Studying abroad for any amount of time can be an enriching experience. International schools offer different perspectives on learning, along with resume enhancements. Figuring out how to make arrangements for the study and pay for its costs can be nerve-racking, however, and the rules are different depending on whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student. If you are an undergraduate student, you have more options, including Pell Grants.
How Pell Grants Work
Pell Grants do not have to be paid back. They are not are loans. There are limits on how you can use them and the amount you can receive. For the 2011-2012 school term, the maximum amount any student can have is $5,550. This amount may be lower depending on other financial factors, such as your or your parents' ability to contribute to the cost of your education. To be eligible, you have to be under 24 years old and enrolled at least half-time.
The award can be used at international schools recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. However, any amount you spend on study abroad programs count toward your maximum award.
Considerations Before Studying Abroad
Getting funds for a study abroad program is complicated. Think about the destination, exchange rate and the length of the study program. The costs of study in the United Kingdom are much higher than in Central America. If the exchange rate is not in your favor, that will also raise costs. Some programs have fixed lengths, a summer or entire academic year, for example. Knowing the answers to each of these questions will help you figure out how much you will need in financial aid.
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Know Your School's Rules
Your school has to approve both your study abroad program and the use of financial aid to cover the costs. Rules vary by school, the school's commitment to international programs and the total financial aid package for which you are eligible.
In most cases, to be able to use your Pell Grant and other financial aid abroad, you have to carry a minimum of a half-time course load. The program has to advance your degree and the institution's credits should be transferable to your home school. If the school you are attending costs more than your usual tuition, you may be able to get an increase in your Pell Grants to cover the costs. Again, that depends on school rules.
In addition to Pell Grants and financial aid, seek outside funding sources. Having a conversation with your study abroad coordinator and financial aid counselor will show you a wealth of scholarships and grants for international education. For example, the Rotary Club offers study abroad funding. The Institute for International Education supports the Fulbright scholarship and other programs. Pulman grants are available for those interested in national security to learn language skills.