August 14, 2023

What federal student aid can I receive for my degree at an international school?

At many schools around the world, you can receive a federal student loan from the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program. You may receive a Direct Subsidized Loan or Direct Unsubsidized Loan for your undergraduate education. Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans are available to graduate students. Your parent also might be able to borrow on your behalf; he or she should ask about getting a Direct PLUS Loan for parents. International schools do not participate in the U.S. Department of Education’s grant programs, so you will not be able to obtain a Federal Pell Grant to get your degree at an international school.

How much can I receive in federal student loan funds?

The annual limit for Direct Subsidized Loans plus Direct Unsubsidized Loans varies from $5,500 to $20,500, depending on a variety of factors (year in school, status as a dependent or independent student, etc.). Direct PLUS Loan amounts are determined by subtracting any other financial aid you’re receiving from your total cost of attendance at the school.

How do I apply for a federal student loan to use at an international school?

Apply for student loans at your international school using the same process you use to apply for aid in the U.S.

Fill out a FAFSA form at as early as possible. The FAFSA form is available on Oct. 1 for school attendance that begins any time from July 1 of the following year through June of the year beyond that. There is no special FAFSA form for students planning to attend international schools.

Make sure the school you plan to attend has your FAFSA information. International schools have the ability to access your FAFSA information electronically. When you fill out the FAFSA form, list the school you plan to attend in the question about Federal School Codes. (The FAFSA site has a tool to let you search for your school’s Federal School Code.) Once it’s listed on your FAFSA form, your school will then download your data.

Find out the next steps from your chosen school. Different schools proceed differently at this stage of the process. Ask your school how you will get your loan money, what paperwork do you need to fill out, what are the deadlines, etc. Keep track of everything that is required of you; make copies of paper documents (or scan them) and file them safely; and meet those deadlines! And if your parent plans to get a Direct PLUS Loan, he or she should keep a close eye on required documents and deadlines as well.

If you are a first-year student borrowing federal funds for the first time, you will have to complete entrance counseling. This means you’ll be required to read text or watch a video online, or attend an in-person presentation, in order to learn about the responsibilities of taking out a loan. Your entrance counseling might happen before you leave the U.S. or after you arrive at your school; it depends on the school.

How will I get paid?

Your loan funds will be electronically transmitted from the U.S. Treasury to the international school’s designated bank. First the school will put the funds toward anything you owe them (tuition, fees, etc.). If there is any money left over after the funds are applied to your account at the school, the extra money will go to you.

When and how do I repay the loan?

That depends on whether it’s a subsidized or unsubsidized loan versus a PLUS loan. Repayment of a loan used to pay for international study works the same way as repayment of a loan used to pay for an American school.

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