How Can I Afford To Study Abroad?

Before you utter the words "I want to study abroad, but can't afford it," you should know that it IS possible to study in the country of your dreams with a little tenacity, some hard work, and research. 

To get you started on the right track, we've laid out some essential points to consider when planning your study abroad adventure and some solutions for financing your education.

Factoring in cost when choosing your destination 

Costs vary a lot from country to country, city to city, or program to program. So when considering which works best for your unique needs, ask questions like: how expensive is food in your host country? Are you fluent in the language? How easily can you arrange these logistics with limited local contacts? Once you do a little research and answer these questions, it will be easier for you to figure out if you would rather pay in advance for these things, or if you can make arrangements after you arrive.

Consider becoming an expert budgeter

If you've never budgeted before, now is the time to start. Creating, maintaining, and staying on a budget will allow you to enjoy your study abroad experience without stressing about your cashflow. 

Try to save as much as possible and create a budget template to keep track of your spending and maximize your savings. Almost every university offers a downloadable budget template like this one from LMU. A template like this, or one you create for yourself in Excel, can help you maintain control of your spending and help you reach your goal. Make sure to include extra padding in your budget for unexpected expenses, too! 

**Helpful student travel budget apps**

Research scholarships

Few students realize the number of awards and scholarships they can start applying for as early as freshman year in high school. Check them out at,, and other online scholarship banks. Many universities offer international student scholarships, so no matter your major, background, destination, or financial situation, there's a scholarship somewhere with your name on it! 

Is your athletic prowess something that can catapult you into higher education? Then maybe an athletic scholarship is right for you. While these are challenging to attain and usually only for the most top-tier athletes, they're not impossible; here are some helpful websites if you’d like to explore whether it might be an option for you.

In addition to athletic scholarships, there are other merit-based scholarships for international students. Some of those are:

Academic: these are funded by the college or university. Average Academic Performance Scholarships look at your overall performance as a student (e.g., extracurriculars, community service, etc.)

Historically, Need-based scholarships have only been available for U.S. residents, but some universities are opening these up to international students and providing scholarships based on their financial need. If this is the type of scholarship you're looking to apply for, you can head straight to the university’s website to see if this opportunity exists. 

Another option is the University-Specific Individual Scholarships for International Students. Many universities in the U.S. have scholarships available for students who meet specific requirements. For example, some students may receive individual scholarships because they wish to pursue a particular area of study like engineering. 

Many colleges and universities offer Country-Based Scholarships to students from certain countries, particularly those living in developing countries. You can find out about these by asking the college admissions officer.

Sometimes private organizations or donors provide Privately-Funded Scholarships for international students. Most of these have strict eligibility requirements, such as:

  • From a developing country
  • Mainly for women
  • Helping for specific areas of study

There are just a few of the scholarship options for international students, and while scholarships may not cover all of your travel costs, even winning a $500 award can help make things easier. So apply for as many you can because it's a great solution to affording college! And let's not forget about stacking (or combining) scholarships! Each university has its own policy about this so be sure to investigate and understand your desired university’s policy to avoid losing your scholarship money.  

Another option for financing your education abroad is working on campus. If you're studying abroad in the U.S., you can work up to 20 hours a week on campus on a student visa. Most universities make it easy for their international students to get a job right on campus!

With so many options available to finance your education, the question to ask yourself is, "Can I afford NOT to study abroad?" We live in a world where cultural literacy and a global perspective are paramount to becoming productive and successful people — going abroad for a semester, a year, or all four years should be considered an essential part of becoming a knowledgeable 21st-century citizen. Good luck! 

Research and resources:

G.A.W.T. (2019, May 16). The Average Cost of Study Abroad Programs Around the World - A Study. GoAbroad.Com.

The cost of studying at a university in the United States. (2020, May 27). TimesHigherEducation.Com.

Loeffler, B. L. (2018, July 21). Unexpected Study Abroad Expenses to Prepare For. ULoop.Com. 

Scholarships for Average Students. (2021, February). Scholarships.Com. 

Tucker, L. T. (2019, June 25). International Scholarships for Students from Developing Countries. TopUniversities.Com. 

Scholarships for International Students in the United States. (2020). StudyInUs.Com. 

Working in the USA. (2020). InternationalStudent.Com. 

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