How To Study Abroad When You “Don’t Have A Lot Of Money”

Studying abroad can be a great way to level the playing field if you are in search of a higher education and a better life. It’s a golden opportunity to venture out of the confines of where you are born and learn along side people with a world of diverse views. The opportunity is filled with much potential but is not without some challenges. One of the major hurdles you have to cross is figuring out how to finance your study and associated living costs.

International students pay significantly (2-3 times) higher tuition fees than domestic students, and unless you are a permanent resident, the likelihood of a bank approving your loan application is slim to none. If we consider two simple categories one being the have’s and the other the have not’s and put all other merit requirements aside you will see clearly the funding makes all the difference.

Here are the tips I have crafted for you to follow if want to know how to study abroad when you don’t have a lot of money.

Think Long-Term
The popular phrase “proper planning prevents poor performance” comes to mind here. Patience will be essential to following through with your dreams if you don’t have a lot of money.

Go to trade school
What I mean by thinking long term is you must be willing to do the uncomfortable. While it might seem like you are postponing your dream for 7-10 years it could be well worth it as you never know what other interests you could discover on this path. For example, consider taking on a shorter certificate or diploma program that pays well for that level of training whether you particularly like that field or not. What matters is that the jobs are abundant and pay well enough for you to save some money towards your dream education. It will help a great deal if the two programs are at least remotely related so that your resume looks attractive with transferable skills.


Become better at writing

Whether it’s writing essays or compelling narratives that give you the best chance of being an appealing candidate for grants, scholarships or bursary, your ability to write will set you apart.

Depending on where you will come from, you might need to prove your proficiency in one or more of the global languages. Many professional fields have English as the common language of communication and inferably learning. In Canada, English and French will do you a world of good. Whether it’s for immigration or as an academic requirement, many international students are expected to take one of a handful of language related tests (i.e. TOEFL, IELTS, CELPIP, SAT, GRE, GMAT etc). Least you think that you just have to pass these examinations once and you are good for life, they usually have a short validity period (2-5 years) and you may need to retest as you attempt to enter a new/higher level of academic pursuit.

Furthermore, if you opt for a university degree, it will be mandatory to write wordy intelligent research or report papers that comprise a significant portion of your final grade. To cap if all off, even when you aren’t actively learning you should be utilizing these adept writing skills to write company emails, newsletters or simply communicate with a team. Becoming a better writer is an asset that pays and keeps on paying.

Research and network

I chose to group the research and networking together mainly because doing one is how you effectively get the early scoop on doing the other. I could simply have titled this tip as scholarship but you’ll soon learn why I did not.

Researching is how to establish patterns, facts and reach new conclusion. For someone looking to study abroad under sponsorship, you will make mastering scholarship application your friend. Money is not easy to come by so the organizations looking to part ways with theirs for your benefits will have some traits in the back of their mind for the ideal recipient. Those traits and requirements are what you will spend at least two hours per week familiarizing yourself with. I promise you that before long this will become second nature to you and the patterns will start emerging; you will be able to distinguish between the real scholarships and the sham website looking to steal your information.

1. Organizations could be governmental, non profit or otherwise. The focus should be on what organizations offer  scholarship for your dream career. For example, associations like Women in Aviation are set up specifically to support a niche group and have funding programs that could be beneficial and available to the right person. You may need to get creative with your google search engine or get it touch with a career coach or consultant. Good question to ask yourself when you are researching are what are these organizations set up to do? What do they hope to achieve by sponsoring my education? Usually they are looking for a people thought leader they can boast of in the future.

2. Previous winners
A good place to begin is by studying the profile of previous scholarship recipients; you will learn what kind of extra curricular activities these scholarship application geniuses engage in. I call them geniuses because this is essentially what you’ll become once you master the art of demonstrating expertly your financial need, your background story and distinct drive to change the world.

3. Colleges and universities

Universities often have scholarships and grants that are reserved solely for enrolled applicants with proven academic excellence. This is useful because you can tailor your search for the right college/university for you to the internal scholarships you intend to apply for. Training institutes often tout these scholarships as incentives to attract the best students. Time spent on researching applicable colleges should make up a good percent of your weekly devotion to studying abroad. Consider sports, clubs, and on campus job opportunities.


Contrary to popular belief you won’t make it all on your own. You don’t need to and even though right now you feel alone in this battle, no one earns a Ph.D. and releases a statement saying I started from the bottom now I’m here, nobody helped me along the way.

Support others
The best place to start with your network is by supporting others. You can start by congratulating people on their achievements. If you genuinely take interest in others and their work they will open up like a flower. If you remember only one thing after reading this article, it should be this. You will get to know about projects before they takeoff and that head start could put you in the right place at the right time. Successful people are successful for a reason and it isn’t always because they got things handed to them. Read autobiographies and living testimonies and don’t be afraid to comment on a technical or emotion post. You might soon find yourself in a mentorship situation if you put yourself out there honestly and display the right kind of vulnerability that attracts great leaders.

Celebrate yourself

Celebrate your achievements publicly with a touch of modesty. Remember that you don’t always have to be exceptional when compared to others but you should be authentic. Celebrating your little victories gives people something to support. There is a reason why some organizations have awards for most improved. it is inspiring to see the under dog win. By celebrating yourself as much as you do others, you are demonstrating a healthy competitiveness and positive attitude that scholarship boards soak up. Before long, like a tv star, your story of success after failure will garner attention and well-wishers who will want to play a role in your success story.

Look within
Remember the first point? Think long term. This entire exercise is about becoming a person of great value. Your intention is not to fool anyone into giving you free money for school but rather to become the person worthy of such generous humanitarian investment. Look within to see what mental barriers like fear, pride and laziness are threatening to keep you from evolving. Your limitations need to be tested just like the motive for wanting to study abroad and become a successful person.

Are there jobs that you believe are beneath you? Are there inherent preconceived notions about race, gender, religion and stature that could cripple your growth? Be prepared to challenge these. Looking within is scary and you must make up your mind to live with what you discover to be truth. For example, you might discover that the real reason your want to earn a certain university degree is in contradiction to the lifestyle you want for yourself.

Look within to see if there are any talents that you have overlooked. You could nurture those and drastically improve your chances of attaining success and happiness. one more thing you may need to come to terms with is the ethics behind greed as a motivator i.e. whether it can be good or bad. Ultimately, the possibilities of what you could find when you look within are endless. It may even be that it is not in your best interest to start your career abroad.

One more area where self cross examination is extremely beneficial is in telling your back story. Almost everyone has been disadvantaged in one way or another, it’s your objective to identify yours and essentially exploit options around it. Whatever you do, keep growing and using what you learn to help other. Think of it as helping someone as little as one step behind you.

I wish you success and the best of experiences as you prepare to study abroad. I would love to hear from you as you apply these tips to improving your chances of studying abroad with the money you have.