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Federal Aid when Studying Abroad


It is common for students to apply for federal student aid to help pay for international school studies at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

Federal student aid may help you pay for school expenses if you are planning to study for a semester or longer abroad outside of the USA. The portion of aid available and the process required depends on the kind of program you plan to take; full degree or study-abroad. Your status as a graduate student or an undergraduate also affects the kind of aid you are eligible for, similar to the way it plays a part in any schools you choose to attend in the USA.

Studying Abroad for a Year Or a Semester

Federal student aid is available for many study-abroad programs if you qualify for eligibility. If you are not currently in the habit of filling out a FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, for every year of college, learn more about the FAFSA process and federal student aid programs here. Before receiving any federal student aid for studying

Speak with your American school’s financial aid office to figure out which aid types you will be able to access for your time studying abroad. If your school does not participate in federal student aid programs, you will not be able to get any funds to help you pay for your time overseas. Begin the process of researching early to ensure you meet all of the deadlines for having your required paperwork completed on time. There will be paperwork to handle for both your home school and your international school.

Earn Your Degree from an International School

If you choose to study outside of the USA, this is a very exciting opportunity. We are happy to guide you through the process and help you find out which international schools participate in the federal student aid programs. Discover the process of getting federal aid to help you save more on tuition and lessen the expense of your post-secondary education.

What Is the Best Way to Research Different Schools and Their Requirements?

There are many tips to consider when considering international school attendance. The American federal student aid programs offer resources to help you learn about schools that participate.

Check out the following tips:

  • Visit fafsa.gov if you need help filling out the FAFSA.
  • Begin early if you are applying to international schools. You will have more paperwork to complete compared to your friends attending American schools. Understand the process takes time.
  • Research websites of schools you are interested in. Find out about the program’s availability and if it offers the degree you seek. This is a great way to discover enrollment policies, costs, programs and resources for international students.
  • Discover who will be processing your financial aid at your chosen school. Obtain their email and phone number to stay in contact with them when questions arise. Contact the school’s office for international students if you are unsure where to begin.
  • Keep a list of things you need to do as you conduct your research. This can help you keep track of individual steps including medical insurance, visas, police registration, emergency contacts, housing forms and ensuring your passport is up-to-date.
  • Build a file folder to keep all of your school documents, paperwork and information organized. This can help you track timelines and deadlines.

School Participation

Once you decide to attend a specific school, use these resources to help you.

General International Schools

International Schools That Participate in the Federal Student Loan Programs 

International Medical Schools

Find out the pass rates for each school on the U.S. Medical Licensing Examinations. Check out the student loan debt for American medical students and also look into the completion rates among other statistics.

International medical schools are required to report annually and meet specific eligibility requirements to remain as participants in the federal student loan programs. Note, this list is only a resource, and you need to contact your intended school for confirmation that its medical program participates in the loan program and is actively eligible.

Note that the data listed below from the Foreign Medical School Consumer Information is self-certified and self-reported by the institution, except for loan default rates. You must contact the school directly to find out current information.

What Federal Student Aid Options Are Available for My International School Degree?

You can be eligible to receive a federal student loan from the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program from a variety of schools all over the globe. Discover which international schools participate in the Direct Loan Program.

For undergraduate education, you may be eligible to receive a Direct Subsidized Loan or Direct Unsubsidized Loan or Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Graduate students have the option of seeking Direct PLUS Loans. Parents may be eligible to borrow on behalf of their students. Parents can inquire about getting a Direct PLUS Loan.

Note that international schools don’t participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s grant programs. Therefore, you will be unable to obtain a Federal Pell Grant to obtain your degree at an international school.

How Much Money Can Federal Student Loans Offer?

Take into account that the annual limit for Direct Subsidized Loans plus Direct Unsubsidized Loans ranges from $5,500 to $20,500.

The amount considers numerous factors such as your status as an independent student, or a dependent, the year in school and other factors. Any Direct PLUS Loan amounts are calculated by subtracting other financial aid you are receiving from your complete cost of attending the school.

What Is the Application Process for a Federal Student Loan Use at International Schools?

Learn how to fill out the FAFSA form first to ensure you don’t submit any mistakes. Start this process as early as you can and fill out your application at fafsa.gov. On October 1, the FAFSA form is open for school attendance commencing July 1 of the following year until June of the year past that. Note that there is no different FAFSA form to complete for international student applications.

Ensure your intended school has your FAFSA information. These schools can electronically access your FAFSA information. There is a question regarding Federal School Codes when you fill out the FAFSA and this is where you list the school you are wishing to attend. Use the search tool on the FAFSA site to let you search for the Federal School Code listed for your school. After it has been listed on your FAFSA form, the school can download your application.

Determine the next steps of the application process with your chosen school as they differ slightly at this stage. Discuss with your school what paperwork is required and their deadlines, how you will receive your loan funds, etc. Make copies of your paper documents by scanning them and keep everything related to your application filed safely. Mark your deadlines carefully and aim to complete everything early to avoid disappointment.

Note, if your parents are going to access a Direct PLUS Loan, they will need to adhere to strict deadlines and specific documentation too.

Lastly, you will be required to undergo entrance counseling, if you are a first-year student who is borrowing federal money for the first time. There is an online video and or text to read. Some places offer an in-person presentation to learn more about the responsibilities of accessing a loan. Depending on your school, your entrance counseling may take place prior to leaving the USA or once you arrive at your new location.

How Are Payments Distributed?

The U.S. Treasury will electronically transmit your loan funds to the designated bank at your international school. The school will initially put the funds toward outstanding debts including fees and tuition. If there is any excess money once these amounts are applied to your school account, you will receive the remaining funds.

Note that your funds may not be paid out before your trip overseas. Therefore, plan on having to cover any travel expenses on your own.