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Studying abroad in graduate school is a great way to stand out in a competitive job market and experience a foreign country at the same time. In the 2010/11 academic year, the top five destinations among all U.S. study abroad students were the U.K., Italy, Spain, France and China.
With fluctuating exchange rates for foreign currencies, choosing how to pay for college at a university abroad can be a difficult decision. Whether attending a university abroad full time or completing an international study program, an online foreign exchange service will come in handy when paying tuition abroad. Parents can sign up for email market-rate alerts that notify them of preferred exchange rates to make their international payments. For example, by wiring a money transfer to the U.K. for several tuition installments when the dollar-to-pound exchange rate is desirable, American parents may be able to reduce their foreign exchange-related costs.
"One of the advantages of using the Online FX service to pay for grad school is that you can make the payment in the comfort of your own home and see the full cost of making the transfer before you decide to confirm the transaction," says Steven Hunter, head of small enterprises at Western Union Business Solutions.
— Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of eduPASS.com and Fastweb.com
Here are a few tips to help finance a graduate degree in a foreign country.
Because of Europe's rising tuition rates, many Americans believe that pursuing a graduate degree abroad is more costly than studying stateside. However, most universities abroad continue to offer substantial financial aid to international students, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Edvisors.com, a network of more than two dozen websites about planning and paying for college. "Even considering the costs of travel, attending graduate school in a foreign country can be less expensive in some places than in the United States," he says.
By contacting foreign universities' offices of admissions and requesting literature on their financial aid programs, international students can access information about private scholarships and federal financial aid. This research is important, as not all universities have the same financial aid policies for foreign students.
The U.S. has strong scholarship programs that provide hundreds of thousands of opportunities to students who wish to earn part or all of their graduate degree abroad, Kantrowitz says.
Most scholarships have very specific qualifications, meaning students must practice due diligence in order to find opportunities that suit them best. For example, the Fulbright Program offers scholarships through the Institute for International Education to 1,500 students each year who wish to teach or study English at a graduate level in another country. To find these types of scholarships, students should scour the Internet using factors such as geographic region and field of study, Kantrowitz says.
American students should also explore scholarships at the foreign universities where they wish to study. For example, the University of Oxford in England offers two Fulbright-Oxford Clarendon Scholarships to American students pursuing either a master's degree or a doctoral program. Oxford also offers Marshall Scholarships, which provide two fully funded years of study to Americans seeking graduate degrees.
While international students studying abroad may apply for both financial aid and private scholarships, Kantrowitz warns that students who win private academic scholarships may exclude themselves from receiving need-based, government-granted financial aid. "Your scholarship money will reduce your need-based aid package in several ways, from a reduction in loan money to a reduction in grant funds," Kantrowitz says.
 "Open Doors 20|12 'Fast Facts,'" Institute of International Education
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