How to Study Abroad: 5 Steps to Apply with CIEE

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College Study Abroad

Ready to live a study abroad experience all your own, but wondering how exactly to study abroad? Great! Here’s everything you need to know to get started with CIEE Study Abroad. 

Step 1: Map Your Journey 

So, where in the world do you want to take your studies? And when? These are critical first decisions every aspiring study abroad student must determine for themselves.  

The good news: there is no wrong answer. With so many options literally at your fingertips, you can find a program that fits your life, interests, and academic path.  

Our advice? Dream big! 


We are often asked, “How long can you study abroad?” Our answer? As long as you want. Truly. Since we offer programs year-round, you can study abroad every spring, summer, fall, (and?!) or January. We offer programs that fit every student’s busy schedule, so whether you’re on the quarter system, follow a traditional semester calendar, or you can only study abroad during your summer or winter breaks, there’s bound to be a CIEE program that meets your needs.  

In general, you can expect our fall and spring programs to last about 15 weeks. Our January and summer programs are shorter, lasting between three to four weeks. Or, our Open Campus Block program offers students a choice of one, two, or three consecutive six-week blocks. See how easy this is? 


Once you know your ideal timing, then you can determine your destination. 

We offer programs in more than 30 countries, which is a lot to choose from! But it’s easy to narrow your search. For instance, you may be studying Spanish and want to visit a country that speaks that language, or if you’ve mastered a second language, maybe you want to immerse yourself in an entirely new language. May we suggest Czech? It’s all up to you! 

Maybe it’s not language so much that compels you, but it is your major. So, focus on the academic programs offered in each city and choose what gels best with your academic path. Pursuing a degree in international business? There are amazing programs in Barcelona you should check out! We understand you need to find a program with courses that fit easily into your major to earn those much-needed college credits. Check out what courses we offer across each area of study. 



One more thing you may want to consider is whether or not you want to intern (part- or full-time) or volunteer abroad. We offer fabulous and practical real-life work experiences for both that allow you to earn college credits as well.  

Regardless of where, when, and how you choose to experience study abroad, you’re going to have an amazing time. This we know for sure. 

Still stuck on how to map it out? Check out our Planning Study Abroad page for more inspiration. 

moroccan coast study abroad excursion

Step 2: Fund Your Study Abroad Program 

Once you’ve identified your dream study abroad program, it’s time to figure out its practicality. In other words, what’ll it cost? 

The good news is CIEE fees typically include tuition, orientation, cultural activities, local excursions, and field trips, as well as medical and emergency insurance and services. Many program fees also include room and board and visa fees. Your specific program's information section on fees should provide all the details about what is included in your fees and what the estimated additional costs of your program are. Many of your questions will be answered on our finance FAQ page. 

We passionately believe in the value of study abroad and want it to be attainable for any student who desires to pursue it. And we’ve been at this a long time (more than 75 years!!). That’s why we’re able to offer millions of dollars in need-based, merit-based, and program-specific financial aid. Visit our scholarships and grants page to learn more.  

We also know many colleges and universities provide scholarships and grants specifically to help students study abroad. Be sure to check with your institution’s study abroad office or financial aid services. There’s more financial aid available than you might think! 

Step 3: Talk to Your Advisors (and Your Parents) 

Once you have the basics figured out, loop in the experts. They’ll make sure you cover all your bases. We recommend starting this process about nine months to a year before you want to go abroad.  

Talk to an advisor in your institution’s study abroad office, if your school has one (most do, but not all). They will be able to provide you with direct one-on-one support in planning your journey. Then, you’ll want to meet with your academic advisor to make sure that the courses you plan on taking are right for your academic and career goals. And don’t forget your parent(s)/guardian(s)! If you don’t know where to begin this conversation, try using some of our suggestions.  

Once you’ve done all of this, it’s time to connect with one of our advisors here at CIEE. They can help answer any questions you have and even help you start your application.  

Now it’s getting fun!  

tokyo study abroad students with plants

Step 4: Check Your Documents and Deadlines 

You’re almost there! If you don’t have a valid passport already, now’s the time to get one. Start this process well in advance of your departure date, typically six to nine months beforehand. You don’t want passport issues to thwart your plans. 

It’s also time to officially apply for your CIEE program of choice and start tracking your deadlines. It's really important to keep track of the program milestones so you submit everything on time. We’ve put together a super short, but really helpful application FAQ video to help simplify your application experience.  

But in general, the application process usually takes about two weeks. This includes gathering materials, like a homeschool nomination and your transcript, along with any other items required by your school. Once submitted, it generally takes CIEE three to five business days to review the application and let you know whether or not you’ve been accepted. (Fingers crossed!) 

One last note – depending on your college or university, you may need to send them an additional, separate application from CIEE’s application so your courses count toward your degree. Again, you’ll learn this when you speak with your study abroad and/or academic advisor at your home school. 

Step 5: Pack Your Bags! 

You’ve found your program 

You’ve talked to the experts 

Your application has been accepted 

What is left to do? Travel on the trip of a lifetime! Get your bags packed…then ready, set, jet! 

study abroad students arriving at the seville airport


Make the First Move  

Getting started on your study abroad dream isn’t all that hard after all. If you’re ready to take the first real step toward your study abroad experience, check out our How to Apply page to learn more. 

We hope you found this breakdown on how to study abroad helpful!

Get started on youR JOURNEY