Tips for US Students Studying Abroad


Genia Jones
Content Specialist
Genia is a writer for FXcompared. She has over 15 years of experience working in the financial industry as a writer, analyst, marketer, and content strategist. She enjoys writing about emerging trends… Read more

International study for American students is on the rise. The reasons for this trend are numerous: increasing tuition costs in the United States, coupled with lower foreign university tuition costs, stepped-up recruiting efforts on the part of international universities, and an increased emphasis on international experience in an ever more connected world, are all contributing to the growing numbers of US students pursuing degrees in foreign programs.

Today, approximately 47,000 Americans are pursuing a full course of study for a degree abroad, 41% of which are in master’s degree programs. Top full-time degree study destinations for American students include the United Kingdom (average tuition: $21,365 per year), Canada ($16,746), and France ($247). Of course there are many other countries where American students can earn a degree, and some even offer free tuition. State-run universities in Germany recently made the decision to offer tuition-free degree programs, and universities in Finland and Norway charge no tuition fees to international students. For an increasing number of American students, these low (or no) tuition options, combined with the opportunity to gain international experience, make the decision to earn a degree from an international university both smart and savvy.

While studying overseas can be a rewarding and enriching experience, and the comparatively low tuition costs make it even more attractive, earning an international degree can still come with a hefty price tag once living expenses and potential exchange rate risk are factored in. It’s important to take the time to research the best options for financing an undergraduate or post-graduate degree abroad, and to find the safest, most cost-effective methods for sending money overseas, in order to save money and time in the long run.

Begin by speaking with a money transfer provider that is familiar with the country where you plan to study. Foreign exchange brokers are often able to help find the best exchange rates, and can help lay out a plan to maximize favorable exchange rates and protect against currency market volatility. FX brokers and money transfer providers are often able to find better exchange rates than the typical bank, and usually charge lower transfer fees than most banks. Banks also tend to have strict limits on the amount of money that can be sent. In comparison, many money transfer service providers offer free money transfers, depending on the amount being sent. Generally speaking, the more money that is sent at once, the lower the fee will be, and sometimes the fee will be waived entirely. FX brokers typically do not have sending limits, either.

Speaking to a specialist currency broker early on in the planning stages can help increase savings in the long run, as well. If rates are favorable, a broker might suggest purchasing a larger amount of the foreign currency and then saving it for future use, essentially allowing you to lock in the current favorable rate and hedge against future downward movements. This can be especially advantageous for students pursuing a full course of study, as most degree programs in foreign countries can last between for one and four years. Having the ability to protect against future exchange rate volatility can potentially save you a substantial amount of money over the long term.

While you’re researching money transfer options, you’ll also want to review your university’s instructions for international tuition. There may be specific instructions for how to make international payments, or the university may require you to send your tuition payments through a specific provider. Be sure to verify all of these details well in advance and ask questions if you’re unsure.

It’s also important to research any relevant financial regulations of the country where you’ll be sending the money. This is where a specialist currency broker can again provide insight. Often, brokers have local contacts who can provide guidance for navigating any red tape or bureaucracy that may slow down the process when making an international money transfer. This guidance can help prevent delays and ensure that your money will arrive on time. Delayed money transfers can result in a late tuition payment and, in some cases, can lead to students being barred from registering for classes. It’s wise to enlist the expertise of a knowledgeable local to avoid these situations.

Finally, while finding a reliable, fast, and cost-effective way to send your money abroad is one of the most important things you can do to help finance your international studies, don’t forget about scholarship and financial aid opportunities. There are a number of financial aid options for American students who wish to pursue a full course of study overseas. For example, the Institute of International Education’s website has a searchable database of international scholarships and grants, and the US Department of Education provides a list of international schools that participate in the Federal Student Loan Program, which provides American students studying at an international university with US federal loan money.

If you know where you’ll be studying, or have a list of potential international universities where you’ll be applying, try contacting the admissions offices for more information on specific financial aid programs. Financial aid policies for foreign students can vary widely from university to university, not to mention between countries, and the most accurate information will come straight from the university itself. See also if you can contact current and former international students to see if they have any special advice for navigating the process.

No matter how you finance your overseas degree program, a specialist foreign exchange broker can work with you to help you avoid the high fees typically associated with international transfers, in addition to helping you manage your any currency risk.

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