Many students get federal student aid to help pay for their study at international schools, either at the undergraduate or graduate level.

International Schools

Whether you plan to study abroad for a semester or get your entire degree outside the United States, you may be able to use federal student aid to pay your expenses. The type of aid you can get—and the process you must follow—will depend on the type of program (study-abroad or full degree) you plan to enter.

Study Abroad for a Semester or Year
Get a Degree From an International School

How can I research schools and their requirements?
What federal student aid can I receive for my degree at an international school?               
How much can I receive in federal student loan funds?               
How do I apply for a federal student loan to use at an international school?               
How will I get paid?        
When and how do I repay the loan?


Study Abroad for a Semester or Year

You may receive federal student aid for a study-abroad program, if you meet the aid eligibility criteria. If you aren’t already in the habit of filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM) each year for college, be sure to learn about the federal student aid programs and the FAFSA process.

To determine which types of aid you’ll be able to use for your study-abroad program, contact the financial aid office at your American school. Start early, because it’s important to get all necessary paperwork done on time, both at your American school and at the international school.

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Get a Degree From an International School

If you’ve decided to get your degree from a school outside the U.S., congratulations. Now let us help you find out which schools participate in the federal student aid programs and guide you through the process of getting federal aid to make a dent in that tuition bill.

How can I research schools and their requirements?

First, don’t panic. You’re on your own, but if you’re organized and determined, you’ll be okay.  In this section, we’ll share some tips about preparing to study at an international school and some resources to help you learn about schools that participate in the American federal student aid programs.

Here are general tips:

  • Start early. You’ve got more to do than your friends who are going to American schools, so don’t think you can apply for financial aid this month and use it to pay your tuition next month.
  • If you’re interested in a particular school, check its website to find out about program availability (does it offer the degree you want?), cost, enrollment policies, and resources and programs for international students.
  • Do your research and keep a “to do” list. For instance, what paperwork needs to be done? (Visas? Housing forms? Registering with the police? Valid passport? Emergency contacts? Medical insurance?)
  • Create a file to organize your documents and information from your school.
  • Find out who at the school will be processing your financial aid. Get their e-mail address, and contact them when you have questions. (If you’re not sure where to start, try the school’s office for international students.)
  • Don’t forget that you can get help filling out the FAFSA either within the form itself at www.fafsa.gov (in the “Help and Hints” section on each page of the application) or by phone at 1-800-4-FED-AID.

Here are resources you can use as you decide which school to attend:

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What federal student aid can I receive for my degree at an international school?

At many schools around the world, you can receive a federal student loan from the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. You may receive a Direct Subsidized Loan or Direct Unsubsidized Loan for your undergraduate education. Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans are available to graduate students. Your parent also might be able to borrow on your behalf; he or she should ask about getting a Direct PLUS Loan for parents. International schools do not participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s grant programs, so you will not be able to obtain a Federal Pell Grant to get your degree at an international school.

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How much can I receive in federal student loan funds?

The annual limit for Direct Subsidized Loans plus Direct Unsubsidized Loans varies from $5,500 to $20,500, depending on a variety of factors (year in school, status as a dependent or independent student, etc.). Direct PLUS Loan amounts are determined by subtracting any other financial aid you’re receiving from your total cost of attendance at the school.

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How do I apply for a federal student loan to use at an international school?

Apply for student loans at your international school using the same process you use to apply for aid in the U.S.

  1. Fill out a FAFSA at www.fafsa.gov as early as possible. The FAFSA is available on Jan. 1 for school attendance that begins any time from July 1 of that year through June of the following year. There is no special FAFSA for students planning to attend international schools. Learn how to fill out the FAFSA.
  2. Make sure the school you plan to attend has your FAFSA information. International schools have the ability to access your FAFSA information electronically. When you fill out the FAFSA, list the school you plan to attend in the question about Federal School Codes. (The FAFSA site has a tool to let you search for your school’s Federal School Code.) Once it’s listed on your FAFSA, your school will then download your data.
  3. Find out the next steps from your chosen school. Different schools proceed differently at this stage of the process. Ask your school how you will get your loan money—what paperwork do you need to fill out, what are the deadlines, etc. Keep track of everything that is required of you; make copies of paper documents and put them in a file; and meet those deadlines! And if your parent plans to get a Direct PLUS Loan, he or she should keep a close eye on required documents and deadlines as well.
  4. If you are a first-year student borrowing federal funds for the first time, you will have to complete entrance counseling. This means you’ll be required to read text or watch a video online, or attend an in-person presentation, in order to learn about the responsibilities of taking out a loan. Your entrance counseling might happen before you leave the U.S. or after you arrive at your school; it depends on the school.

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How will I get paid?

Your loan funds will be electronically transmitted from the U.S. Treasury to the international school’s designated bank. First the school will put the funds toward anything you owe them (tuition, fees, etc.). If there is any money left over after the funds are applied to your account at the school, the extra money will go to you.

Your funds might not be disbursed (paid out) before you leave the U.S., so you will most likely have to come up with your travel expenses yourself.

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When and how do I repay the loan?

That depends on whether it’s a subsidized or unsubsidized loan versus a PLUS loan. Repayment of a loan used to pay for international study works the same way as repayment of a loan used to pay for an American school. Get information about repaying federal student loans

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