Financing Your Studies

A. Overview

When calculating the costs of an US education, graduate students should consider the costs of tuition, room and board (food), transportation, health insurance, and personal expenses.

Financial aid can come from various sources, starting with personal & family funds and also from U.S. & Foreign institutions, governments, and sponsors such as companies & foundations.

Last year, 50% of international graduate students relied on their own personal & family income as their primary source of funding. Many of these students may have received financial aid from other sources, but still relied on family funds as the primary source. 42% of international graduate students relied on US colleges and universities as their primary source funding. Other types of funding, such as home government/institution, U.S. and foreign private sponsors, and the U.S. government accounted for less than 10% of primary sources.

In most cases, foreign students are in competition with U.S. students for financial aid funds. Foreign students should therefore explore all opportunities for funding in their own country before applying for U.S. based aid.

B. Who Should Apply?
Students will have a greater chance of obtaining financial assistance if they have:

  • evidence of high level of academic achievement
  • high standardized test scores (GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, etc.)
  • demonstrable financial need but private funding to cover some of the cost. Financial need is not as crucial for some awards at the graduate level
  • a field of study or teaching experience in a subject offered at the undergraduate level (increased opportunities exist for teaching assistantships)
  • a field of specialization or research interest which parallels those of the university’s department and faculty or the private funding source (increases opportunities for research assistantships and grants)

C. Types of Financial Aid

Sources of funds can come from U.S. universities, private foundations, U.S. government agencies, civic organizations, private companies, etc.

1. Scholarships

Based on academic merit. Generally require no repayment obligations. They usually cover full or partial tuition. A list of interesting graduate scholarships can be found at

2. Fellowships

Based on academic merit and generally have no teaching or research obligations. Fellowships usually cover tuition plus cash stipend.

3. Grants

Generally based on financial need and merit with no work or research obligations.

4. Teaching Assistantship

Awards are based on academic qualifications. They usually require a student to work 15 to 20 hours per week in such areas as lecturing, grading papers, supervising laboratory classes, etc. Students are usually paid a salary or stipend. Additional tuition waivers are sometimes included. “T.A.’s” are offered preferably to advanced students.

5. Research Assistantship

Awards are based on academic qualifications and research interests. The student assists a faculty member in conducting research and is usually paid a salary or stipend. Many assistantships include tuition waivers. Such awards are rarely given to first year students.

6. Administrative Assistantship

Awards are based on need and academic qualifications. This usually requires 10 to 20 hours of work per week, generally in the administrative offices of the university. The work may provide a tuition waiver or a salary.

7. Miscellaneous aid from foundations, government agencies, private organizations, etc.

The amount or type of financial assistance varies with each grant. It may or may not require students to perform a service, do research, or to work on a certain study project. Check for Associations of schools with programs in your specific field of study; they will usually have a website that lists scholarship opportunities within your field.

8. Fulbright Grants

Fulbright awards fund Belgian citizens to study, research, or lecture at an accredited U.S. institution for a period between three months and one academic year. Applicants who will travel to the United States without a Ph.D. are placed in the “Student” category and are required to remain in the U.S. for a minimum of six months; applicants who will have a Ph.D. by their time of departure are placed in the “Research” category and may remain for a minimum of three months. All departures must take place between August 1 of the current year and March 31 of the following year.

Benefits include:

  • $2,000 to $30,000 based on merit and financial need. The money may be used to cover flights, tuition, living costs, etc.
  • Sickness and accident insurance for grantees
  • J-visa sponsorship for grantees and any accompanying dependents
  • Active Fulbright networks to welcome them in the United States and as an alumnus in Belgium when they return

Application process:

  • To find out if you are eligible please check with requirements on Fulbright awards page.
  • Complete online application by appropriate deadline. Applications include:

– Biographical information
– Personal Statement/ Study Objectives or Research Proposal essays
– Transcripts and diplomas
– Three letters of recommendation
– Letter of admission or letter of affiliation

  • Mandatory in-person interview: in mid-January
  • Notification of award: in February

Application Deadlines:

December 1 for all programs

*EU citizens whose projects relate to US-EU affairs, EU policy, or EU institutions should check their eligibility for the Fulbright-Schuman award (  also administered by the Commission in Brussels. This award is valued at €3,000/month and a €2,000 relocation grant and has an application deadline of December 1.*

Other Belgium-specific scholarships for graduate study come from the Belgian American Educational Foundation and the Rotary Benelux Chapter.

D. Part-time Work

As an F-1 student in Active status, you immediately have an option for one kind of work: on-campus employment. However, there are some things to keep in mind.

Student employment in the US usually garners a moderately low wage and, combined with limited work hours for international students, will prevent you from being able to pay all of your US university costs this way.

Although you may work shortly after you arrive, you must be in Active status and your DSO must approve your request. After your DSO approves your request, you’ll be given a letter of approval. This letter, along with a letter from your employer, will help you get a Social Security number. When school is in session, you may only work 20 hours per week; on school holidays and breaks, you may work up to 40 hours per week.

After a full year at school, you could be eligible for off-campus employment. Approval for this requires special authorization from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In order to apply for this kind of employment authorization, you must receive a recommendation from your DSO and file a Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization” with USCIS. After USCIS approves your employment, they will send you a Form I-766, “Employment Authorization Document” (EAD).

You may not begin work until you have received your EAD. Just as with on-campus work, while school is in session you are restricted to a 20 hour work week.

For more information about international student employment in the US, please visit

E. Loans

Though rare, there are international student loans available to individuals who meet certain criteria. Many loans require a cosigner. A cosigner is someone who guarantees and is responsible for payment to the loaning institution if for any reason you are unable to pay back the loan. A variety of organizations and institutions provide private loans to international students. Many provide assistance that is targeted to students from specific regions or countries and who meet certain criteria.

The following is a link with international student loan options:

In Belgium, the Fernand Lazard Foundation offers Belgian citizens interest-free loans of up to 25,000 euros to help fund studies in the US.

F.  Scholarship search engines: