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. Your status as an undergraduate or graduate student also affects the type of aid for which you’re eligible, just as it does at schools in the U.S.
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?
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 (FAFSA®) form each year for college, be sure to learn about the federal student aid programs and the FAFSA process. You'll need to fill out a FAFSA form before you can receive federal student aid to study abroad.
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. (If your American school doesn’t participate in the federal student aid programs, then you won’t be able to get federal student aid to help pay for your study abroad.) Start early, because it’s important to get all necessary paperwork done on time, both at your American school and at the international school.
The rest of the information on this page (below this section) does not apply to you if what you’re interested in is doing a study-abroad program.
If you’ve decided to get your degree from a school outside the U.S., congratulations. Now let us help you find out which international 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.
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 email 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 form either within the form itself at fafsa.gov (in the “Help and Hints” section on each page of the application) or by phone at 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243; TTY for the deaf or hard of hearing 1-800-730-8913).
Here are resources you can use as you decide which school to attend:
- International Schools in General
- International Schools That Participate in the Federal Student Loan Programs (this list is updated quarterly, so check with your intended school to be sure it currently participates)
- International Medical Schools (for each school, find pass rates on the United States Medical Licensing Examinations, student loan debt for American medical students, and completion rates for American medical students, among other information) Note: International medical schools must annually report and meet certain eligibility requirements to remain as participants in the federal student loan programs. Additionally, an international school may be eligible to participate in the federal student loan programs, but the school’s medical program may be ineligible to participate. This list is a resource only and you MUST contact your intended school to confirm that its medical program is currently eligible and participates in the loan program. Important: The data contained in each Foreign Medical School Consumer Information page below, with the exception of loan default rates, is self-reported and self-certified by the institution.
- American University of Antigua
- American University of the Caribbean
- Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
- Flinders University
- Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
- Jagiellonian University Medical College
- Masarykova Univerzita
- McGill University
- Medical University of Bialystok
- Medical University of Silesia (The)
- Medical University of the Americas
- Ross University, School of Medicine
- Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
- Saba University School of Medicine
- St George's Hospital Medical School
- St George's University, School of Medicine
- Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
- Tel Aviv University Sackler School of Medicine
- Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara
- University of Adelaide (The)
- University College Cork
- University College Dublin
- University of Dublin Trinity College
- University of Queensland (The)
- University of Sydney
- Univerzita Karlova v Praze, First Faculty of Medicine (The)
At many schools around the world, you can receive a federal student loan from the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. (Find out which international schools participate in the 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.
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.
Apply for student loans at your international school using the same process you use to apply for aid in the U.S.
- Fill out a FAFSA form at fafsa.gov as early as possible. The FAFSA form is available on Oct. 1 for school attendance that begins any time from July 1 of the following year through June of the year beyond that. There is no special FAFSA form for students planning to attend international schools. Learn how to fill out the FAFSA form.
- 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 form, 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 form, your school will then download your data.
- 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 (or scan them) and file them safely; 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.
- 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.
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.
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.