Understanding the financial process & using it to your advantage

When we talk to students about the factors keeping them from studying abroad, one of the first things we hear is, “It’s too expensive!” While studying abroad is definitely an investment, it’s one that’s well worth it for the immediate and long-term positive effects, memories and friendships made. The thing is, most students don’t take these factors into consideration when looking at study abroad programs because they’re distracted by the large, seemingly impossible-to-pay price tag. They don’t think about the priceless rewards of an international education because those rewards aren’t real to them (or their parents, who may need some convincing) yet, while the deadlines for their program deposits are.

Well, the good news is that with the proper planning, qualifications and a little bit of luck and creativity, you can partially or even fully fund your study abroad trip using the resources available to you right here on FSU’s campus and in your own community. You’ve probably  heard that before, but it’s true! You may need to read a lot of small print, email some people, write a few essays and cross your fingers and toes, but you can do it. Believe us. Year after year, we see money sit because students don’t think they’ll ever get it, so they don’t apply for it. We asked if they’d let us use the money for some crunchy snacks for the office, but they said no.

So, here we are.

Before we take a look at financial resources, let’s review what you actually have to pay in order to study abroad with Florida State University.

Application Fee – $100, nonrefundable, due when you submit your application.

Life hack: Submit your application before the early application deadline to get $100 off your program fee and get this money back (more on this below). We post about this all over social media, so make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram to get reminders when the deadline is coming up. This is a super easy one.

Confirmation Deposit – $1500 for semester-long programs & $500 for spring break programs, refundable until the close of business on the due date of the deposit.

There’s no getting out of this one, but it does go toward your full program fee.

Full Program Fee – This one is different for each program, but fees start at around $1,500 for our spring break programs and $12,000 for our semester-long programs.

Check out all of our available programs and their fees on our website under the “Choose Your Destination” drop down menu. Keep in mind that many of the program courses offered can count towards graduation requirements outside of your actual major requirements. If the program corresponding to your major is too expensive, keep your options open and browse the more affordable programs, like our short-term spring break programs. If you’re willing to be flexible, chances are you’ll find something in your price range — and it may even be more interesting and exciting than the program every person in your major went on. Studying abroad is also an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone in terms of academics. Even if you’re not a film student, the documentary filmmaking program in London could be a chance to practice a long-forgotten artistic passion or hobby. Never held a camera in your life? Even better. College is all about taking risks and trying new things, after all. And going to class. Obviously. Please go to class!

The great thing about the program fee is that it covers A LOT of expenses. Details differ depending on the specific program and country, but for the most part, here’s what is included in the full program fee:

  • All registration fees
  • Tuition
  • Orientation
  • Housing
  • Visa*
  • Some meals (check specific programs for specifics)
  • Program-planned excursions/field trips/group activities (GO TO THESE! You literally pay for them.)
  • Full time academic support
  • 24/7 student support
  • Health insurance
  • International student ID card
  • Travel water bottle, luggage strap and luggage tag
  • IP t-shirt

* The majority of our programs include the visa fee, but we recommend double checking your specific program details just to make sure.

So, what’s not included in the full program fee? (AKA the extra stuff you pay for)

  • Airfare: Depending on where you’re traveling to, the price of your airfare can literally range from $100 (or even less) to over $1,000. But worry not — finding affordable airfare happens to be something we’re pretty good at around here, and lucky for you, we wrote all about how to do it here.  

          Do I NEED to pay for this? Yes. Unless you can fly. In which case, why are you even studying abroad? You’ve got bigger things going on.

  • Passport: Studying abroad is a lot of students’ first time traveling abroad, so they might not know that in order to leave the country, you need a valid passport. Lucky for you guys again, we’ve got you covered. The Florida State University International Programs office has been officially designated as a Passport Acceptance Facility by the U.S. Department of State, so you can apply for one directly through our office! Just stop by during our passport hours, which you can find here, along with fees and requirements. PRO TIP: If you do need to get a passport before your trip, make sure you leave enough time to get it processed and shipped. Our suggestion is to start the passport process as soon as you’re accepted into your program.

          Do I NEED to pay for this? Yes, unless you already have one. Just make sure it’s not expired or expiring anytime close to your trip, and you’re good.

  • Books/supplies for class: Like any other semester on campus, you’ll have to buy your own books and supplies for all of your classes. However, if you’re studying abroad in the Spring or Fall and you have the Florida Bright Futures Academic scholarship, you’ll get $300 for books. If not, the same old rules apply for saving money on books even if your classes are abroad — check out online retailers like Chegg and Amazon, and the various Facebook groups where students buy and sell old textbooks. And iClickers. So many iClickers.

          Do I NEED to buy this? Yes, but you probably won’t spend more than you would any other semester.

  • University Technology fees: This is one of those “taxes and fees” things that no one really understands but still has to pay for. So like, the extra $15 your mom had to pay for your Jonas Brothers concert ticket in 2008. The technology fee rate for 2017-2018 is assessed at $5.25 per credit hour for all students, regardless of location of study. You’ll pay this after registration, directly to Florida State University Student Business Services.

          Do I NEED to pay for this? Yup. However, since the amount changes depending on how many credit hours you take, you do have some control over how much you actually have to pay.

And last, but certainly not least…

  • Personal spending money & emergency money: A BIG one. This includes money for independent travel, food, shopping and whatever else you can see yourself saying, “treat yo self” before buying. This cash can make or break a travel budget, and it’s honestly the hardest to plan for, especially if you’re someone who’s not used to maintaining strict financial habits. Meaning, if you’re used to blowing money at Recess on Saturday nights, this one might be a little harder for you, but not impossible. If money is really your reason for not studying abroad, commit to making the effort to change your spending habits during your trip, and stick to the basics when shopping for material items. But what about independent travel? Aren’t I supposed to go EVERYWHERE and do EVERYTHING and eat ALL THE FOOD? Remember, your program fee already includes excursions and field trips, so don’t feel too bummed out if you have to skip the spring break in Ibiza trip with your flatmates. You’ll live. And hey, you’ll still be abroad, so why not opt for some local, more affordable fun? One of the best parts of being abroad is that everything is new. Everything is an adventure as long as you make it one. Yes, that sounds like a cheesy Tumblr post, but it’s true. It’s very true.

          Do I NEED to pay for this? Yes, but with budgeting and self control, it won’t be too bad.

So now that we’ve gone over everything that needs to go into your study abroad budget, let’s look at the resources available for you to understand your finances and outsource some of those costs to ultimately reduce the amount of money you have to pay on your own. Then, we’ll go over how to reduce that.

Resources available at Florida State University:

  1. The Man, the Myth, the Legend: Rod Mack, the International Programs Financial Aid Advisor: Rod Mack is the guy to talk to for advice and answers about everything and anything related to financial aid. His office is located right down the hall in the International Programs main office, but he can also be reached by email at  rmack@fsu.edu or over the phone at 850.644.7822.
  2. IP Financial Aid Workshops: If you can’t make it to Rod’s office or can’t think of any specific questions to ask, stop by one of his financial aid workshops to get the ~full effect~. Here, he’ll take you step-by-step through the financial aid process and answer any questions you may have. We hold these at least twice a month, every month. Follow us on social media @fsuip to stay updated on the workshop schedule!
  3. The International Programs Financial Aid process handbook: This document tells you all you need to know about handling your finances before you study abroad. It’s super important to read ALL OF IT and understand it so you don’t miss anything and end up having to pay annoying fees. This is also a good one to share with your parents. Kick your feet up, relax, and enjoy the beauty of the financial aid process. We’re trying to get the audiobook version out soon, but we can’t get anyone to stay awake long enough to get through it.
  4. Financial Aid office: The financial aid office is sometimes thought of by students as the place dreams go to die, but it’s actually a really nice place with lots of smart people who are willing to help you if you come in with the right questions. They get tons of kids in there every day who have no idea what they’re asking for, (no offense to the students, they never taught you any of this stuff in school, amirite?) so you need to be prepared. Go in with some curiosity and an open mind. Their job is to help you, not just throw free money at you. We’ll get to the free money later.
  5. Bright Futures: Did you know Florida Bright Futures scholarship funds may be used toward a semester abroad? That’s right, as it turns out being from Florida can actually help you in life aside from giving you the superhuman ability to withstand extreme summer temperatures in the middle of November. The Bright Futures Academic Scholarship is available for all terms and includes a $300 textbook award for fall and spring only. However, the Bright Futures Medallion Scholarship will not be available for the summer terms. For more info, visit The Florida Department of Education website.
  6. Florida Prepaid: Are you one of the lucky ones? Students receiving Florida Prepaid tuition, local fees and/or dorm benefits may defer a portion of their funds to pay for their program fee! Completing and submitting the fee deferment request form (found here, under the “Deferment” section under the “Money Matters” tab) will allow International Programs to bill Florida Prepaid and apply these funds toward the program fee balance. To use a Florida Prepaid dorm account during a summer term, the purchaser of the Prepaid account must send a letter authorizing the use of the benefit. Letters should be mailed to: Florida Prepaid, 1804 Hermitage Blvd., Suite 210, Tallahassee, FL 32308. For more information, contact them at 1-800-552-4723. PS: Eligibility for summer financial aid requires enrollment in at least six credits.
  7. Scholarships: This is where it gets *good*. FSU has joined the Generation Study Abroad campaign sponsored by the Institute for International Education, committing to a goal of doubling the number of study abroad participants by 2020. As part of this commitment, (which we’re super proud of, btw) International Programs has launched a $175,000 Generation Study Abroad Scholarships program. This includes — wait for it — $70,000 (!!!!!) worth of new scholarships as well as two existing scholarships being incorporated into the Generation Study Abroad Scholarships program. Translation: FREE MONEY! Here’s the application! Again! These are only the ones offered through the International Programs department. Florida State offers tons more; find the rest here under the “Scholarships” section under the “Money Matters” tab, along with additional discount opportunities. It is SO IMPORTANT to apply for scholarships. Yes, you might have to write the same essay in 12 different ways and awkwardly ask for recommendation letters from professors who may or may not even remember your name. But for what it’s worth, applying for scholarships not only increases your chances of actually getting one, but also helps you refocus on the reasons you have for studying abroad in the first place. Writing scholarship essays helps you develop goals and insight even before your trip, something you’ll find to be extremely helpful as you start your journey abroad. What we’re saying here is: Apply for scholarships. It’s good for you.
  8. Student loans: *COLLECTIVE GROAN* Yes, we know, taking out loans might not be the most ideal option. It’s also not the end of the world if you need to take one out. Be responsible, borrow ONLY what you need and get serious about your repayment plan as soon as possible. As long as you stay organized and on top of your loans, they won’t take over your life and swallow you whole. Hopefully. That’d be weird.

To receive loans from FSU, students must meet this criteria:

  • Degree-seeking at FSU
  • Have a FAFSA on file for the current year
  • Meet citizenship requirements
  • Not over aggregate (i.e. not already over the maximum borrowing limit)
  • Maintain satisfactory progress
  • Student nor parent may be in default on a Federal loan
  • Student nor parent may owe repayment on a Federal grant

Now, that’s all for resources at a university level, but there’s still one super huge way you can raise money to pay for your study abroad trip: FUNDRAISING!

We’re talking all out, GoFundMe, calling your grandparents and parents and parents’ friends and friends’ parents style fundraising. Be “annoying” — it works. It’s called passion nowadays, and it’s COOL. You’d be surprised at how many people in your life will be happy to help even if they can only donate $5 or $10. With the help of the internet, it’s easier than ever to set up personal fundraisers and even make them pretty fun. Have people Venmo you $5 for a personalized poem, post an embarrassing picture for every dollar donated, etc. You get the point. However, don’t be dishonest in your fundraising — if you write a heartfelt post about how this money is going to help you cover costs for studying abroad like tuition, books, food and airfare, please actually use the money for those things. Always be honest and transparent.

Additionally, consider donating a portion of your funds to a local organization or business in the area where you’ll be studying abroad. People will be more inclined to donate if there’s a philanthropic intention behind your fundraiser, plus it’s just the right thing to do if you’re lucky enough to have people give you money to live in Italy for a semester. When fundraising, keep things in good, ethical fun. Setting up a fundraiser to raise money for your study abroad party fund is extremely problematic at the very least, but you already know that. Right? Right.

Basically, the best, easiest and most foolproof way to fund your study abroad trip is to put in some work ahead of time. The sooner you decide you want to study abroad, where you want to go, and how much it’s going to cost you, the sooner you can start applying, saving, fundraising and of course — traveling. Still have some questions on financing a study abroad trip, or just want to say hi?

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