Finding organizations that fund individuals can be a difficult task. However, with the right tools and determination, it can be done. The key is to think outside the box and leave no funding stone unturned. From federal grants to scholarships, there are many options available to both students and non-students alike. You just have to know where to look.
Finding Funds as a Student
If you are enrolled or considering enrollment at a private school, technical school, college, or university, the first place you should stop is the Financial Aid office. Quite often, they can point you to scholarships and federal loans that may provide you with the funds needed to study abroad.Federal loans offer graduate and graduate students a way to pay for educational costs at a low interest rate. For more details on student loans, please click here.
If you would rather put your student loans towards tuition, that's okay. As mentioned above, scholarships are a great place to start, and there are plenty to choose from. For example, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program awards funds to financially challenged undergraduate students who wish to study abroad.
Keep in mind that all scholarships have eligibility requirements and stipulations. Some scholarships, like the Gilman Scholarship, place a higher interest toward students planning to study in non-traditional countries outside Europe. Other scholarships may require you to record your day to day activities so they can see the fruits of their investment.
Whether you are in high school, a graduate student, or wish to study internationally, there are several scholarship opportunities available. For a sample list and summary of study abroad scholarships, please click here.
Finding Funds as a Non-Student
Finding funds as a non-student can be a challenge. Most foundations and businesses only allow non-profit organizations to apply for their grants. But don't let that discourage you. There is always a way to secure funds.
The first place to look is at your own resume. You'd be surprised at what you've missed. Are you a veteran? Organizations such as Warrior Gatweway provide links to a variety of veteran specific funds. Do you have a disability? Federal and many state governments offer grants to disabled individuals. There are even grants tailored specifically for minorities and women, and some may be applicable to study abroad programs.
Where do you work? Do you need language and culture training for your business? Some corporations offer funding opportunities to employees, especially if it benefits the company. NRCSA compiled a list of employers who have funded study abroad programs for their employees in the past. If your employer is on the list, you may be able to receive financial support.
Teachers and administrators from various schools and universities often take advantage of NRCSA's study abroad programs. Some taught advanced foreign language courses while others participated for graduate credit, CEU's are sought to improve language and intercultural skills. Be sure to review the list of colleges, universities, and school districts that have funded their employees to study abroad.
Perhaps you are involved with a religious institution. They know about your passion for community service, so why not ask your congregation to sponsor your volunteer abroad trip to Belize? Prepare a short lecture for your fellow parishioners on the country you are visiting and share how their donation will help you make an impact on the world.
Not too religious? Another way to secure funds is to solicit local organizations such as your town's Rotary Club. Write a letter explaining your intentions or stop by for a personal visit in your best suit. Design a Powerpoint presentation detailing your trip, Where are you going? What do you plan to accomplish when you arrive?
Funding search engines like Guidestar provide detailed lists of thousands of potential charitable organizations across the United States. That being said, it is a lot to wade through considering that most charitable organizations do not reward grants to individuals. If time is of the essence, you may consider subscribing to Foundation Grants to Individuals Online, a service offered by The Foundation Center. For a monthly (or annual) fee, you will have direct access to grants specifically for individuals. While you do have to pay, this option may save you time and money in the long run.
You're Almost There
Finding and securing financial support isn't easy, but the diligence is worth every minute you spend. There are millions of individuals out their looking for financial support so you must stand above your competition. Never be afraid to share your passion with potential donors. Your voice must come through every letter, every phone call, and every door you knock.