Study Abroad – Costs vs. Benefits

This week’s post comes to us from Andrew, a writer at LendEDU,  a consumer education website and financial product marketplace. Many thanks to Andrew for sharing his article on the financial aspects of studying abroad.

Paying for Study Abroad – Is the Experience Worth the Price?

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For many students, crossing borders to learn and grow in a new environment can be an invaluable experience, whether it’s for the summer, a semester, or an entire year. It may even help you get hired. According to International Business Seminars, those who study abroad tend to have a better chance securing their first job within six months of graduation and are more likely to be accepted to graduate school.

But those who sign up to study abroad don’t always consider the price of their adventure or how exactly they’ll pay for it when the time comes. You should weigh the potential benefits and costs prior to making this important decision.

What Are the Benefits of Study Abroad?

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Studying abroad can be an incredible opportunity to engage with a foreign culture, broaden your worldview, and build confidence for success after graduation.

Students often live and work in a faraway location where they’re encouraged to step out of their comfort zones and redefine themselves. Many return home with an evolved outlook on our planet, coming back with greater compassion and drive to make a difference.

Study abroad programs are especially helpful for those who are learning a new language. Being fully immersed in the daily life and language of a new location can work wonders for your language skills. The learning is much more immediate and natural. Making headway into a new language adds to the experience.

Paying for Those Benefits

While the advantages and takeaways from a semester overseas might be life changing for most students, the costs can be equally substantial – if not greater. Although the price of a typical study abroad stint varies significantly, on average students pay $14,295 per semester. However, the costs can vary significantly depending on the destination.

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So, what do costs look like based on where you choose to travel? Studying in Australia tends to be the most expensive with an average per semester fee of $22,596, whereas four months in China can cost less than $7,000. Depending on your destination and the price you pay for your regular college tuition, you might be paying much more or less for an enlightening trip around the world.

At any rate, varying cost can be an issue when planning, but one thing is certain: study abroad is expensive. There are only so many ways to pay for the experience, but you still have options on the table.

Here are a few different ways to pay for study abroad:

  • Find a scholarship. Similar to scholarships for general college tuition, scholarships are also available specifically for study abroad. These are generally merit-based opportunities, but opportunities are also given based on student characteristics, destination, major/career field, and more.  

If you’re lucky and work hard, you could theoretically pay for the entire trip cost with scholarships – there are no limits to scholarship winnings. They are extremely beneficial because they don’t need to be repaid. Put the time in and apply to as many as possible!

However, they can be competitive. If you’re hesitant about your chances of winning, remember that there are niche opportunities offering better odds of success. It just takes time and effort to find them. Free money is out there for the taking. Why shouldn’t it be yours?

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  • Take out a student loan. Student loans for study abroad are offered at the federal or private level. Standard federal student loans include the Stafford Loan and Parent PLUS loan for undergrads, and private lenders and banks offer private student loans to qualified applicants.

The main benefit to student loans is availability. Federal funding is readily available through the FAFSA, and you can take out private student loans if you pass the lender’s credit check (or apply with a cosigner). There may be limits to federal loans, but private student loans will cover the full cost if needed.

Despite availability, these are the most expensive option. You will be incurring long-term debt and pay interest on the loan amount. If you miss payments, your credit score could decline. Student debt is seen as a problem for many students today, so carefully consider whether taking out a loan for an expensive trip is worth the monthly payments.


  • Pay out of pocket. For obvious reasons, this tends to be the least possible option for college students, but it does have its benefits.

For starters, you can avoid paying back a loan with interest. Paying upfront removes any debt obligation, and you won’t need to worry about your credit score down the road. It may not have to be paid upfront either. Some study abroad programs allow you to choose a short or long-term payment schedule.

Aside from the perks, the cost will come directly out of your pocket and significantly reduce your savings. The study abroad experience needs to be exceptional, and worth taking such a hit on your wallet.


Do These Benefits Outweigh the Cost?

So, is the experience worth the price? Well, the short answer is maybe. This may not answer the question for you, but it points attention to an important aspect of study abroad. Whether the trip is worth it depends on you.

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Ask yourself whether your experiences abroad will be worth the price that comes with it. Will your education be advanced? Will you gain a new worthwhile perspective by stepping out of your comfort zone? Furthermore, are you choosing the most affordable option? Is paying for it going to make sense for your finances down the road?

These are very important questions that require serious consideration. There are plenty of destinations that offer great experiences in your field, and your trip doesn’t have the be the most expensive journey. At any rate, you should make a thorough plan. Map out your budget, save early, and be realistic about your ability to pay upfront, repay a loan, or secure a scholarship.

This post is written by Andrew, a Content Associate for Lendedu – a website that helps consumers, college students, and travelers with their finances. When he’s not working, you can find Andrew hiking or hanging with his cat Colby.

As a parent of a college student interested in studying abroad, this information is incredibly helpful and takes all aspects of study abroad into account. (Thanks Andrew!) Best of luck to all students looking further into this amazing opportunity!

Happy Travels!


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