While it may be hard to let go, send your child abroad, and trust that they’ll be OK in a far-off foreign land, many times it’s just as hard to come up (and part) with the money it takes to get them there. As a parent, you want your kid to have the best. You also probably want those extra benefits, like in-country support, that will help you sleep better at night. Of course, all that comes at a cost.
However, there are a number of ways to minimize the costs of study abroad and send your student overseas without breaking the bank. Follow these tips, and it'll be easy to save enough money for your child's study abroad adventure.
1. Discuss money early on
As soon as the idea of study abroad starts to float into your student’s head (and ideally, even before!), make sure you discuss the level of responsibility they will have in making it happen -- whether they’re responsible for funding the entire initiative, or just their spending money, travel, etc. Sit down together and detail all the potential expenses so they know what kind of budget they'll need and can get started saving money for study abroad as soon as possible. If they are aware and working toward a goal, it will absolutely help minimize your own contribution.
2. Work together to save
While a part-time job is a great way for your student to earn money, there are other ways to make or save money that are far easier, especially when they aren’t doing it alone. Get the whole family to work together to put on a garage sale, with all profits going toward your student’s study abroad fund. Or make an effort to save money by all giving up something together -- a daily coffee, going out to eat on the weekend, etc. Your child will likely find those sacrifices a little easier knowing her parents are also making the same sacrifices. Pool all that saved money into a savings account that earns interest and watch that extra money grow!
3. Go beyond the shiny brochures
Your student will likely come home from the study abroad fair loaded down with shiny brochures. Generally, these are for expensive program providers. Weed through them and toss out the ones you know are out of your budget. Encourage your child to look into less-common destinations. A semester in Thailand will be a lot cheaper than a semester in Italy - by cost-of-living and by program costs. Reach out to your child's university’s study abroad office and inquire about direct exchange and direct enrollment opportunities. Nearly all universities have exchange programs with other universities, where a semester or year abroad will cost the same as tuition. And there are some countries whose universities are free - or very inexpensive - to enroll in directly. Check out universities in Germany or Scandinavia, for example.
A more DIY study abroad experience can also save money in other respects. Your child can likely find much cheaper housing on their own than what you would pay through a program provider. Perhaps a homestay might also be a great inexpensive option, especially depending on the host country. Not to mention that in a homestay, at least one or two meals a day are usually included as well!
4. Consider different kinds of fundraising
Even if you are able to save the money on program costs, your child still needs to get to his or her destination - not to mention eat, live, and hopefully see a few things! Again, some countries are much cheaper in cost of living than the United States, so it’s almost like saving money to go abroad! But other countries - particularly the popular study abroad spots Europe and Oceania - are definitely not cheaper. Luckily, there are many ways to raise funds, from the old-school letter (or email) writing campaigns to websites like Fund and Seek.
Your fundraising doesn’t have to only cover cash. Consider asking for donations of airline miles to help cover your student’s flight. Or, ask for connections. Perhaps someone you know has a friend or family member in your child’s future host country that can help them out - whether it’s just a home-cooked meal every once in a while, or even help with finding inexpensive housing.
5. Go for scholarships, and start thinking about them early
For families on a tight budget, scholarships and grants are the best way to get your student abroad. Start thinking about this early! Research the kind of scholarships and grants available and make your child aware that these funds are necessary for their international experience to be possible. Don’t forget to explore fellowships and sponsored programs - and broaden your search to other areas like interning abroad, working abroad or even volunteering abroad. This way, your student may still be able to get credit while also getting paid or funded by a government or organization!
Your child should start preparing themselves to be eligible from the get-go. Two semesters in a critical language necessary to apply? Make sure they take those classes first thing! Leadership experience, recommendations from professors... get them to go into their college experience with these things in mind, and to start cultivating themselves as ideal candidates! There are some unique scholarships out there, so find your niche and get started preparing and applying, applying, applying!
Sit down together and detail all the potential expenses so they know what kind of money they’re looking at and can get started making and saving that money for study abroad as soon as possible. If they are aware and working toward a goal, it will absolutely help minimize your own contribution.
The key is forethought. Study abroad really doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. You’ve already fretted for years about saving up just to send your kid to college, and you shouldn’t have to stress more to send them abroad. The most important thing is to broach the subject early. When you’re student is preparing to go off to begin their freshman year, get them thinking about studying abroad then. Urge them to figure out where they might want to go, or the way that study abroad would best fit with their studies. With a little research and a lot of preparation, your student can garner scholarships, be the perfect fit for the right funded opportunities, and together you can save enough to cover the rest!
Suggested Programs for Study Abroad
- IAU College
- SPI Study Abroad
- SACI Art Centers International
- API Study Abroad
- International Studies Abroad
- The School for Field Studies
- USAC Study Abroad