People always say 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 when you’re figuring out ways to pay for college.
And you probably feel particularly envious when you see 20-somethings gallivanting around the world or awesome Instagram pictures from your friend’s semester in London.
Study abroad programs offer great opportunities for students of all disciplines, but it’s hard to figure out how to pay for them. The good news? There are tons of different ways to finance your trip and afford worldwide travel on a student’s budget.
Here’s how to pay for study abroad schooling.
Ways to pay for college study abroad programs
Now we’re getting down to brass tacks. You’ve calculated your final costs but need extra cash to cover the costs of studying overseas. Don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to pay for college study abroad programs, from scholarships to side hustles.
1. Find international student scholarships
The first step in figuring out how to pay for study abroad programs is to look for financial aid.
Qualifying for some international financial aid is as easy as qualifying for regular aid. For example, if you’re receiving a Pell Grant at your school, you might be eligible for 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 pocket.
2. Apply early
You wouldn’t wait until the week before classes start to apply to college, so why wait to apply for a study abroad program? Since you’ll likely be working with many people on campus to coordinate your study abroad, it’s best to start early.
Applying early will give you more time to work out your schedule, housing, and estimated costs. Some schools offer ways to pay for college study abroad programs through payment plans, which allow you to pay off your trip in increments.
You’ll also have 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 because their exchange rates aren’t favorable. You’ll be spending roughly what you’d spend in the U.S. plus any additional expenses that come with travel. If you choose a country with a better exchange rate, your money will go further.
Another cost to consider is the price of your program’s tuition. You can get cheap or free tuition in countries that have low college costs to begin with, such as Germany. Do your research and talk to the study abroad coordinator at your school to see which program will be the best fit for you and your wallet.
4. Work remotely
If a part-time job is helping you pay for college, consider working while you’re studying abroad too. Yes, some student visas permit you to work in a foreign country, so you might want to choose a program in a country that has those rules.
You might be able to work in a restaurant or bar, teach English, or see if your program offers on-campus employment. You also could look into remote work opportunities, such as being a virtual assistant, which doesn’t fall under the same rules as traditional jobs.
5. Host a fundraising party
Hosting a fundraising party is a great way to pay for a college study abroad program by tapping into your supportive community. Invite your parents, your family, and other people who might be willing to donate to your trip. Consider theming your party around the country you’re visiting to give your guests an idea of what you’ll be doing while you’re 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 better to a personal call to arms than they do to a plea on Facebook or a 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 also can be a great source of sponsorships. You can even throw in some social media promotion to sweeten the deal. If a company is willing to give you money to wear its T-shirt in front of the Eiffel Tower, wouldn’t you do it?
7. Use private student loans
Although you might be able to cover the cost of your study abroad program through your current college financial plan (i.e., federal loans), you could incur additional expenses. That’s when you might want to consider taking out private student loans.
There are many pros and cons of private loans, but they can help you borrow what you need for any study abroad costs that aren’t in your initial college budget. If housing costs more, you plan to travel to other destinations, or you can’t get a job, a private loan could help bridge the gap.
And there are no deadlines to apply for private student loans, so you can borrow whenever you find out about your acceptance into a study abroad program, even if it’s midsemester.
But be aware that, unlike federal loans, which are regulated by the government, private student loans are issued by banks and private financial institutions. So, they determine your eligibility, interest rates, and repayment terms.
8. Take on a side hustle
If studying abroad is your goal and you know you’ll need some extra cash to pay for it, look into ways to make money part time with a side hustle. You could apply for scheduled work in retail, for example, or take advantage of the booming side gig economy by trying apps such as Uber and DoorDash.
With these apps, there’s no upfront cost or scheduling to worry about, and you can make more when you work more. You can even take on multiple side hustles to increase your earning potential and save up for your semester abroad.
One man made $30,000 side hustling for two years while holding down a full-time job as a lawyer. So, you can totally do it while you’re in school.
As you look for ways to pay for college study abroad schooling, remember to research your final costs and financing options. Don’t be afraid to get creative, and you’ll be able to enjoy yourself on your trip instead of worrying about debt.
Lauren Bowling contributed to this article.
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