If you are a US student, you may be eligible for financial support through the FAFSA programme, making it substantially easier to finance your studies abroad. Learn all about how it works:
FAFSA (“Free Application for Federal Student Aid”) is the Federal Student Aid process run by the US Department of Education. Every academic year, thousands upon thousands of US students and US permanent residents complete FAFSA forms to see if they are eligible for grants (meaning, free money) and/or loans (which you must pay back) for higher education options.
Yes, you can use FAFSA to get a degree abroad! Around 750 institutions abroad, and of those around 600 in Europe, are approved by the US Department of Education to use FAFSA loans abroad or to defer other study loan payments.
Whether or not foreign universities are accepted for FAFSA is decided by the US Department of Education. The official list of recognised international schools is updated every quarter:
There are a lot of different types of financial aid, some of which will work abroad and some not. Grants (i.e. Pell grants) are not eligible abroad, however, nearly 600 institutions in Europe are approved for US students to use their FAFSA loan awards to pay for the degree abroad, or at least to defer study loan payments.
Loans can be federal (either subsidized or unsubsidized) or private. Federal loans generally have a more favorable interest rate than private loans.
Federal loans: Subsidized federal student loans are loans in which the U.S. government pays the interest on the loan while you are studying at a university, whereas an unsubsidized student loan’s interest is always your responsibility even while attending university. To qualify for a subsidized federal loan, you must demonstrate financial need, while unsubsidized federal loans do not require demonstration of financial need. Direct Plus Loans are federal loans that graduate students or parents of dependent undergraduate students can use to help pay for university.
Private Loans: In contrast, private loans usually have higher interest rates and may be more expensive to pay back, so where possible try to use federal loans. As a best practice for any loan you agree to take, always inquire regarding the interest rate and terms of repayment, so there are no surprises later.
If your university abroad is FAFSA eligible or if it appears on the “deferment only” category, you should be able to defer most student loan payments while you work on a graduate degree, assuming you follow all guidelines.
However, check in advance with your loan servicer to confirm. Also, inquire if you are required to pay any interest during the time of deferment/forbearance, as each type of loan has a different repayment policy.
Europe is home to some of the world’s leading universities, and many of them are eligible for FAFSA. To find the best institutions, have a look at the Times Higher Education rankings (THE), the QS rankings, or the US News Best Global Universities.
A good rule of thumb (if rankings are important to you) is that your university should appear in the top 750 overall and/or within the top ranking within your academic field.
Here is a smattering of the top universities in Europe, along with their FAFSA status (approved for loans, or approved only for loan deferment):
FAFSA is not your only option to finance your studies abroad. If you aren’t eligible, or if the university you plan to apply to is not recognised for FAFSA aid, there are other creative ways to fund your plans to attend university in Europe:
Getting a grant or loan is a great way to finance your studies in another country. But attending university in another country does not actually have to be more expensive than in the US.
In fact, many countries offer high-quality education at significantly cheaper tuition fees than American universities, and at low to modest cost of living. Even if you don’t receive financial aid, your total expense might end up to be much lower overall. Also, consider that many undergraduate programs can be completed in three years, and many Masters in just one year, meaning additional savings for students seeking affordable options.
Here is an overview of very affordable destinations for US students, with typical tuition fees at public universities:
|Country||Typical tuition fees per year||Typical cost of living per year|
|France||$4,000||$12,000 to $18,000|
|Hungary||$4,000 to $8,000||$8,000|
Applying for FAFSA can seem complicated, especially when planning to enrol at a foreign university. The following steps will make it much easier:
All these steps can feel overwhelming, so ask friends or family who have done this before. Or, you can seek out organizations set up to help US students navigate the steps to get a degree abroad.