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Articles / Paying for College / Federal Financial Aid for U.S. Citizen Abroad?

April 29, 2020

Federal Financial Aid for U.S. Citizen Abroad?

Question: I'm a U.S. citizen currently living in Thailand. I am seeking to obtain a BA to further my career opportunities as a TEFL teacher. Since I live abroad I'm wondering if I'm eligible for programs like the Pell grant. Any information you could provide would be extremely helpful. Thank you.

As a U.S. citizen living abroad, you are eligible for U.S. Federal financial aid, just as if you resided in America. The Pell grant, however, has income requirements so you would need to meet these in order to receive a Pell. Here is some more information about Pell grants and other Federal financial aid: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/grants-scholarships/pell

Federal financial aid eligibility is determined by using your Expected Family Contribution, which is explained if you follow the link above. If you are under age 24, your parents' income and assets will be included in your EFC calculation. If you are 24 or older, only your own income and assets will count. Sometimes a student who is under age 24 may be “emancipated" for financial-aid purposes. (This applies to veterans, students with a spouse or dependents, orphans, wards of the court, graduate students, and occasionally to others with extenuating circumstances.)


When you contact U.S. colleges … whether it's to apply or merely to gather information … be sure to state clearly right up front that you are an American citizen because this can play a key role in how the college responds to your interest.

U.S. citizens living abroad can be very attractive to admission committees because they bring to campus a diversity of experience that many domestic students don't offer, and yet it won't cost the college a whopping amount to enroll them because Uncle Sam may pay part of the tab.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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