Will My Financial Aid Travel with Me on My Junior Year Abroad?


Question: I am thinking about taking a year abroad when I am a junior. However, I am a financial aid recipient and I don't know if I will get my same scholarships if I leave campus. Will my aid travel with me?

In the old days, when “The Dean" was in college, study-abroad programs were sometimes off limits to students who couldn't pay their own way. But now, even those with great financial need may have the chance to experience the classrooms and cultures of a different country, especially if they plan ahead as you are doing.

If you are receiving federal financial aid (e.g., a Pell Grant), then you should be able to receive the same amount when you leave the US ... assuming you will be participating in an accredited study-abroad program. You will also be eligible for the same federal loans that you're already getting. If your scholarship is awarded by your home college, then it's possible that it will not travel with you, but it often does. Commonly, if the study-abroad program you choose is sponsored by your college, there's a good chance that any grants awarded by this college will cover your enrollment abroad.

Even if your program is sponsored by another college, there may be reciprocity between that school and your own. This is something that you should look into now. In fact, because many college offices are open during the summer break but are quiet, this is a perfect time to start your “research." Your college probably has an office that oversees programs that are, well ... overseas. (The Dean is not usually this hilarious, and also realizes that some study-abroad opportunities do not require crossing any oceans, although most do). So this is the best place to start.

But before you contact the study abroad office at your college, check first to see if this office has a website that will answer your questions. This website from Tulane University in New Orleans is an example of a helpful one. You'll see on the left-hand menu that there is information devoted specifically to “Finances." It explains that Tulane students continue to pay their usual Tulane tuition when studying abroad and that those who have been awarded scholarships will continue to receive them when they travel. Note also that Tulane offers additional funding that is earmarked just for study-abroad participants.

You should see if your school has similar opportunities as well. The Tulane website also includes an “External Scholarship" list with study-abroad scholarship sources that are not only for Tulane applicants. You might even get lucky if you ask pertinent professors at your college if they know about study-abroad funding options. For instance, if you're planning on going to a Spanish-speaking country, check with Spanish department members. If your focus will be economics, talk to the econ folks. And survey the bulletin boards outside faculty offices for flyers that the profs themselves may not have noticed!

Yet even if your scholarships and tuition remain consistent when you study abroad, your cost-of-living expenses in a foreign country may be greater than what you pay at home (or they could be lower!) The Tulane website offers a handy spreadsheet that allows students to compare cost-of-living estimates in New Orleans with costs in popular study-abroad destinations. Your college may provide this same sort of information as well.

You can also check online here and here to find information about financing a study-abroad experience. You are wise to start planning your travels well in advance. Here's to a successful and safe journey!


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