How to Earn Study Abroad Scholarships

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Finding money to fund your study abroad program is easier than you might think. From program-specific scholarships to the availability of federal funding, here's what you should know about earning study abroad scholarships.

Quick Tip

Meet with the experts at your university’s study abroad office to learn more about the best scholarship options for your program, and submit your applications as early as possible to maximize your funding.

Finding Study Abroad Funding

The first place to go after you’ve decided to study abroad is your university’s study abroad office, sometimes called an international learning office. There, you'll meet experts who can answer any questions you might have about funding and help you understand the costs of your program. They’ll also be able to direct you toward the funding opportunities that best suit your situation and provide support during the application process.

Study abroad funding options change every year. In order to get the most up-to-date information, utilize one of these regularly updated databases that list grants and scholarships to fund your study abroad experience. (Note that some organizations also provide low-interest student loans specifically for study abroad participants.)

Applying Federal Aid to Study Abroad Programs

If you receive federal aid to pay your regular tuition, those funds can often be applied to your study abroad program, with a couple of conditions. First, you need to be enrolled at least half-time at your host university. Second, the program must advance you toward your degree. Other conditions might also apply, so it's essential to communicate with both your home university and your host university throughout the process.

If the cost of tuition at your host university exceeds that of your home university, you might be able to secure a temporary increase in your Pell Grant, as long as you meet eligibility requirements.

Program-specific Study Abroad Scholarships

Programs like USAC, CIEE, Semester at Sea, and National Student Exchange make study abroad as affordable as possible, and in some cases even help students obtain passports. 

USAC, CIEE, and AIFS

The University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE), and the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) are three of many study abroad facilitators with programs in six continents and hundreds of cities. These program facilitators operate within massive collegiate networks, allowing them to keep costs as low as possible to help students afford to study abroad.

In addition to low tuition costs, program facilitators maintain strong ties within the local communities. These connections allow the facilitators to place students with host families for better language acquisition and lower out of pocket housing costs. The facilitators also offer private scholarships and financial guidance for participating students.

Semester at Sea

Semester at Sea is a program that uses a ship as its home base and travels to at least ten countries across three or four continents, depending on the route. A semester-long voyage comes with a hefty price tag, but the organization provides scholarship opportunities and external funding assistance to prospective students. In addition to a private scholarship portal, Semester at Sea also offers a Pell Grant match.

National Student Exchange

National Student Exchange is a network of colleges and universities based in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam that facilitates accessible opportunities for college students to study away from their home university. Student participants in the NSE program enroll at another participating university for a semester or a full academic year, depending on availability and individual preference. The program recommends choosing an exchange institution that will complement your studies at your home university, helping you reach academic and career goals.

NSE is an affordable option for many students that don’t have the funds or the time to study abroad. Though your institution does need to be a member of NSE in order for you to participate, the network of member institutions is large. Because the schools work together to facilitate these exchanges, you will have the option to pay either in-state tuition at your host university or your regular tuition at your home university. Any scholarships or federal aid you receive annually is eligible to be used to pay for your NSE tuition. 

Federal, Non-profit, and Corporate Study Abroad Scholarships

There are a handful of government-sponsored study abroad scholarships available to undergraduates, particularly those looking to develop language and diplomatic skills in areas of interest to the United States.

Sponsored by the National Security Education Program, Boren Scholarships provide up to $20,000 for students to study in countries critical to the U.S. national interest. Students who receive a Boren Scholarship are required to complete at least one year of federal government employment after graduation.

The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship provides need-based funding for students to study or intern abroad. To be eligible, students must be enrolled in a two-year or four-year accredited university, and they must be receiving a Pell Grant at the time of application or prove that they will receive a Pell Grant during the course of the study abroad program.

If your community has a Rotary club, the Rotary Foundation provides scholarships up to the equivalent of four years of study to high school, undergraduate, graduate students. Since these scholarships are dependent on your local Rotary club, scholarship amounts and eligibility requirements will vary. Contact your local Rotary club for information on the scholarships they offer. 

Other nonprofit organization and corporations, including the Fund for Education Abroad, Scott’s Cheap Flights, American Legion (in cooperation with Samsung), and Unigo provide annual scholarship opportunities.