The amount of students who study abroad – defined as U.S. students embarking on a short-term course of study in another country – is increasing every year. And while your financial aid package through your home school will typically be continued even during this short time away, the added expenses of the international experience can mean needing even more loans. But when should you apply for study abroad loans?
The simple answer is that it depends on your situation! If you’re wondering “When should you apply for study abroad loans?” and looking for a hard date, there isn’t one. That is because study abroad loans will almost all be from private lenders, which do not in fact have application deadlines like federal loans or financial aid through a school.
So the right time to apply is all about the specifics of your own situation. A few things to consider:
- You only want to borrow as much as you need, so you’ll have to have a complete picture of your total study abroad costs, your existing financial aid, and the amount of ground you have to make up between them before you go ahead getting a loan. This may mean waiting for your school to finalize your financial aid package for the semester in question, holding off until you know the specifics of your living arrangements abroad, or planning out your incidental expenses for diversion. And it goes without saying that you don’t want to be overly proactive and start taking out loans before you’ve even been accepted into a study abroad program!
- Leave time to compare student loans to get the best deal. It’ll take some research, and even the lowest interest rate may not be the best fit for you if it comes with less favorable repayment plans, deferment options, and so on. Don’t get stuck with a bad loan just because you didn’t have the time to vet your options.
- Make sure you line up a cosigner. The personal approval and financial fallback plan represented by a cosigner will get you lower interest rates and a better loan in general, but you’ll have to leave time to work through the paperwork. Again, this is not a thing to be left until the last minute.
So when should you apply for study abroad loans? As long as you make sure you have your full financial picture, thoroughly research your options, and get a cosigner, there’s no wrong time!
* Airplane flying around the world photo courtesy of Shutterstock