Strategies to Finding Affordable Study Abroad Opportunities

Strategies to Finding Affordable Study Abroad Opportunities

Most people assume that studying abroad is just too expensive.  However, while some countries can be more costly than others, there are many countries that are quite affordable and some countries that offer FREE tuition.  In fact, with the rising costs of tuition in the United States, the UK and Canada, studying overseas for many students can actually be more economical than staying home.   In some countries students can expect to pay as low as $3,000 a year in tuition and an additional $2,000 a year in housing.  Moreover, students from the US are able to use financial aid at more than 2000 international universities. There are also thousands of scholarships and grants available to students to help offset the costs of a study abroad program.

If you have your heart set on studying overseas and your concerned about affordability, we have prepared a list of strategies to help you find a program that is within your budget.

1. Consider a Full Degree over a Semester Abroad or Exchange Program

Typically, a semester abroad or exchange program involves a partnership agreement that has been established between a foreign university and a university in a student’s home country. However, student’s are still required to pay their home institution’s tuition fees, even if the foreign university’s tuition is lower. Before you commit to an exchange or semester abroad program, compare the tuition costs of both institutions. You may decide that pursuing your degree overseas is more economical.  

2. Choose your Destination Wisely

The cost of studying abroad varies greatly depending on the destination.  If you are trying to keep costs down, look at countries known for low tuition and low living costs, such as France, Czech Republic, Austria and Italy.  While some countries offer FREE tuition, higher living costs may only increase your expenses.  Use the formula below when researching study abroad destinations:

Low tuition + Low Housing Costs + Low Living Expenses = Affordable Destination

3. Apply for Financial Aid

Many students in the United States are unaware that over 2,000 schools in 47 countries around the world participate in the William D. Ford Federal Loan Program.  Before trying to fund a study abroad program on your own, look to see if the school qualifies for financial aid.  You can fill out the application, known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, online at the US Department of Education FAFSA website. 

4. Find Scholarships and Grants and APPLY

There are thousands of scholarships and grants available to students interested in studying abroad through various initiatives, universities, organizations and state agencies. In fact, many countries provide scholarship portals to help international students find scholarship opportunities available to them. Once you have found a list of applicable scholarships and grants, apply for them all.  While a scholarship or grant may not cover all of your expenses they will definitely help decrease expenses and keep costs down. Moreover, many scholarships go unfilled every year because students think it’s too much work or a waste of time to apply.  Therefore, it is important that you apply to every single scholarship opportunity or grant available to you! The Scholarship Portal is a great place to begin searching for available scholarships. For a comprehensive listing of scholarships and funding you can also take a look at the IIE Passport’s Study Abroad Funding site

Some of the most popular scholarships specifically for students studying abroad are:

  • Boren Award for study in geographic areas, languages and academic disciplines that are critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad.
  • Gilman Scholarship for students currently receiving Federal Pell Grants.
  • Freeman-ASIA Scholarship for students studying in East and Southeast Asia.

Other places to look for study abroad scholarships include:

5. International Government Support

Research each country where you are interested in studying, you may find some type of support or stipend available to international students to help offset costs.  For example, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands all offer some type of financial support to international students ranging from housing assistance, stipends, need based grants and student loans.  Additionally, several countries also offer students access to government sponsored health plans instead of having to purchase expensive private policies.

6. Stick with On Campus or University Sponsored Housing

While many students studying overseas often like to live off campus to immerse themselves in the experience, it is not always the most affordable option for students on a budget.  On campus housing or university sponsored residences are generally the most affordable option for students.  Additionally, most utilities and internet are included in the cost and some countries offer cleaning services. However, not all countries offer housing. So it is important to keep this in mind when researching destinations.

Moreover, many international universities do not offer housing to postgraduate or doctoral students.  When researching destinations, look to see if the university offers sponsored residences or housing arrangements with local landlords.  There may also be housing subsidies available to help offset the cost of housing in certain countries such as France, Italy and Germany.

8. Search for Countries with Low Living, Food, Transportation Expenses and Student Discounts

Most international universities do not offer food plans like in the United States.  While canteens, bars and cafeterias will be available on campus, students will be expected to cover their own expenses.  Choosing a destination that is known for cheap living expenses such as food, transportation and activities, will help students avoid spending more than budgeted.  For example, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria (outside of Vienna), Italy and France are all known for having low living expenses.

Most countries also offer students great discounts, from food, activities, tourist activities, to computers and much more.

Perhaps studying overseas is not for you, it’s okay. But if you’re saying “no” because you think it is too expensive, do your research before you decide not to go. There are many affordable destinations and programs available to students that can fit within most budgets. 

University Spotlight

The University of Economics, Prague (VŠE) is the leading university in the fields of economics, finance, business and management in the Czech Republic. VŠE offers a broad spectrum of programs and courses taught in English, which are available to both international and Czech students. Read More…

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