehensive list of which schools participate, check here.

Does It Matter if I’m Only Studying on Exchange or if I’m Studying a Full Program?

Whether you have chosen to only study abroad for one semester or an entire program, American citizens are eligible for financial aid to assist with the costs. However, there are minor differences you may need to consider.

If you are studying a full degree program abroad, you need to list the specific school you have been accepted to directly on your application, assuming that the school participates in the student loan program.

However, if you are studying abroad through an American university, in most cases you will list only that university on your application. The financial aid office at your home university will be able to answer more specific questions about how your financial aid can be used to cover the costs of studying abroad.

Either way, the form you must fill out is the same for all students.

What Funding is Available to Me?

As an undergraduate, you are eligible to receive funding through a Direct Subsidized Loan or a Direct Unsubsidized Loan. Because international schools are unable to participate in the US Department of Education’s grant programs, students studying a full degree program at an international university are not eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant.

If federal student aid is not enough to cover the full costs, you may also want to consider taking out a private loan.

I Filled Out My FAFSA, Now What?

Once, you have completed your FAFSA, you will need to consult your specific school on how to proceed. Most often, schools receive money directly from the US Treasury to cover the cost of tuition. If there are remaining funds, your school may choose to deposit them in your student account or return the remaining balance back to you directly.

Is There Anything I Should Know as a Prospective Graduate Student?

If you are looking into graduate programs, you may already be paying back past loans. It’s important to note that, like undergraduate programs, not every university providing graduate education participates in a federal student loans program.

Furthermore, not every university grants you the ability to defer your past student loans while you continue your studies. Check in advance to see if studying at a specific university will grant you eligibility to defer loans if you will be unable to make payments while studying.

Are You Ready to Start the Adventure of a Lifetime?

It's important to remember that no matter where you study in the world, how to secure funding is a concern all studens face at some point. The important thing is that you have the information you need to to prepare in advance and get started early on your applications to get the support you need.

Don't forget to consider scholarships! 

To get you started, we have compiled a list of study abroad scholarships for international students in the most popular study abroad destinations to make it just that much easier for you to get the funding you need to experience an adventure you will never forget.

Download Our Free Scholarship Guide

Last update: 18 Jun 2018

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