Budgeting for Study Abroad

funding study abroad graphic imageDon’t let the cost of study abroad be frightening; it is more affordable than many people think! Funding a study abroad program is an equation that balances financial planning, scholarships, and financial aid.

Financial planning refers to developing a budget for your study abroad. Examining costs is a process of comparing Western lifestyle, including university and living costs, to the budget of your study-abroad program. Consider the following factors that affect the budget of your study-abroad program:  

Program-cost factors:

  • Number of credits
  • Type of program (ex. Faculty-led, exchange, or partner program)
  • Program length and time
  • Room and board
  • International transportation and local travel
  • Number of excursions included

It is the students' responsibility to meet with a financial aid advisor in WMU's Student Financial Aid and Scholarships office to determine if they have sufficient personal funds or will be awarded sufficient financial aid to support their participation in the study abroad program selected. While financial aid applies to the study abroad experience, additional funds might be needed to cover costs that exceed tuition and program fees.

There are many scholarships available through WMU colleges and departments, as well as scholarships awarded through community organizations, service clubs and national competitions, such as the Boren, Freeman-Asia, and Gilman programs. In 2012-13, students studying abroad through WMU received more than $400,000 in scholarships. For WMU students who are willing to invest some time in developing their foreign language skills before they go abroad, the President’s Grant for Study Abroad can meet most of the financial need, offering awards of up to $10,000 for an academic year.

National study abroad scholarships range from accessible to very competitive and WMU students compete successfully for these awards. The key is to start the process as early as possible and to work closely with WMU's campus representative and advisor for national study abroad scholarship programs. For the Gilman, students should work with their study abroad specialist. For the Freeman-Asia award, students should work with Ms. Yumi-Takahashi-Ede, who may be reached for advising at yumi.takahashi@wmich.edu. For the Critical Languages Scholarship, students should contact study-abroad@wmich.edu. For information on the Boren and Fulbright awards, students should work with Dr. Michelle Metro-Roland, who may be reached for advising at michelle.metro-roland@wmich.edu.

Important things to consider:

Begin working on your application essay as soon as possible. Drafting your application essay just a few days before the deadline will not allow you and your advisor time to develop a strong coherent strategy and polished text; applications to national scholarship programs are rarely successful under these conditions.

Substantial funding opportunities are available to students who:

  • Plan their project early.
  • Prepare through academic coursework, such as taking a foreign language class.
  • Take the time to craft a strong application.