How to study abroad for free in college

Last Updated on August 28, 2023

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How to study abroad for free in college

Studying abroad is a priceless experience, but many students are put off by the cost of some overseas degrees.

Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to study abroad for free, or next to nothing. Here are some of the ways you could cut costs while having the adventure of a lifetime.

Find your perfect programs today

Where can you study abroad for free?

Although academic fees are rising across much of the globe, some of the world’s most popular study abroad destinations continue to offer free college tuition for international students.

If you’re an EU or EEA citizen, you can study in lots of different countries very cheaply or without charge. You’ll need to leave room in your budget for accommodation and other living expenses, but studying abroad could lead to a huge saving overall.

Free study abroad countries for EU, EEA, or Swiss citizens

  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Hungary
  • Greece
  • France
  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • Denmark
  • Spain

Free study abroad countries for all international students

If you’re from outside the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, don’t worry. There are still plenty of countries where you can study abroad completely free, or at a very affordable price:

  • Czech Republic
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Brazil
  • Luxembourg
  • Mexico

The majority of free programs are only offered at public universities. You could be asked to prove your language proficiency and pay a small registration fee before your course begins, but this is the only charge you’ll encounter.

Apply for grants and scholarships

If you want to study abroad without the price tag, it pays to do some research around grants and scholarships.

Universities, charities, foundations, and government organizations help thousands of international students each year with their tuition fees and living costs. Unlike student loans, you’ll never need to repay these sums of money.

With so much financial support available, it’s worth digging around to see which funding pots you might be eligible for. Visiting the websites of the universities that interest you is a good starting point, or get in touch with their admissions team if you can’t find what you’re looking for.

If your university doesn’t run scholarship schemes, you might need to look for third-party support. Here are some useful research tools you could use:

  • The International Student and Study Abroad Scholarship Search
  • The Scholarship Hub
  • The European Funding Guide

Earn while you learn

Lots of countries will allow you to work part-time alongside your studies. Although your job is unlikely to cover all of your expenses, it can help to offset the cost of studying abroad.

What’s more, the international work experience and professional skills you’ll gather will look great on your resume.

Begin fundraising

If you’re seriously passionate about studying abroad, you’ll be surprised at how many people will be willing to support you.

Throwing fundraising events, selling your old possessions, and using online crowdfunding pages are just some of the ways you could turn your dreams into a reality.

Study abroad virtually

With more universities than ever before delivering online programs, you can secure a top international degree from home.

Even though you won’t be living in another country, you’ll still meet people from different backgrounds, learn about new cultures, and improve your language skills. Better still, you’ll experience all of these benefits without breaking the bank.

how to study abroad for free in high school

For any high school student, mention scholarship or grant, and you’re almost undoubtedly speaking about college. But did you know that there is a whole array of scholarships out there for other educational purposes? Like language learning, advancement in the arts, and yes, even study abroad? If you are a high-schooler who wants to study abroad but is worried about finances, (after all, you still have four years of college yet to come!) consider applying for a scholarship before you let “I can’t afford it” become yet another excuse.


  • Check with your program provider to see if they offer scholarships first. CIEE and Youth for Understanding, for example, offer partial and full scholarships to their students in select programs/countries. This is generally the best place to start your scholarship search.
  • Read the small print carefully. Some scholarships cannot be used with another scholarship while others can only be used towards tuition fees, but not towards daily expenses (like room and board). Others still are specific to a region or academic field and you would qualify if you are studying in Japan, for example, but not Mexico. Make sure your scholarship can be used towards your program!
  • Apply to as many scholarships as you can! The more you apply for, the more likely you are to win one. Simple logic, right?
  • Highlight your passions. While each grant has different requirements of applicants, the best way to get one of these grants is to visit the website, read about the requirements of the specific grant you’re after, and apply based on what they’re looking for. The best way to stand out is to point out any past travel, highlight your passion for international education, tailor each application to the grant (for example, is the grant volunteer-specific? Explain why you’re passionate about international volunteering), and cast a wide net by applying to all of the grants you qualify for.

Being proactive, aggressive, and organized will help make that study abroad bill feel smaller and smaller and smaller until poof, it’s almost gone! Now, let’s dive into the scholarships and grants!

High School Abroad Scholarships and Grants

Where there be dragons, dragon above text


Where There Be Dragons Financial Aid & 529 Funds

Where There Be Dragons offers need-based financial aid to students that demonstrate reasonable financial need and are excited to engage with communities around the world.Requirements:

  • Any student that demonstrates reasonable financial need

Application:Apply NowProviderWhere There Be Dragons

SYA logo


SYA Program Scholarships

School Year Abroad (SYA) offers scholarships to high school students who demonstrate exceptional academic ability, commitment to their home school communities and passion for exploring other cultures.Requirements:

  • Must be enrolled in an SYA program

Award:$5,000 – $25,000Deadline:February 10, 2022Application:Apply NowProviderSchool Year Abroad (SYA)

Experiment Logo


The Experiment in International Living Scholarships

The Experiment in International Living offers a variety of need-based and merit-based scholarships to worthy high school students looking to participate in their program. The eligibility requirements vary depending on where you live and other demographics — and your GPA is taken into account for some scholarships too.Requirements:

  • Must apply for/be enrolled in an Experiment in International Living program

Award:$250 – $5,000Application:Apply NowProviderThe Experiment in International Living

YFU logo


YFU Financial Aid Fund

If you’re an active member of your high school’s key club, this scholarship is for you! Youth for Understanding (YFU) offers over 200 full and partial merit-based scholarships and needs-based financial aid to students every year, and is applicable for travel in nearly 40 countries.Requirements:

  • Must be an applicant for a YFU program

Application:Apply NowProviderYouth For Understanding (YFU)

The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program

For those accepted into The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program, the U.S. State Department will provide full scholarships to study abroad in Germany — no previous language required! As Germany is a top country for studying abroad, this is a competitive but great opportunity for high school students to get a jump start on international education.Requirements:

  • 3.0 GPA or higher


National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y)

The National Langue Security Initiative is a program sponsored by the U.S. State Department to encourage language learning in specific languages the U.S. has identified as high importance. The scholarship covers language immersion programs for the following languages: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian (Tajik), Russian and Turkish through one of their programs.Requirements:

  • GPA higher than 2.5
  • Must be learning one of the languages listed

Application:Apply Now

The Rotary Foundation


Rotary International Scholarships & Grants

The Rotary Club operates one of the largest and longest-run private study abroad funding programs offering up to $25,000 in scholarships to fund one year of academic study, room and board, and other associated expenses. Students are named Cultural Ambassadors and are expected to give presentations both on their home culture while abroad and on the culture of their study abroad destination upon returning home. Scholarships are given through local branches.Award:$25,000Application:Apply Now

So, how do I convince my parents?

After you’ve picked the perfect program and bookmarked these scholarships, all that’s left to do is convince your parents that you want, need, and simply have to take the opportunity to study abroad during your high school years!

Being as prepared as possible for this discussion is a great way to get the ball rolling. Show your parents that you’re responsible and have done your homework by showing them programs that interest you, making them aware of grants and scholarships you’ve found and are qualified for, and show off your research to prove you have a good understanding of how to stay safe during your studies.

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