Learn About the Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship

The Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship is a scholarship for American undergraduates to study abroad. The scholarship provides grants for students with limited financial means to pursue international study. It is funded by the International Academic Opportunity Act, passed in 2000, and sponsored by the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Over 10,000 alumni of the program have studied in more than 120 countries around the world.


The Gilman Scholarship is designed to provide a greater diversity in the study abroad population, both in who can actually study abroad and where they study.

Studying abroad can be extremely expensive, sometimes costing even more than a semester of normal tuition. Exchange rates, cost of living and a host of other factors make the studying abroad difficult. For those who are already on financial aid or without a lot of money, the dream of studying abroad often remains just a dream.

However, the Gilman grants are designed to help those receiving financial aid. The program emphasizes the fact that, in order to remain globally competitive, more students must be exposed to international experiences. This includes those in non-traditional programs or at community colleges, those with diverse ethnic backgrounds or students in fields, such as engineering, who may not have time.

Applicants are also encouraged to study in non-traditional areas. For example, during the 2010-2011 academic year, only 32% of Gilman Scholars studied in Western Europe, compared to 52% of national study abroad. This allows students to have wider cultural contact with a more diverse range of people and experiences.

The average grant amount awarded is $4,000 and the most a student can receive is $5,000. Students may also apply for an additional $3,000 Critical Need Language Supplement. In the 2011-2012 academic year there were 50 supplements awarded.


In order to receive a Gilman grant a student must be a U.S. citizen and an undergraduate in good academic standing. However, there are additional requirements for students to qualify for the grants:

  • Students must be receiving Federal Pell Grants at the time of application or provide proof that they will be receiving such aid when they plan on studying abroad.
  • The applicant must already have been accepted to a study abroad program that is in one country for at least four consecutive weeks. A program in multiple countries is acceptable as long as the student spends at least four weeks in at least one of the countries.
  • The program must be accredited by their undergraduate school and provide college credits for participation.
  • Students are not eligible to attend study abroad programs in Cuba or any country currently on the U.S. State Department Travel Warning list.
  • Students are only eligible to receive a scholarship once, but if a student has been declined they are eligible to apply again as long as they meet the other requirements.

Application process

The application process includes submitting transcripts and essays. The entire application process can be done online and there are many resources provided for students on how to properly submit the application and prepare good essays for evaluation.

The first essay is a statement of purpose essay, and students are encouraged to use this opportunity to present personality, life choices, challenges with the study abroad process, why they have chosen the specific program and what they hope to achieve by attending.

The second essay is a Follow on Service Project proposal. It addresses how students plan on promoting their Gilman experience. The Follow on Service Project is a major requirement of the program, asking returning students to promote the Gilman Scholarship as well as the benefits of studying abroad. Some examples of Follow on Service projects include K-12 outreach, academic department outreach or outreach conducted through the study abroad office.

Further Resources