This article is a three step guide to financing your study abroad for anyone considering a course or internship with Wildlife Institute or another study abroad entity.

Study abroad isn’t cheap. It’s like combining an academic course or internship with the expenses of a holiday. Your expenses including tuition or program fees, flight, airport transfers, accommodations and meals. Plus you’ll want some spending money. So what are your study abroad finance options? Try this 3 step approach to financing your study abroad.

First, you need to assess your own ability to pay. If you can pay out of pocket, good for you! Bon voyage and enjoy! If you need help, ask yourself these questions. How much can you contribute to study abroad expenses? What can your family contribute?  Could you increase the amount you pay out of pocket if you adjust your income or spending for a semester or year? What if for one semester you took one less class and added work hours? What about organizing a fund raiser at work or in the community? What about asking for a contribution to your trip from family for your birthday or another holiday? Once you’ve assessed your own ability and willingness to pay, move on to financial aid.

Your next-best option is scholarships! Why are scholarships second to your own ability to pay? Because rarely will you find a full scholarship. More likely you’ll find scholarships that can help with some of your study abroad costs. Your university finance office can point you to specific scholarships, which are generally categorized as internal university or college scholarships, and external scholarships. Do your due diligence and search for external scholarships yourself. An internet search will render copious results for merit and financial needs based scholarships. Many of our Wildlife Institute students and interns have acquired both internal and external funding. For some students, especially in Europe, that funding can come from the government. So in your quest to finance your study abroad, go for scholarships first!

The final place to look is grants and loans. Most of the time, you can bundle your study abroad into your existing grants and loans. If you’re already receiving grants and loans, you may want to top them up a little to pay for part or all of your study abroad. While this option isn’t the best long-term financial option, it’s important to at least know that it’s available should you not get the scholarships or finances from other sources. And if it’s a choice between studying abroad or not, it’s best to study abroad, even if it costs you a little more in the long run.

A final note. Crowdfunding is a popular tool for raising funds for study abroad. We generally do not encourage crowdfunding to assist for a study abroad. An exception being, when the work you do abroad directly contributes to a social or environmental cause. Our Wildlife Institute trips all support organizations that do great work in Wildlife Medicine & Conservation, including our own Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic. If you use crowdfunding, be transparent about the benefits of your trip to the greater good, vs. just for your own academic and professional advancement.

I hope you find this article helpful. If you’re applying for a Wildlife Institute course or internship, you can follow the prescribed steps and then feel free to submit an application for a Wildlife Institute Scholarship. While we reserve most of our funding for students from Less Developed Countries, we have been known to assist applicants of all stripes and nations on a merit and financial needs basis.

Article Contributed by Justin B. Ford MSc., Director of Educational Programs at the Wildlife Institute.