How to Win Study Abroad Scholarships (From Someone Who Won Over $40,000)

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Gabby Beckford knows how to apply for scholarships to study abroad.

She won $41,027 worth of them to cover tuition as well as travel and living expenses for a two-semester program in Dubai.

“Studying abroad really showed me how limitless opportunities are for students,” says Gabby, a senior math major who writes about her travels on Packs Light.

It also showed her how study abroad scholarships and grants could pave the way. There other ways to finance study abroad programs, but nothing beats gift aid that doesn’t need to be repaid.

5 tips to win scholarships to study abroad

Gabby will graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in December 2017 — without resorting to student loans for studying abroad or stateside. Her father’s GI Bill benefits covered her first two years of tuition. Oh, and she earned $69,264 in scholarship money overall to cover the rest.

Gabby got the travel bug in January 2016. After wondering how to get a scholarship to study abroad, she spent two weeks straight applying for scholarships. They’d pay for her nine-month trip to the United Arab Emirates.

Here are her five tips to help you land your own study abroad scholarships.

1. Search in obvious (and obscure) places

The first sizable scholarship that Gabby earned came as a direct result of her high SAT score, high school accolades, and high-demand major of study. Her school offered a $7,038 award to her without asking for an application and said that it could be used for a study abroad program.

That got Gabby thinking about other sources of study abroad scholarships and grants. Sure, your school’s financial aid office should be among your first stops if you’re already on campus. The representatives there can help you navigate the financial aid maze.

You’d also be wise to check with your study abroad school or program (if you’ve chosen one) for aid. The American Institute for Foreign Study, for example, offers $800,000 in annual scholarships to students and schools signing up for its study abroad programs.

But becoming an expert Googler is Gabby’s next piece of advice. It will help you find newer, hyperlocal scholarships that don’t attract as many applicants or, in your case, competition.

Gabby recounted searching basic terms like “Study abroad scholarships VCU.” You might sharpen your Google search skills to find gift aid opportunities that haven’t found their way onto popular scholarship search engines.

2. Ensure you’re a fit before taking time to apply

Once you’ve found a bunch of scholarships to study abroad, give each application a review to see whether you fit the scholarship’s requirements and are in its intended audience. You might be disqualified off the bat, for example, if you’re a freshman applying for aid reserved for upperclassmen.

Consider discarding scholarship opportunities that require a lot of effort on your part and will also attract thousands and thousands of applications nationally. Gabby says it’s best to first apply for scholarships that offer a better chance of success.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list, rank the remaining scholarships by award amount, application deadline, or essay requirements.

It’s also worth examining what kind of non-financial support each scholarship offers. Gabby, for example, says that her trip to Dubai wouldn’t have been possible without financial aid. But it also would’ve been impractical to travel to a Middle Eastern country without the training she received before leaving the states.

3. Be open to language-based scholarships

Gabby has volunteered at her school’s study abroad fair, where she interacts with students looking to follow in her footsteps. She’s found that they are often hung up on two obstacles:

  1. Trying to find programs and scholarships specific to a major
  2. Locking in on a popular country, like France or Spain

As a mathematics major earning a certificate in Middle Eastern studies, Gabby is proof that you don’t have to study your major while studying abroad. She’s also proof that prioritizing scholarships over places can send you down a rewarding path.

As a junior, Gabby applied for and won a $20,000 Boren Scholarship that takes students to countries that are critical to U.S. national security interests. That’s how she ended up studying Arabic in Dubai, not French in Paris or Italian in Rome.

“Finding scholarships and then the destination would help you get going, and get you going to somewhere you weren’t normally going to,” she says.

In your search, consider scholarships to study abroad that will pay for your learning of a foreign language. You can also take classes for your major once you arrive.

4. Apply like crazy

Leaving it to the last minute created a lot of late nights for Gabby. Given her two-week timespan, she was forced to become a more efficient applicant. Although writing comes naturally to her, she says that getting in the practice of writing essays can help any scholarship applicant pump them out faster and better.

Gabby adds that there’s nothing wrong with creating template essays and cover letters and reworking them for different study abroad scholarships and grants. Saving this time makes it more tempting to roll the dice on a national scholarship that has stiffer competition.

The Virginia native also learned to make the most out of general use scholarships. More than once, Gabby won a smaller academic scholarship from a local organization that was perfectly happy she wanted to use it for her program in Dubai.

And don’t worry about rejection. Gabby freely admits she won only six of the 150 scholarships she sought (yes, 150). Each application gave her practice at submitting a better one.

5. Use your essay to explain your goals

Most great scholarships to study abroad are going to require a good story — your story. Maybe about how a math major wants to live in Dubai for nine months to learn conversational Arabic.

Gabby realized that her tall tale would require some explanation.

“I just think of it as how I would convince my dad or someone else close to me why they should trust me,” she says. “I didn’t have a concrete example, but I did say that I have enough ingenuity and drive [that] if I [were] to be given the scholarship, I would make a change; I’d be the one to say Arabic skills could change a company.”

Ask yourself why it’s worth an organization’s dime to send you overseas. If you can highlight your destination and the value you’d bring back to the U.S., you’ll be well on your way.

Start applying for study abroad scholarships and grants

You might not score $40,000 in aid — or even need to for that matter. But putting Gabby’s tips in practice should at least help to answer the question of how to get study abroad scholarships.

Gabby’s last piece of advice is to keep applying for study abroad scholarships and grants until you board your flight. Although some scholarships won’t cover expenses beyond the cost of your attendance, others might help you pay for additional expenses while you’re abroad. Think about those weekend trips you’d like to take.

And once you step off the plane, you could always figure out ways to make extra money while abroad, too.

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2 Important Disclosures for College Ave.

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College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

  1. Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
     
  2. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 7/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.


3 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

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  1. Rates include 0.25% Auto Pay Discount
     
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    In school deferred payment is not available in AL, AZ, CA, FL, MA, MD, MI, ND, NY, PA, and WA).


4 Important Disclosures for Discover.

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  1. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
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  5. Get a variable interest rate from 2.37% APR to 6.14% APR (3-Month LIBOR + 2.00% to 3-Month LIBOR + 5.77%) for either a 10-year or 20-year repayment term. Or lock in a fixed interest rate from 3.99% APR to 7.49% APR for a 10-year repayment term or from 4.24% APR to 7.74% APR for a 20-year repayment term. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. The margin is based on your credit evaluation at the time of application and does not change. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.375% as of July 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both.
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*UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.73% to 11.46% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.30% to 10.00% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.51% to 11.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.08% to 10.30% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.41% to 11.67% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 0.98% to 10.21% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.73% to 11.46% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.30% to 9.88% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 6/29/20. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFiSoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).


6 Important Disclosures for Ascent.

Ascent Disclosures

Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.

  1. Competitive variable rates calculated monthly at the time of loan approval based on a margin plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent. The current LIBOR is 0.190%, which may adjust monthly. Your interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes. Rates are effective as of 07/07/2020 and reflect an Automatic Payment Discount. Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month.(See Automatic Payment Discount Terms & Conditions.)
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    • The student borrower may change majors and/or transfer to a different school, but must obtain the same level of degree (e.g. – undergraduate or graduate)
    • The graduation date is more than 90 days and less than five (5) years after the date of the loan’s first disbursement.
    • Any loan that the student has borrowed under the Ascent loan is not more than 30-days delinquent or in a default status as of the graduation date and until any Graduation Reward is paid.
  10. Students can apply to release their cosigner and continue with the loan in only their name after making the first 24 consecutive regularly scheduled full principal and interest payments on-time and meeting the other eligibility criteria to qualify for the loan without a cosigner.

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7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).

  1.  Rates are as of July 1, 2019 and include auto-pay discount. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.