When preparing to study abroad, there are a number of things you need to get done. One of the most pressing of these concerns is figuring out how you will be able to afford your time abroad. For most students, this means taking out loans. Navigating the loan application process can be confusing, and it can be difficult to know when you should do what. This timeline will help you organize yourself in order to get the most possible financial aid for your study abroad.
This is the time for budgeting, saving, and applying for funding. First of all, you should estimate your real financial need for study abroad. Do this by comparing the cost of your study abroad with the cost of attending your college or university and considering your resources. Then, add up your current and prospective financial resources such as loans, scholarships, grants, personal savings, family contributions, and work income, and subtract the cost of study abroad from your total resources in order to determine your real financial need.
Next, you should apply for priority financial aid. You will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1 and before the March 1 Priority Funding Date. Some resources are allocated on a first come, first served basis. You can complete the FAFSA online at fafsa.ed.gov. All students should apply for financial aid, even if you have not qualified in the past.
You should also start applying for scholarships. You should apply for as many scholarships as possible. The majority of scholarships are not intended to cover the full cost of your program, but to help you cover your real financial need.
Finally, you should open a savings account for your study abroad. Try to maintain good financial credit and consider finding a credit-worthy cosigner to help you apply for student loans.
Around this time, you should be selecting a study abroad program. Be flexible in order to find a program that suits your budget and needs. The cost of study abroad programs can vary widely depending on program structure, location, and length of time. It is probably a good idea to choose a second choice program.
This is the time for applying for a study abroad program. Make sure that you fill out any additional applications required by your program. Bear in mind that some programs charge an additional application fee.
You should also apply for a passport around this time. Check the US Department of State’s passport page to find current fees.
By this time, you should have been accepted into a study abroad program. You should pay for out of pocket expenses such as visa or entry fees, health clearance and immunizations, and program deposits right after program acceptance.
At this point, you should also pay (or defer to financial aid) your tuition and fees according to your school’s normal schedule, and pay (or defer to financial aid) your study abroad program fee according to your program’s specific deadline.
This is the time for your final financial planning and preparation. Make sure that you have a credit card ready and cash set aside for any expenses. Gather funds for essential costs abroad that are not included in your program. You should collect disbursement for study abroad scholarships, and accept your new financial aid package and begin loan processing. Make sure that you make all payments or defer to financial aid on time. Finally, process private loans individually and/or with credit-worth co-signers.
Remember to plan for arrival and settling-in expenses such as meals, transportation, books and supplies, and personal items. You should have cash available for these initial expenses.