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You Can't Afford NOT to Go!
How to Finance Your Study Abroad Experience

Studying abroad is an investment in your future.  Like any other type of investment, it requires planning, careful management, creativity, perseverance and commitment.  The personal, academic and professional rewards will last a lifetime.



Calculate all of your current on-campus costs.  To determine your annual budget, add up your rent, meals, tuition and fees, travel expenses (don't forget the ski trip during semester break and the trip to Florida during spring break!), entertainment, books, supplies, etc.  The Office of Financial AidOpens in new window has determined that the average in-state MSU student spends approximately $20,456 per year on tuition and fees, room and board, transportation, books, and personal expenses.  Use this as a baseline for comparison of costs abroad, but keep in mind the cost of living at the study abroad location could be more or less than what you’re presently spending.  Don't plan with the idea that you will find work while abroad.


Check the program information sheet and OSA Web site for program expenses.  Items included in the program fee are listed in each program’s information sheet as well as on the OSA Web site.  It will be helpful to plan for these primary costs:

You can also use the Study Abroad Cost Worksheet (PDF)*Opens in new window to estimate your expenses.

If program costs are unclear, contact the Office of Study Abroad for a breakdown of expenses.


Determine your needs and interests.  Compare the features and costs of various programs to find the best match.  Various factors that influence the total cost of participating in a study abroad program include:

Make the program work toward your long-term goals and it will be worth the investment!

Once you know the costs, set a budget and stick to it!  If you are getting outside support, itemize your list and determine what you can pay for and where you will need help.


Set priorities.  Try to put aside 25% to 50% of your paycheck and deposit funds into a separate study abroad account (pay yourself for studying abroad first).  Choose to work longer hours or get a part-time job for additional funds towards study abroad.  Postpone the purchase of that big ticket item you were considering (new car, motorcycle, wide screen TV, etc.) and use funds for your study abroad program instead.


Financial assistance is available when students make appropriate arrangements with MSU’s Office of Study Abroad and Office of Financial Aid. 

If you are not currently receiving financial aid, you may apply for aid by completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) available at the Office of Financial AidOpens in new window.  All students are eligible for either need-based or non-need-based aid programs. 

If you currently receive financial aid, you must first apply to a study abroad program.  The Office of Study Abroad will then forward a Financial Aid Approval Form (FAAF) to the Office of Financial Aid for processing.  This form will list the approximate amount of money needed (including airfare and spending money) to finance that particular study abroad program.  You must have an up-to-date FAFSA for the period you wish to study abroad.  Summer programs are included in the previous academic year (e.g. the 2008-09 FAFSA applies to Summer 2009 aid).

While the amount of your aid can be increased due to the additional costs involved in studying abroad, do not assume you will be awarded 100% of the money needed to cover the costs of your program.  Always seek additional sources of funding.  A listing of alternative student loans is available from the Office of Financial AidOpens in new window. You may apply for these loans once you receive the e-mail notifying you of your award.

Additionally, students may use their Michigan Education Trust (MET) for study abroad.

It’s important to discuss with a Financial Aid Adviser how your use of financial aid funds for studying abroad may (or may not) affect your financial aid package needed to pay for subsequent semesters!  You don’t want to come home from studying abroad and find out you don’t have enough aid remaining to pay for the next semester.


Michigan State University offers many study abroad scholarship opportunities. Some of MSU's scholarships are administered by various colleges – others are administered by the Office of Study Abroad.   You can find detailed information about these scholarship opportunities at Study Abroad - Scholarships.

The Office of Study Abroad has scholarships available to MSU students who apply to any credit-bearing study abroad program.  These scholarships are based on academic performance exclusively or on both academic performance and financial need. The award groups are separate and very competitive.  A generous endowment from the MSU Federal Credit Union, as well as additional resources provided through the Forest Akers Endowment, the MSU Alumni Association, the Australia-Pacific Council, Eleanor and Charles Greenleaf Sr., Brigitte and Thomas Huff, the Georges Jules Joyaux Memorial Fund, the Kellogg Foundation, Charles and Marjorie Gliozzo, and contributors to the Overseas Study Endowment provide funding for these scholarships. 

Other on-campus units, local professional and social societies, and service organizations may also provide scholarship opportunities.

Make note of and be careful not to miss scholarship deadlines!


Fundraising will help to make your trip more affordable and serves as a way to educate the public.

If you select a program that helps achieve your long-term goals, it will be easier to solicit funds from external sources.  Keep in mind that local, regional and national groups, as well as individuals, are all possible contributors.  They include:

Direct, informal appeals often work best.  Be specific on how you intend to spend the funds (airfare, program fee, tuition, personal travel, special projects, etc.).  Include a photo of yourself with your request so that the receiver will establish a personal connection with you.  Make donating as easy as possible (cash or check), so that you’re more likely to get an actual donation rather than a promise to donate, and don’t be afraid to follow up if you haven’t received a response.  Enthusiasm, creativity, and perseverance on your part - and not fearing rejection in some instances - will likely take you a long way.  Remember every little bit helps!

In exchange for your financial support, you should pledge to "give something back," such as regular updates while you are abroad.  Alternatively, upon your return you could:

Fundraising ideas that have worked:

Keys to successful fundraising: confidence and perseverance!

Keep careful records of who supported you and the amount.  Be sure to express your appreciation for their support.  Your energy and enthusiasm for an international experience will be contagious!  Good luck!



Office of Study Abroad
Michigan State University
109 International Center
East Lansing MI  48824-1035
Phone: (517) 353-8920
Fax: (517) 432-2082

*Adobe Acrobat Reader Opens in new window is required to read PDF documents.