How to Apply to a Study Abroad Scholarship at CIEE: 4 Steps

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College Study Abroad

@cieestudyabroad Here are the four easy steps to applying for a Study Abroad Scholarship at CIEE! #fyp #ciee #cieestudyabroad #studyabroad #scholarship #travel original sound - CIEE Study Abroad

For many students interested in studying or interning abroad, funding their program of interest is a top concern that comes to mind. Many students question if they qualify for scholarships and grants, wonder what other financial aid opportunities might be available to them, and ultimately try to weigh the program cost against the value they’ll take away from the experience.  

Fortunately, CIEE believes all students deserve access to study abroad, which is why we award millions of dollars in study abroad scholarships and grants. It’s that important to us that students like YOU have the chance to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  

From need-based grants to merit-based scholarships to other funding opportunities, discover how we can help you find study abroad scholarship money through CIEE. Four easy steps are all it takes! 


Merit Scholarships vs. Need-Based Grants 

First, let’s define the differences between merit-based scholarships vs. need-based grants.  


Merit scholarships are awarded based on a student's achievements, such as academic performance, athletic ability, or artistic talent. These scholarships are typically awarded by schools or organizations to students who have demonstrated excellence in a specific area. At CIEE, we offer merit-based scholarships for students with high academic achievement. To apply for a merit scholarship, students are required to submit a personal essay describing how their CIEE program will impact their college experience and career plans.  

Merit scholarships at CIEE include the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship, McDermott Health Sciences, Nursing, and Public Health Merit Scholarship, Ping Scholarship for Academic Excellence, and more! 


Need-based grants, on the other hand, are financial aid awards given to students based on financial need. These grants are designed to help students who may not be able to afford the cost of college without some assistance.  

We offer need-based study abroad grants to students who need them and want to study abroad, including our GAIN Travel Grant 

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Steps to Apply for a Study Abroad Scholarship with CIEE 

Now that you understand the differences between the types of scholarships and grants we award, let’s walk through the step-by-step process you’ll need to follow in order to learn which types of aid, if applicable, you’re eligible for.  

Step 1: Choose your study abroad or global internship program. 

Your first step is to select the study abroad program that’s best for you (There are so many great choices!). To do this, you’ll need to figure out when and where you want to study.  

A summer internship in Rome? A spring semester in Tokyo? A fall six-week block in Singapore? We have more than 30 global cities to choose from that offer a wide variety of programs designed for all academic backgrounds.  

Once you've chosen your ideal program and location, it’s time to consider the cost of this dream experience. When crunching numbers, you’ll want to consider more than just the program fees. Include expenses such as transportation, accommodation, meals, and any additional activities or excursions you plan to participate in. Also, research the locale’s cost of living to get a better idea of what you can expect to spend while there. 

Step 2: Review all your funding options. 

Once you have a handle on the estimated cost of your chosen program, it’s time to find the study abroad scholarships and grants that can help get you there. There are more funding options available than you may think. In fact, some universities have their own scholarships and grants for students studying abroad. Be sure to check with your study abroad office, financial aid office, or academic advisor to discuss how you can apply and qualify.  

As for CIEE-specific scholarships and grants, we offer a wide variety of awards and discounts. In addition to awards for students with demonstrated financial need and proven academic merit, we offer special summer discounts, alumni savings, refer-a-friend awards, and program-specific awards, like for STEM programs

As you explore all the scholarships, grants, discounts, and awards available, remember to follow important deadlines in order to qualify, including: 

Frederick Douglass Global FellowshipFebruary 14
Summer + Fall scholarships and grantsApril 1
Spring scholarships and grantsOctober 15
Gilman Go Global GrantOctober 15

Beyond scholarships and grants, you can also tap into federal student loans, private loans, and work-study programs. Research these different options with your financial aid office to see which, if any, can help cover the costs of your study abroad program.  

Step 3: Complete the Scholarships & Grants portion of your application. 

Applying for all CIEE scholarships and grants couldn’t be easier: Simply complete the Scholarships & Grants portion of your CIEE study abroad application. Once you do, you’ll be considered for any and all awards you may be eligible for. You can even submit the paperwork before you pay the program application fee!  

Do note, however, that CIEE’s need-based grants require different materials than our merit-based scholarships. Need-Based Grants require the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC)* number from your most recent Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Student Aid Report (SAR). (There is no need to complete an essay for these need-based study abroad grants.)  

Three of our study abroad grants fall into this need-based bucket: Gilman Go Global Grant (up to $2,500), GAIN Travel Grant (up to $1,000), and Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Grant (up to $2,000 for a semester or $1,000 for an internship). 

Merit-based scholarships, on the other hand, do require a brief 300-word or less essay. The topic: how your CIEE program will impact your college experience and/or future career plans. After that, you will need to provide us with your transcript and GPA.  

There is no need to provide any financial data for these study abroad scholarships. CIEE offers eight merit-based scholarships, ranging from $500 to 100% of program fee and travel costs. (Yes, really!) 

If you decide to apply for both study abroad scholarship and grant money, you can! Just make sure you have everything you need for both before submitting the materials with your application. Be sure to check out our page on how to apply to make sure you don’t forget anything! 

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Step 4: Wait and see. 

It can take upwards of a month or so to receive word on the scholarships and grants for which you qualify. For our need-based grants, it takes about two weeks to hear back. As for the merit-based scholarships, it takes between two to three weeks due to the volume of essays.  

As for your own university’s scholarships and grants, you’ll want to ask your study abroad office or financial aid advisor about the timing. Or, this information could be available on your school’s website. 

To stay distracted as you anxiously await news of the status of your study abroad scholarship and/or grant applications – because we know how long this waiting period can feel! – it can be helpful to stay organized and keep track of your applications and deadlines. Consider creating a spreadsheet or using a note-taking app to record the name of each scholarship or grant, the application deadline, and any other important details. This will help you stay on top of your applications and ensure you don't miss any deadlines. 

Remember to remain patient and be persistent during the waiting period. Applying for financial aid can be a long and sometimes frustrating process, but it's important to stay focused and keep working toward your goal. Don't give up if you don't hear back right away or if you don't receive funding the first time around. Keep applying for different scholarships and grants and continue to work toward securing the financial aid you need to achieve your study abroad goals. 

The important “extras” to remember. 

Before you scramble to apply for scholarships, grants, and/or financial aid, consider our parting advice to keep in mind as you commence your search for financial assistance: 

  1. Check the application deadlines. You’ll want to submit your applications before or on the day they’re due. See our page to find all the deadlines and when you’ll hear back. 
  2. Find funding caps. Some universities may have a cap on how much funding they offer. Be sure to check how much assistance your university offers and if there are any caps on funding. You can also visit our grants and scholarships page to view a handy chart that tells you what scholarships are available and which ones have funding caps.  
  3. Read the fine print. Be sure to read all of the eligibility requirements for each scholarship and grant to make sure you qualify for them. Every study abroad scholarship and grant has different requirements, so be sure to read them carefully.  
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Apply for a Scholarship or Grant Today! 

We hope this step-by-step guide to funding your CIEE Study Abroad program helps make your dream of studying or interning abroad possible. You can always learn more about our CIEE’s funding opportunities by visiting our scholarships and grants page. 

*Note: EFC (Expected Family Contribution) is being replaced by SAI (Student Aid Index) for the 2024-2025 FAFSA cycle. Due to unexpected FAFSA delays during the transition, CIEE will accept the 2023-2024 FAFSA (EFC) or the 2024-2025 FAFSA (SAI) for Fall 2024. For students who provide the 2023-2024 FAFSA (EFC), we will continue to guarantee GAIN Travel Grants to those with EFCs of 10,000 or less. For students who provide the 2024-2025 FAFSA (SAI), we will guarantee GAIN Travel Grants to Pell Eligible students. Applications must received by the April 1st deadline for the guarantee. Students with high need should still apply even if they do not meet the criteria noted above.