Tips For Studying Film Abroad For Free

For the more traditional folk, national scholarships are a great way to get most (if not all) of your study-abroad expenses covered. Some scholarships may have niche requirements. But, hey, the more niche the better. It increases your odds of getting the payout. 

Before applying for these big-ticket scholarships, check in with the appropriate adviser. Whether it’s the financial aid office, the career center or an office of national scholarships, there should be people who are in charge of finding you money to study abroad. They can also help you during the application process. 

1. Boren Scholarship

First up is Boren, not because it necessarily merits going first but because it starts with the letter B. This scholarship has some of those aforementioned “niche requirements,” but if you fit the bill, the payout is massive. 

The Boren Scholarship awards students (both undergraduate and graduate) with up to $20,000 to study a critical language. OK, on second thought, maybe it does merit going first.

The funds can be applied to many study-abroad programs as long as they offer study in a language from a region deemed critical to U.S. national security interests. Languages like Japanese, Russian, Chinese and Korean are popular examples. View the Boren website for a comprehensive list of critical languages. 

With the goal of becoming fluent in mind, programs “for two or more semesters are strongly encouraged. Preference will be given to undergraduate applicants proposing at least 6 months overseas,” the Boren Scholarship website says. 

Note: Some may consider this a catch. Others may say it’s a blessing. In either case, after you graduate, you must dedicate one year to working in national security.

They broadly define national security and it is noncompetitive hiring. Which means you won’t have to compete with the general public for a position in the federal government.

Payout: Up to $20,000.

Materials Needed: Two essays and a letter of recommendation.

Scholarship Website:

2. Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program

As with the Boren, this scholarship is focused on “critical language” learning. However, the CLS language list is much smaller. 

This “scholarship” is actually a fully funded study-abroad program run by the U.S. Department of State, so the funds can’t be applied to other programs. Applicants must be dedicated to learning one of these 15 languages and must demonstrate how learning the language will affect their career goals.

There are several languages where you don’t have to have past experience, but you need to show why it’s important to use in your future.

Also similar to the Boren, the CLS program will offer noncompetitive hiring assistance with a position in the federal government after graduation, meaning applicants who complete CLS won’t have to compete with the general public for a federal government job. But for this program, the federal government position is not mandatory. 

Payout: Fully funded study abroad program.

Additional Materials: One statement of purpose essay and four short-answer essays, letters of recommendation and unofficial transcripts.


3. Freeman Awards for Study in Asia (Freeman-ASIA)

As its name implies, this need-based scholarship will fund study-abroad experiences in Asia, specifically East or Southeast Asia.

The Freeman Institute provides undergraduate students with a 2.8 GPA or higher up to $7,000 to study abroad. Applicants must plan to study abroad for a minimum of eight weeks. 

The payout scales with length of the chosen study-abroad program:

  • Summer programs: Up to $3,000.
  • Semester programs: Up to $5,000.
  • Academic year programs: Up to $7,000.

Applicants must present verifiable evidence of need for financial assistance, and funds from this program can go toward any costs associated with the trip, not just tuition.

Payout: Up to $7,000.

Additional Materials: Two essays and official transcripts.


4. Fulbright U.S. Student Program

After World War II, Sen. J. William Fulbright, a Democrat from Arkansas, proposed a bill to fund international education by selling leftover military supplies. President Harry S. Truman signed it into law the following year. Today, it’s the largest exchange program in the U.S, according to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

The program is a fully funded experience that sends students to more than 140 countries. It has many components but can be broken down into three main categories: researching, teaching English and studying for a master’s degree.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree by the time the Fulbright program starts, Roberts said. So it’s best to apply during your junior or senior year. Recent graduates and alumni are welcome to apply as well.

There’s an opportunity for current students, too: The Fulbright U.K. Summer Institute Though it shares the name, this program has a separate application with annual deadlines in November. It’s geared toward first- and second-year students who want to study in the U.K. during the summer. It’s also a fully funded, all-inclusive program for students with a 3.7 GPA or higher. 

Similar to the CLS, the Fulbright program can’t be applied to other study-abroad trips.

Payout: Fully funded, plus living stipends.

Additional Materials: One essay, three letters of recommendation and official transcripts.

Scholarship Website: or

5. Gilman International Scholarship

Last but not least is the Gilman scholarship. This scholarship is specifically in place to help low-income students go abroad. It’s for students who already receive the Pell Grant and have demonstrated financial need.

It also happens to be the most awarded study-abroad scholarship through USF’s Office of National Scholarships.

The requirements are pretty lax. There are no GPA requirements, and the study-abroad program has to be only three weeks long. Up to $3,000 of additional funds are awarded to programs with a critical-language component.

Because of the financial-need requirement, you will have to apply through the appropriate adviser on campus.

Payout: Up to $8,000 (with language component).

Additional Materials: Up to three essays, unofficial transcripts, a financial aid form and a letter of recommendation.


Corrections and clarifications, Oct. 11, 2018:

The Fulbright U.K. Summer Institute is separate from the Fulbright U.S. Student Scholarship program, with separate deadlines and other requirements.