Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated August 2010
Each year, more and more students decide to pursue a graduate degree overseas. Studying abroad often offers more flexibility in completing a master’s or doctorate degree in less time. However, the decision to study overseas requires a lot of research and consideration. It is imperative that you choose a foreign school that is accredited so your degree will be recognized worldwide. In addition, you must hold a bachelor’s degree in the field in which you plan your graduate study. Be sure that the foreign school has a comparable bachelor’s degree.
Many accredited foreign colleges have a federal school code which allows students to apply for federal financial aid available through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) just the same as the traditional student who meets U.S. citizenship requirements and qualifies for loans. A FAFSA must be filed to be considered for a Stafford student loan or Federal Perkins Loan, which is the only aid available to graduate students. While Federal Work Study is another option for graduate students, most foreign colleges do not award Federal Work Study funds to students studying abroad. However, some countries, such as the U.K. or Australia offer part-time employment as a student.
For students in a graduate degree program at a foreign school that accepts the FAFSA, the federal limit for a Stafford (whether FFELP or Direct Loan) student loan for an academic year is up to $20,500 with no more than $8,500 being subsidized loan. In addition, students can apply for a Graduate PLUS loan to pay the remaining budget expenses not covered with Stafford Loan. Private educational loans may also be an option, but the inception of the Graduate PLUS loan enables students to borrow with a lower interest rate than most private alternative loans.
Detailed information on scholarship and fellowship opportunities for students pursuing an international graduate or doctoral degree is very difficult to find not only because aid is limited, but also because assistance is very location-specific. There are a number of websites dedicated to searching for post-secondary/graduate resources in international education.
StudyAbroadFunding.org, an IIEPassport related website, has scholarships listed by country and subject. At the homepage in the search box, choose from the dropdown menus and find the right scholarship for your study abroad experience. You’ll then be taken to a page with relevant scholarships listed, as well as additional options to narrow your search. Based on a narrowed search using the detailed scholarships option, you will be given a list of possible scholarships based on your specifications. Click on those in which you are interested for additional information and application instructions.
The Center for International Studies website offer a small amount of financial possibilities. Click on “funding your degree” from the menu on the left hand side and you’ll be given two additional options of financial assistance. The “financial aid” option will explain the FAFSA, private loans, and GI Bill (for veterans). The “scholarships” option will provide a short list of scholarships and a link for additional information. Note that the Rotary Foundation Scholarship is inaccurate. The correct link is provided further in this article.
The International Education Financial Aid website is probably the most comprehensive of these websites. By selecting Search for Scholarships from the homepage, over 1900 possible resources for financial assistance will be listed. Narrow the search by using the filter to select your type of assistance, field of study, and location.
There are some U.S. financial aid resources, such as the Fulbright Scholarship and Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which also make awards to students studying abroad. The Rotary Foundation offers fellowships in limited countries. These scholarships are highly competitive, but securing a generous award is worth the effort.
For students looking for federal financial aid to finance an international graduate education, completing the FAFSA is the first step if the foreign school participates in the federal student aid program. Graduate students are limited to student loans only. It is important to work with the foreign institution to determine what documents are required, and how financial aid is processed and disbursed.
Exhaust all possibilities for additional funding beyond student loans through the FAFSA. There are a number of reputable websites that offer scholarship information for graduate students who plan to study abroad. A word of caution: you should never have to pay to complete a scholarship application, so ignore any that do, as these may not be reputable companies. Carefully read scholarship instructions and complete applications thoroughly and timely. Many students are not awarded scholarships for which they may otherwise be eligible because the application was not completed properly or fully.
Photo by Ryan McFarland