Financing Your Studies
Over 900 U.S. institutions award $10,000/ year to individual international students (August 2010). Funding is available for competitive applicants. The majority of international students (65%) rely on personal and family funds to pay for their studies (Open Doors 2009). 23% of international students in the U.S. rely primarily on U.S. colleges and universities for funding. The remaining 12% are supported by their home government or university, U.S. government and other agencies.
Funds available in the U.S. for undergraduate study are minimal and can only be obtained from private universities/colleges. Financial assistance is generally based on both academic achievement and financial need and would rarely cover more than tuition expenses.
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 who have a greater chance of obtaining financial assistance usually have the following:
- evidence of high academic achievement,
- high standardized test scores (SAT I, SAT II; TOEFL),
- demonstrable financial need but enough private funding to at least cover part of the cost. Only the most exceptional students could expect to get full support,
- a unique talent or skill, or a record of meaningful involvement in extracurricular activities, and
- individualized letters of recommendation enumerating the students’ abilities.
C. Types of Financial Aid
The aid is usually provided by a U.S. college or university. How substantial the financial support will be depends on the kind of aid that is available. Frequently it will be a combination of the types listed below:
- Merit Based Scholarship: Based on academic qualifications regardless of financial need. The student has no work or repayment obligations.
- Need Based Scholarship: Aid is based on financial need but usually in conjunction with academic achievement. The student has no work or repayment obligations.
- Athletic Scholarship: Generally based on athletic ability of the applicant but not completely irrespective of academic performance.
- Part-Time Campus Employment: The student is able to earn money by working on campus for a certain number of hours per week. Some schools require all students to take on-campus jobs thereby reducing the overall cost of education at that university.
- Cooperative Programs: These programs allow students to alternate periods of full-time study with full-time work. The work generally begins at the end of the sophomore year and adds one year to a 4-year degree.
- University Loans: Students receive loans which are expected to be repaid after graduation.
- Advanced Standing: If a student qualifies, he can apply for advanced placement at the institution at which he wants to study. This does not constitute financial aid in the true sense of the word but is a means of cutting down on costs of the program by reducing its duration.
D. Part-time Work
Foreign students may not rely on earning money to help towards their expenses after they get to the United States. A foreign student must study full-time and is only permitted to take employment directly connected with and supervised by the college with which he is affiliated. Foreign students are not usually permitted to work at all during their first year. Part-time employment on campus may be available, but the amount of money thus earned will only be enough for pocket money and will never allow you to pay for your studies or cover all of your living expenses.
E. Application Procedure
Applications for financial aid are generally only accepted for admission for the fall term in August/September. Application deadlines are frequently in January. Students should:
- Write to private universities requesting application material for admission and financial aid at least 12 months before they plan to enter the institution.
- Sit for SAT I, SAT II and TOEFL early enough so that test results are available by January of the year in which they wish to enroll,
- Submit all documents including the Financial Aid Application for Students from Foreign Countries before the deadline date
- Apply to as large a number of schools as possible to increase the chances of acceptance
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: www.internationalstudentloan.com
More information about funding: Funding Education Beyond High School: a Guide to Federal Student Aid (Repaying Your Loan)
G. Web sites with multiple scholarship resources:
Abroad Planet Scholarship Resources
Online community of international students studying in the United States.
Free online financial aid source for scholarships, grants, and loans for all college-bound students, including permanent residents and international students wishing to study in the United States.
Free online scholarship search service.
International Education Financial Aid
Free online scholarship search service designed for international students.
Free online scholarship database for international students wishing to study worldwide.
Mobility International USA
Free online scholarship resource for non–U.S. citizens with disabilities.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
Free online searchable database for scholarships to international students.
Institute of International Education
An extensive database of scholarships, fellowships, and grants