Everything You Need to Know About Study Abroad Financial Aid

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Last Updated on: 13th March 2023, 11:15 pm

So, you decided that studying abroad is the right choice for you.

That’s great! Just like you, thousands of students make the same life-changing decision and go overseas to study.

Plovdiv Bulgaria - Stephanie Craig
Enjoying one of my favorite cheap city breaks in Europe – Plovdiv!

Choosing to study abroad is not only exciting but can also open the door to new job opportunities.

Venturing abroad can also be expensive, especially if you choose to earn a multi-year degree.

Does that mean it’s impossible? Absolutely not. There are plenty of ways to offset the cost while studying abroad.

In this guide, we’ll review everything you need to know about studying abroad, including the various financial options to make it a memorable experience.

Is Studying Abroad Right for You?

No matter what your major is, there’s usually an opportunity to study in another country.

Both small colleges and universities understand the importance of cross-cultural education, and that’s why so many countries have opened their doors to students.

You can choose to go for a semester, which is what many students do at first, or you can enroll for a four-year degree.

Plovdiv Bulgaria - Stephanie Craig

Saying you want to study in another country is not the same as doing it. The reality of living away from home is far different from what a lot of students think it will be.

That’s why it’s important to be certain before you make any rash decisions. The first step is identifying your why.

Why do you feel this is the right decision for you? Is it because you’ve always wanted to live in another country?

Is it because you want to experience new cultures while living like a local in a small town?

Are you hoping to immerse yourself in a completely different culture to feel more well-rounded?

Know that these answers as individual as you are, and there isn’t exactly a right or wrong.

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Plovdiv Bulgaria - Stephanie Craig

However, if the only reason you want to go is that you heard the country is a great place to party, you might to reevaluate whether it’s really a smart choice.

In fact, you’d be flabbergasted to know how many students go abroad just for the party scene alone.

Another important thing to consider is financing your trip and education. While some parents can fund the trip, not everyone has the resources to do so. Let’s look at the available options and resources available to you.

Student Loans

When it comes to paying for your education, student loans are one great option. There are many different types you can apply for, which can be tailored to suit your financial needs.

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You can apply for a standard student loan, but some do come with ridiculously high-interest rates, so it’s best to keep your eye out.

Interest rates are notorious for making paying back student debt harder than it really must be, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for them.

There are Earnest private student loans available that offer online lending to students of all ages.

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They offer customizable loans to suit different financial situations, in addition to low-interest rates.

There may be specific requirements to qualify, which include credit score minimums, debt-to-ratio impacts, and citizen requirements, but every lender is different.

Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of taking out a loan, and don’t be afraid to reach out to the lender to ask questions.

Scholarships

In addition to taking out a loan, you can also apply for a scholarship. Unlike personal or student loans, scholarships don’t need to be paid back.

Scholarships are offered in a variety of ways including merit-based. Other scholarships are awarded based on financial need. Others are often awarded specifically based on a certain field of work.

If you’re not sure about how to go about finding a scholarship, you can find a wealth of information online to help you get started. But to give a brief rundown, the process is pretty cut and dry.

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First, look to the school that you want to attend and that you’re most likely to be approved for.

Often, the learning institution will offer scholarships for students at all levels.

These too are given out based on need and academic achievement. These can be given for one or two terms, or it span the entire length of your degree.

Plovdiv Bulgaria - Stephanie Craig

Another aspect we should talk about regarding a scholarship is how much it can cover. They’re often depicted as a free college education because they cover the entirety of your degree program.

While this is true in most cases, there are some instances where this doesn’t apply.

There are some scholarships that only cover around half of the cost, which leaves you to budget for the rest, as well as finding additional funding.

Make sure to take as much time as you need to sort through your options on the search and application platform before deciding.

Grants

Grants are another way to cover the cost of your educational expenses. Like scholarships, grants are typically based on academic achievement, financial need, or a combination of both.

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In most cases, grants are awarded by government agencies or non-profits. It’s important to note that some types of grants to do require applicants to complete a separate application whereas others may only require one.

Furthermore, you need to understand that each grant is different and may not provide the same amount of funds as others would.

Federally Backed Financial Aid

Including the above-mentioned options, you can also apply for federally-backed financial aid.

If you choose to go this route, you’ll need to complete your FASFA as you start the application process.

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FASA is the form the school uses to determine both your eligibility and how much aid you can receive.

The form is also easy to complete. You need to fill in your identifying information, your income, and possibly your parents’ financial information as well.

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You Need to Apply for a Student Visa

Once you’ve gotten your financial aid figured out, your next step is to apply for a student visa.

A visa is what ultimately allows you to remain in a foreign country for a certain amount of time.

In most cases, a student visa will let you stay for around five months. However, if you plan on staying inside the country in question for more than a year, you need to fill out an I-20.

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Without it, you’ll be breaking the F-1 rules. Student visas cost around $500 or more to apply.

The cost ultimately does depend on the country you plan on studying in. Furthermore, you may also need to show at least financials before applying.

On another note, it’s very important that you review the rules of the consulate and follow them exactly as they’re listed.

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You’d be amazed at how scrutinous and difficult a consulate can be when applying. Also, you need to present yourself appropriately and be ready to prove your dedication to your studies.

Normally, this is done by verifying you can speak the basics of the language of the country you’re going to.

Research the Area You’re Studying In

The area where you plan on studying shouldn’t go to waste. Going to a foreign country isn’t something that happens every day, so you have the opportunity of a lifetime.

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Plus, you’ll need something fun to do after a hard day of learning. That’s why it’s highly recommended that you research the area you’re going to.

See what events are happening and what restaurants are around. It’s a great way to explore the culture and make some overseas friends.

Beware of the Currency Exchange Rates

You’ll need available funds to get around and the only to get it is by exchanging for it with your country’s currency.

However, what many aspiring students and travelers don’t realize at first is how the exchange rates work.

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The exchange rates are what dictate the value of a certain currency, but there’s a slight catch; they’re unpredictable.

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In some cases, the rates will be more valuable, which means what you trade will be worth more.

But when they’re low, you won’t receive as much as back. What’s more is that there are places you should never exchange currency in, like an airport or train station.

The rates there are less than favorable, so it’s best to wait until you’re in a public area.

Don’t Forget Your Converters

A foreign country’s power outlets often differ, so you’ll need to purchase a converter to use it.

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This is to make sure you have a way to charge your phone and laptop. Since you’re going to be studying there a while, it’s also in your best interest to purchase electronics in the country.

Pack Travel Sized Necessities

During the first two weeks or so, you’re going to need things such as toothpaste, mouthwash, body wash, shampoo, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer.

These are to help get you through until you find a local store in the area. However, one thing to note is that you’ll want to review the guidelines for traveling.

Some airports and train stations don’t allow certain items over a specific size due to safety reasons.

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