6 Ways to Pay for Your Study Abroad Program (Without Going Into Debt)

how to pay for study abroad

People always say that your college years are the best of your life, but with student debt, expensive tuition, and textbook costs it can feel more like a burden than a party.

What about those 20-somethings you see traveling the world, or the awesome summer trips you see your professors take with dozens of students? How can they afford worldwide travel on a student’s budget?

Study-abroad trips offer some great opportunities for students of all disciplines and budgets. If you have the chance to study abroad, you can experience a new way of life while completing your studies.

The good news? There are a ton of different ways to finance your trip! Take a look at some of the ways you can help pay for your study abroad.

How to pay for study abroad programs

1. Find international student scholarships

The first step to figuring out how to pay for study abroad programs is to look for financial aid.

Some international financial aid is as easy as qualifying for your regular aid — if you are eligible for the Pell Grant during your typical school year, you may be able to receive the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship.

Exhaust every avenue for potential scholarships. It means less money (or fewer loans) will be coming out of your pockets!

2. Apply early

You wouldn’t wait until the week before classes to apply to college, so why wait to apply for a study abroad program? Since you will likely be working with many people on your own campus to coordinate your study abroad, it’s best to get started early.

Applying early will give you more time to work out your schedule, housing, and estimated costs. Some schools offer payment plans (similar to tuition payment plans) where you can pay off your trip in increments depending on how early you begin your payments.

It also gives you more time to find and apply for scholarships. Since you’ll be competing with other students for scholarship money, starting early could give you an advantage over someone who files their application later in the process.

3. Choose a cheaper country

If you aren’t picky about where you go, you can save some serious cash.

Western European countries tend to be more expensive simply because their exchange rates aren’t that favorable. You’ll be spending roughly what you would spend in the US, plus any additional expenses that come with travel. But choosing a country that has a better currency exchange rate will make your money go further.

Another cost to consider is the actual price of your program’s tuition. You can get cheap (or even free!) tuition in countries such as Germany that have low college costs to begin with. Do your research and talk to the study abroad coordinator at your school to see what program will ultimately be the best for you and your wallet.

Now we’re getting down to the brass tacks. You’ve figured out how to pay for study abroad: You’ve calculated your final costs, got all the student aid you could, and still need extra cash. What now? Here are three more ways to help raise money for your trip.

4. Have a garage sale

Paying for study abroad programs isn’t always easy, and if you can’t reduce your costs you’ll need to earn more money. An oldie but a goody, garage sales are a great way to declutter while putting some extra cash in your pocket. Since you’ll be living out of a suitcase, now is a good time to purge any unnecessary stuff or sell things you’d been meaning to get rid of anyway.

5. Host a fundraising party

Hosting a fundraising party is a great way to tap into your supportive community. Invite your parents, family, or other people who might be willing to donate to your trip. Consider theming your party around the country that you’re visiting to give your guests an idea of what you’ll be doing while abroad.

Make the party’s purpose clear on the invite and discuss what you hope to gain from the trip as you mingle. People respond much better to a personal call-to-arms than a plea on Facebook or crowdfunding site.

6. Find sponsors

Finally, offer incentives for people to support your trip. For example, if someone donates $5, you’ll send them a postcard from your host country. Perhaps a donation of $10 gets them a letter or small souvenir.

Locally owned businesses can also be a great source of sponsorships. Ask any small businesses if they would consider sponsoring you. You can even throw in some social media promotion to sweeten the deal. If someone will give you money to wear their company T-shirt in front of the Eiffel Tower, wouldn’t you do it?

When paying for study abroad programs, remember to research your final costs and look into all available financing options. Don’t be afraid to get creative as you figure out how to pay for study abroad programs, and you’ll be able to enjoy yourself on your trip instead of worrying about debt.

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