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  • Paying for Study Abroad

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    Studying abroad can be expensive, but you shouldn't have to take out a mortgage on your dorm room.

    In fact, depending on your school's policies and the cost of your study abroad program, you can even end up paying less than you would to stay home.

    There are many ways to fund your time overseas or across the border. Some private organizations offer scholarships, and your school may have special grants to help fund study abroad. If you're on financial aid, your school is required to extend that aid to help finance an approved program (note: get in touch with your financial aid officer as early as possible to discuss this).

    Here are three steps to help you minimize your costs:

    Step 1: Get the facts from your school.

    Speak with your study abroad advisor and financial aid officer to find out about your school's policies. Make sure you understand the consequences of choosing one program over another (i.e. your financial aid may help cover a program approved by your school, but not one they've never heard of).

    Investigate whether you'll pay regular tuition rates during your time abroad. This means you pay your home school and they pay the program. This could be a good deal or a bad deal, depending on whether the cost of your regular tuition is more or less than the cost of your study abroad program.

    Many state schools will allow a student to go on an approved study abroad program and continue to pay the in-state tuition rate. If you attend an expensive private institution, you may be able to pay less than your regular tuition by going abroad during a semester off (although this could affect whether or not you earn credit for your studies).

    Step 2: Find out how much you'll really need.

    "Cost of attendance" means the total cost (to you) of the semester or year abroad. It includes not only tuition and other fees charged by the study abroad program, but also all other necessary costs such as lodging, transportation, meals, books, health insurance and incidental expenses (phone cards, postcards, pitchers of Sangria).

    Not all programs include the same items in their fees. A program that charges $10,000 and includes full tuition and room and board may well be cheaper than one that charges $7,000 but includes only tuition. You should always compare the total cost of attendance and add any of the aforementioned expenses that are not included.

    When comparing costs, assess the degree of support you'd like. There are a number of "bare bones" programs that offer low prices but few services. These may be ideal for a mature, independent, self-motivated student who wants almost complete immersion in the host culture, but not so appropriate for a student who needs a significant amount of moral support and advice.

    Finally, always overestimate how much money you'll spend. There are invariably unexpected expenses. You shouldn't leave the U.S. without enough money to sustain you until you return home. It's very difficult (and potentially illegal) to find a job in another country, and you don't want to make that late-night phone call begging Mom for a wire transfer.

    Step 3: Track down extra dollars.

    There are many organizations that will help you finance your study abroad. These include your college or university (check for special grants and scholarships), the U.S. government (which offers grants, loans and scholarships), foreign governments interested in promoting study in their countries and private foundations and clubs like Rotary International.

    For a complete list of resources, visit the website of NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

    The key to funding your study abroad is starting early. Deadlines may fall months before you plan to leave. So if you're planning to go abroad, meet with a study abroad or financial aid advisor at your college now.

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