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Financial Planning

Study abroad is an investment in your future!


With proper preparation, you can plan a viable study abroad experience that fits your financial needs.  Cal Poly offers a wide array of study abroad programs in a variety of different locations.  Each program has different costs associated with it, and some programs are more affordable than others.  Your first step is to explore different programs and identify one that is financially a good fit for you. See the section below on how Program Choice can affect your costs. 

As you explore programs, keep in mind that the actual cost of studying abroad will depend on the location and on the program you select.  There are some fixed or billed costs, however, that you can readily compare.   Foremost among these will be the costs for tuition (your courses), the required Cal Poly International Center Fee, and other mandatory Program Fees. These will be billed to you by Cal Poly and/or your study abroad program. Click Cost & Billing to learn more 

You also need to consider anticipated expenses (sometimes called expected costs). These will not be billed to you by Cal Poly or your program but are items that you will need to cover on your own, either before you depart or as you are living abroad – things like the cost of a passport, airfare, books and supplies.  See Cost & Billing for more examples and explore Budget & Money Management Tips

Finally, you’ll also want to make sure you understand how any financial aid you receive can be applied toward your study abroad costs. You may also want to apply for additional scholarships to offset your expenses.  See Financial Aid and Scholarships for more details. 


There are a variety of other factors you might explore to manage the costs.

Program Type: There are several different types of Cal Poly approved program: Cal Poly Global Programs, Cal Poly International Exchanges, CSU International Programs, Partner Programs, and National Student Exchange. The type of program you select can affect the cost. For example, CSU International Programs charge CSU base tuition, but some can only be done for a full year, which might increase some of the other costs. Partner Programs might have a higher tuition fee than Cal Poly’s in-state tuition, but that fee may include extras, like housing, excursions and cultural activities. 

Program Location: Where you study abroad can have a huge impact on the cost of your time away, not only due to general cost of living, but also because location can affect other expenses—like the cost of airfare, whether you need to budget for public transportation, the cost of a student visa, and so forth.   


Programs in Europe and Oceania (Australia/New Zealand) tend to be more expensive than those in Latin America and Africa. Programs in Southeast Asia are often more affordable that those in East Asia (Japan, South Korea, China).   

Location can impact your transportation costs. Major cities, like London, Tokyo, or Paris, will require you to use public transportation, so you may need to add that into your budget.  Flight costs vary depending on location: you’ll pay more to fly to Australia or Asia than to Dublin or Costa Rica. 


No matter where you study abroad, you’ll want to spend more than you normally do—buying souvenirs, trying new foods, and exploring.  But students who study in Europe or Asia are also tempted to travel a lot during their free time (all those other countries that are so close!). This means added transportation costs (flight, train, bus), plus additional housing costs. 


Timing: When is the best time to study abroad?  That depends on you, your needs, and your interests.  Studying abroad during the academic year (for a quarter, semester, or the full year) will allow you to use your financial aid; summer financial aid is limited to your remaining eligibility from the prior year, which means that you may only qualify for a summer financial aid award if you have any unused grant or loan amounts from the previous academic year.  Check with a Financial Aid advisor and visit our Financial Aid & Scholarship page. 


If you are looking at a fall semester option, the tuition cost may be higher because the program is longer than the Cal Poly quarter, but you will also generally earn more academic credit.  Tuition for a spring semester program can cost less than the combined Cal Poly tuition for winter and spring quarters, but you will likely earn fewer credits.  Be careful to look at actual program dates! Programs in some parts of the world (like Japan and Germany) run on a very different academic calendar, so a spring semester program might run from late March into July, allowing you to take courses at Cal Poly in the winter quarter. 

In general, studying abroad for a longer time will be more cost effective: short programs may have a smaller price tag, but you end up paying more per day. 

Housing: If your program provides housing, consider the options offered and the associated costs.  Living in a homestay is often one of the most affordable options and also has the benefit of providing home-cooked meals and a connection to the culture.  Apartments can be more expensive, but you can save money if you commit to cooking – more so if you share food costs and cooking responsibilities with your roommates. Living in a residence hall, while maybe not the most affordable option, does give you access to local and other international students.

When you study abroad, some of the cost will be billed to you by Cal Poly and/or your study abroad program provider.  The information below will help you understand these Billed Costs—both what they are and who will bill you for them. In addition to fixed or billed costs, you should explore what additional Anticipated Expenses you should budget for.

As a reminder, the tuition you pay for study abroad—whether to Cal Poly, CSU, or a partner program—covers only the coursework included on your abroad program. If you are considering taking an online Cal Poly course while abroad, you will likely be charged an additional tuition fee by Cal Poly. In general, it is not recommended for students to take additional online courses while on study abroad.

Billed Costs
​International Center (IC) Fee Policy 

Please refer to the International Center Fee policy page for details.
Cal Poly Global Programs

Students on a Cal Poly Global Program that is run through Extended Education will be billed for a Global Program Fee (including tuition); for other Global Programs, students will be billed the Global Program fee plus be assessed their regular Cal Poly tuition. 


The Global Program Fee includes the mandatory IC fee, plus student housing, local transportation, excursions, some meals, and travel insurance. The Global Program Fee varies by program based on the courses, duration, location, and activities. 

Please refer to your chosen Cal Poly Global Program for a full list of what will be covered by the program fee, as well as a list of anticipated expenses.

CSU International Programs

Students studying with a CSUIP will be billed by Cal Poly for the IC fee.

In addition, students will be billed by CSU for the base tuition, a CSU Study Abroad Fee (separate from the Cal Poly IC fee), Mandatory CSU Health Insurance, and any other mandatory fees. Depending on the CSUIP, students may also be billed for housing.

Please refer to your chosen CSUIP for a full list of what will be charged by CSU, as well as a list of anticipated expenses.

Cal Poly International Exchanges

Students studying on a Cal Poly International Exchange will be billed by Cal Poly for their normal Cal Poly tuition and fees, the IC fee, and Foreign Travel Insurance.  

Depending on the Exchange, the host university may offer campus housing, in which case students pay that fee to the host school.

Please refer to your chosen International Exchange for a list of anticipated expenses.

Partner Programs

Students studying on a Cal Poly Partner Program will be billed by Cal Poly for the IC fee and for a Foreign Travel Overlay Insurance.  

The Partner will send a separate bill to the student for their program fee, which will include tuition and may also include housing, meals, and a required insurance charge.

Please refer to the Partner’s program page for a list of the costs for which they will bill you and for an estimate of additional expenses.

National Student Exchange

All students studying on a National Student Exchange program will be billed by Cal Poly for the IC fee and will pay a $200 application fee to NSE.  

Students on the NSE Host Payment Plan will receive a bill from the host university for tuition. The host school may also bill for housing, meals, and other expenses, such as insurance or parking.  Please refer to the host university’s page on the NSE website for a list of the costs.

Students on the Home Payment Plan will pay Cal Poly for their regular tuition and fees. The host school may also bill for housing, meals, and other expenses, such as insurance or parking. 


Anticipated Expenses


In addition to billed costs (whether billed by Cal Poly or your program), there are other expenses you need to consider when planning to study abroad.  These expenses—often called anticipated expenses or expected costs—are items that you will need to cover on your own, either before you depart or as you are living abroad. 

Among the expenses you might expect are the following:

  • Passport and visa fees
  • Medical examination and immunizations
  • International Student ID Card (ISIC)
  • Round-trip airfare from the United States to your host country
  • Ground transportation on site
  • Books and other supplies
  • Housing (if not provided by the program)
  • Meals (if the program does not include meals or does not cover all meals)
  • Other insurance (trip cancellation insurance, personal property insurance)
  • Optional travel expenses (for personal travel or participation in an optional program excursion)
  • Cell phone fees
  • Personal expenses (toiletries, laundry, etc.)
  • Souvenirs
  • Gifts, if staying with a host family

Your study abroad program should provide you with a list of common estimated expenses, but do some additional research on your own.  See the Budgeting & Money Management Tips section for more ideas.




Creating a Budget

The program you choose will be one of the most significant factors in the overall cost of your program.  So, look at your program options and the associated costs carefully.  Don’t just look at the program fee number, but make sure you understand what is covered by the fee.  Does it just cover the cost of your coursework, or does it include other things, such as built-in excursions and activities. If the program includes housing, that fee may include some of your meals (as in a homestay). Some programs provide course materials as part of their fee.  

If something is not included in the fees billed by your program, you can exercise more control over them, but you also need to do your research to know what to expect.  So, for example, you might look at estimated expenses from more than one program in the same location to get a sense of the range of costs. Check travel guides and other online sources for cost estimates.  Make sure you know what the current exchange rate is (and if it has changed significantly recently).  And talk with returned students to see what they spent and how they recommend you budget funds.  

As you draw up a list of estimated expenses, be aware of your own spending habits.  If you eat out a lot, budget more for food; if you like to walk, maybe you can spend a little less on public transportation.  Also, think about your priorities while abroad. If you want to travel in your free time, you’ll need to budget more. If your priority is language acquisition or making local friends, explore activities you can do in your host location, like volunteering: these will put you in contact with people and won’t cost much!

Money Management Tips

Before You Go

  • Create a personal budget, both of what you spend now and what you can afford to spend while abroad.
  • Do your research (travel guides, websites).
  • Look for group or student fares; balance ticket cost with time/itinerary complexity.
  • Apply for discount cards, memberships (ISIC, IYH, WWOOFing). 
  • Check your bank: make sure you understand what fees you’ll be charged for using your ATM or credit card abroad; research fees with other banks.
  • Use an app on your phone to quickly calculate currency conversions. 

While Abroad

  • Travel: Limit travel outside your host country; plan trips ahead of time; take day trips rather than overnighters; use hostels rather than hotels (IYH); explore your host city.
  • Eating: Eat in, share meals; eat like a local—shop local markets, get staff suggestions for cafés; alcohol is expensive, so if you drink, drink in moderation.
  • Avoid tourist traps.
  • Communication: Watch your data usage; set your phone to airplane mode and use wifi and apps—Zoom, FaceTime, Google Chat, WhatsApp, WeChat; send old-fashioned letters and postcards.
  • Transportation: If you are able to, walk as much as possible; use buses and metro rather than cabs; consider purchasing weekly/monthly passes; for trips, remember to compare train and air prices; think about overnight travel—save the cost of a room.
  • Shopping: Wait to buy, especially for souvenirs, and compare prices; if bartering is part of the local custom, then barter (and take a local friend with you to get a better deal).
  • Money: Follow your budget!  Keep track of what you spend; pay cash—it’s easy to overspend with credit cards; don’t carry lots of cash with you so you are less tempted to spend; use your discount cards (ISIC, IYH, university ID).

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Cal Poly students may be eligible for financial aid if enrolled at least half time in a Cal Poly study abroad program. Even if you have never received financial aid, you may want to investigate the possibility of receiving financial aid when you study abroad.   You can connect with the Cal Poly Financial Aid Office via email at  

  1. Read the Fund Your Study Abroad Experience handout to see how financial aid can be applied to study abroad.
  2. Complete the FAFSA - To apply for financial aid, complete the Free Application for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the March 2 deadline.  Once your FAFSA is complete, you will be considered for the various types of financial aid offered at Cal Poly, including grants and loans.   
  3. Get your Award Adjusted - Once your financial aid is awarded, verify which types of financial aid can be applied to your study abroad program.  Consult a Financial Aid Advisor to see if your aid can be increased in order to allocate for any additional costs associated with your study abroad program.  Remember to accept your award in your portal! 
  4. Plan Ahead - Your Financial Aid Award will be disbursed on or around the first day of the quarter at Cal Poly, regardless of the actual start date of your study abroad program. Plan ahead to cover your plane ticket and other pre-departure or arrival costs, which you may need to pay for before your Award is disbursed.   
  5. Summer Financial Aid - Financial aid is limited in the summer.  Awards typically consist of any unused loan amounts from the previous academic year.  Consult a Financial Aid counselor for details.

Important Note: The Financial Aid Office does not sign financial aid disbursement forms for Cal Poly Partner Programs. You need to accept any loans you wish to borrow, complete the form, and provide a copy of your Financial Aid Award Letter (print it from your Cal Poly Student Center, under "View Financial Aid"), and send both to your program directly. If you requested a budget increase, wait until the increase is reflected on your award before printing the award letter.


You are encouraged to research and apply for merit- and need-based scholarships to help fund your study abroad experience.  Below are several categories of scholarships and fundraising tools.

⇒ Cal Poly Study Abroad Scholarships (Open to Cal Poly students)
⇒ Cal Poly Global Programs Scholarships (Open to students on Cal Poly Global Programs)
⇒ CSU IP Scholarships
⇒ Partner Program Discounts & Scholarships
  • CEA CAPA Matthew Yount Memorial Scholarship - For Cal Poly students participating in CEA CAPA programs.  $1,000-$1,500.
  • ​CEA CAPA Scholarship - For Cal Poly students participating in CEA CAPA programs.  Up to $1,500.
  • CEA CAPA Academic Scholarships & Opportunity Grants - For students participating in CEA CAPA programs, there is an automatic $200-$800 discount depending on the program. Additionally, CEA CAPA offers grants and scholarships ranging from $200-$5,000.
  • DIS Scholarships & Discounts - For students participating in DIS programs in Scandinavia.  Cal Poly students receive Automatic Fee Reductions ($4,000 per semester / $300-$700 per summer).  Additional scholarships available.  $250-$10,000.
  • FIE Scholarships & Program Discounts - For students participating in FIE programs (with the exception of the Cal Poly in London and Cal Poly in Ireland: Stories in Ireland programs), there is an automatic $200-$2,000 discount depending on the program. Additionally, FIE offers summer, quarter and semester scholarships ranging from $1,000-$5,000.
  • SIT Study Abroad Scholarships - For students participating in SIT programs.  $500-$5,000.  For students who receive a Pell Grant. SIT will also automatically match that amount. 
  • TEAN Scholarships & Discounts - Cal Poly students receive Automatic Fee Reduction of $500 for semester/year long programs. For students participating in The Education Abroad Network (TEAN) programs.  $500-$2,500.
  • Semester at Sea Scholarships - For students participating in Semester at Sea.  Over $5 Million in scholarships and grants is available directly from Semester at Sea.  $250-$10,000.
  • Cal Poly Semester at Sea Scholarships - For Cal Poly students participating in Semester at Sea.  These scholarships from Semester at Sea are dedicated specifically to Cal Poly SLO students.  $500-$2,500.
  • USAC Scholarships & Discounts - Cal Poly students receive Automatic Fee Reduction of $125.
⇒ National Study Abroad Scholarships
  • Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship - For students in science, math, and engineering fields who study abroad.  $7,500.
  • Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship - For U.S. students who with high financial need who study abroad.  Aims to diversify the types of students who go abroad and the countries where they go.  $1,500-$8,000.
  • Boren Awards for International Study - For U.S. students who study abroad to learn less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests.  $8,000-$20,000.
  • Critical Language Scholarship Program - Fully-funded overseas language and cultural program for U.S. students.  $Varies.
  • Fund for Education Abroad - For students who are underrepresented among the U.S. study abroad population.  $1,000-$10,000.
  • Generation Study Abroad Travel Grants  -  The Institute for International Education will will offer 100 grants of $2,000 per student. The program will provide a resource for Generation Study Abroad Commitment Partners from U.S. colleges and universities who complete their annual progress report as an opportunity to encourage supplementary funds to their students.
  • Gilman-McCain Scholarship - Provides awards for child and spousal dependents of active duty service members to study or intern abroad on credit-bearing programs.  $5,000.
  • Go Overseas Study & Intern Abroad Scholarship - For U.S. students who study and/or intern abroad.  $500.
  • Golden Key Scholarships - Various awards for Golden Key members who study abroad.  $Varies.
  • Rotary Scholarships - Various awards for international study; contact your local Rotary Club.  $Varies.
⇒ Country-/Region-Specific Scholarships
⇒ Other Scholarship Resources & Fundraising Tools
⇒ Post-Graduation and Graduate Studies Awards

See also our Post-Baccalaureate Fellowships and Go Abroad Again pages for more ideas and resources.

  • American-Scandinavian Foundation - Fellowships for individuals to pursue research, study, or creative arts practice in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, or Sweden.  Up to $23,000.
  • Anna Sobol Levy Foundation – Provides funding to undertake a Masters or Doctoral program in Australia.  Includes travel and establishment allowances, monthly living stipend, tuition and fees, and health insurance.  Up to $16,000.
  • Boren Fellowships - Funding opportunities for U.S. graduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests.  Up to $24,000 per year.
  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Junior Fellows Program – One year of funding available for recent graduates to work as research assistants in Washington, D.C. Contact Cal Poly rep Laura Hunkler at 805-756-5971.
  • Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals - Yearlong awards for 75 Americans to study, intern, and experience cultural immersion in Germany.  Candidates must have a strong interest in German and international affairs; candidates in business, vocational, scientific, engineering, and agricultural fields are especially encouraged to apply.
  • Cultural Vistas - Various academic and internship programs outside the United States for young professionals.
  • DAAD Awards for Germany - Funding for a wide variety of graduate study and other post-graduate activities in Germany, including research, language study, full degree programs, internships, and more.  One specific program, RISE Professional, gives students in the fields of biology, chemistry, engineering, geology, and physics the chance to spent 2-6 months working in German companies.
  • Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in the Humanities (Oxford) – Ten scholarships are available for one- to two-year full-time master’s degrees and for three-year doctoral degrees.  The award covers 100% of university and college fees, plus a grant for living costs.
  • Fulbright U.S. Student Award – Yearlong grants are available for research, graduate study, and English teaching assistantships in a variety of countries around the world. Specialized awards are available in some fields and countries (e.g., Fulbright-NatGeo awards for digital storytelling, public policy, and more).  Contact Fulbright Program Advisors Sara Otis, Study Abroad Program Coordinator at or Cari Vanderkar, Assistant Vice Provost for International Programs at  
  • Gates Cambridge Scholarship – Highly prestigious scholarships awarded to outstanding applicants from countries outside the UK to pursue full-time graduate degrees at the University of Cambridge.
  • JET Programme – Highly selective placement for recent graduates in paid English-teaching positions in Japan.  $Varies.
  • Marshall Scholarship – Highly competitive merit-based grant that provides full funding for outstanding U.S. citizens to study for one or two years at the graduate level in the United Kingdom.
  • Mitchell Scholarship (Ireland) – Up to twelve Mitchell Scholars are selected annually for one academic year of graduate level study in Ireland and Northern Ireland.  The award is designed to connect generations of future American leaders to Ireland, while recognizing and fostering intellectual achievement, leadership, and a commitment to community and public service.
  • New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarships (NZIDRS) – Awards cover full tuition fees in PhD programs at any of New Zealand’s eight universities, and a living stipend for up to 36 months.
  • Oxford Perishing Square Graduate Scholarship – Up to five scholarships for one year of study in MBA programs at Oxford University are awarded annually to support extraordinary individuals in developing their potential as future global leaders.
  • Peace Corps – Offers unique opportunities to pair graduate studies at one of more than 90 U.S. academic institutions with Volunteer service abroad.
  • Pickering Fellowships – Awards for outstanding individuals from all ethnic, racial, and social backgrounds who have an interest in pursuing a Foreign Service career with the U.S. Department of State.  Funding covers two years of a master’s level program in public policy, international affairs, public administration, business, economics, political science, sociology, or foreign languages.
  • Rangel Graduate Fellowship Program – Thirty awards are provided annually to recent graduates pursuing careers in the Foreign Service.  The award supports two years of graduate study, professional development activities, and entry into the Foreign Service.  Fields of study include international affairs, economics, history, political science, public administration, communications, public policy, business administration, and foreign languages.  Members of minority groups historically underrepresented in the Foreign Service are prioritized.
  • Rhodes Scholarship – Provides full funding for outstanding U.S. applicants to complete a graduate degree at Oxford University in the UK.  For advising, contact Emeritus Professor Michael Wenzl at
  • Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship – Transatlantic initiative that offers 15 accomplished U.S. students the opportunity to complete a comprehensive professional development program in Germany.
  • Rotary Peace Fellowship – Up to 100 individuals from around the world are selected annually to receive fully funded academic fellowships at one of Rotary’s peace centers in Australia, England, Japan, Sweden, Thailand, and the U.S.  Awards include tuition and fees, room and board, round-trip transportation, and all internship and field-study expenses.  Applicants should have a strong background in volunteering and community service.
  • Swedish Scholarship Awards – Up to three awards are provided annually for full funding for two years in a master’s degree program in Sweden.
⇒ Scholarship Advising & Tips
  • Attend a Financial Aid & Scholarships for Study Abroad Workshop.
  • Stop by for some drop-in peer advising. Current hours listed on our Study Abroad Advising Webpage.
  • Dedicate several hours to browsing scholarships.
  • Set a goal to identify 3-5 scholarships or grants to which you will apply.
  • Set aside several days to work on your scholarship applications.
  • Apply for scholarships around the same time you are applying to study abroad.  
  • Focus on quality in your study abroad scholarship applications!
Questions? Email the Study Abroad Team at