How to Use Student Loans to Study AbroadMay 6, 2022
If you’re thinking about studying abroad, you’re in good company. For the 2019-2020 academic year, approximately 162,000 American students studied in another country. But with countries relaxing travel restrictions, that number is expected to be much higher for the upcoming academic year.
Studying in another country can be pricey; according to GoAbroad, the average cost is nearly $15,000 for a single semester.
Luckily, you don’t have to cover that cost out of your savings; there may be federal or private student loans for studying abroad that you can use instead.
Can I Use Student Loans for Studying Abroad?
Can student loans be used for study abroad programs? The answer to that question may surprise you.
Many people believe that financial aid can only be used within the U.S., but that’s a common misconception. You can qualify for financial aid and study abroad for a semester or a year, or even earn a degree in another country.
Eligibility is typically dependent on your college in the U.S. You can only get grants and federal student loans for studying abroad if your U.S. college participates in federal student aid programs.
You can use student loans to cover a range of costs associated with studying abroad, including the cost of your tuition and university fees, room and board, textbooks, and transportation.
[Tip: If you plan to earn a degree in another country rather than studying abroad for just a semester or academic year, make sure the university you choose is one of the international schools that participate in the federal student loan program.]
How to Apply for Study Abroad Loans
The application process for study abroad student loans varies based on the loan type:
You can use federal student loans to pay for your study abroad program, including Direct Subsidized, Unsubsidized, and PLUS Loans.
With federal student loans, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for a loan.
The type of loan and the amount you can borrow is dependent on several factors, including your family size and household income. To find out what aid you’re eligible for, contact the financial aid office of your school in the U.S. Your college’s financial aid administrators can help you find out what federal loans are available to you.
Whether you can use private student loans to study abroad is dependent on the lender. Most lenders have lists of eligible schools. While the school you plan to attend may not be on the list, you may still qualify for a loan if your U.S.-based college is, since the credits you complete will count towards your program’s degree.
Private student loan lenders don’t require you to complete the FAFSA. Instead, you can apply entirely online.
Lenders will typically ask for your personal information, including your address and Social Security number, and ask questions about your school and program.
Unlike federal loans, private student loans are credit-based. As a college student, you may not have an established credit history or a reliable source of income. If that’s the case, you’ll need to ask a parent or relative with good credit to co-sign the loan application.
Other Ways to Pay for International Study
Besides student loans, there are grants and scholarships for students studying in other countries. Unlike loans, which have to be repaid with interest, scholarships and grants are free money and don’t have to be repaid.
For example, the U.S Department of State operates the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. It provides low-income students with scholarship funds to study or intern abroad. Eligible students can receive up to $5,000.
You can find grants and scholarships through the following sources:
- Institute of International Education (IIE) Study Abroad Passport: The IIE Study Abroad Passport is a database of hundreds of scholarships for students that want to spend a semester or year studying in another country. https://iiepassport.org/Mobile/
- The College Board Scholarship Search: The College Board’s scholarship search tool is a database with thousands of grants and scholarships. There are general education awards and gift aid opportunities specifically designed for studying abroad.
- U.S. Department of State: The U.S. Department of State has a list of foreign governments that offer scholarships to American students that want to study abroad. You can look at the countries you’d like to visit to see if scholarships or grants are available.
Applying for Student Loans
Even if you plan to study abroad, it’s important to complete the FAFSA and research your financial aid options early to maximize your chances of qualifying for grants and loans.
If you can’t get federal aid—or reach the annual maximums for federal loans—research private student loan options. There are loan options for undergraduate students, graduate students, and even parent borrowers.
With ELFI, you can borrow up to 100% of the school-certified cost of attendance, and you can have up to 20 years to repay the loan.* You can check your rates online without affecting your credit.