I’m going to keep it short and sweet: Here’s what international students need to know about financial aid at American colleges!
1. Understand that there is little financial aid available for international students.
Most grants, scholarships, and loans available are specifically targeted towards US citizens. This can certainly be discouraging, but it’s true. As soon as you understand and come to terms with this, your search for funding will become a little bit easier. However, this does NOT make getting financial assistance impossible. It’s definitely hard, and you’re going to have to do a lot of research, but it’s doable. There are several resources available if you look hard enough.
2. Keep in mind that international students have different requirements for admission regarding finances.
Many schools require a certification of finances of some sort that proves that you will be able to fund your education. Some schools will not even consider you for admission until you prove that you can pay for your education. Because of this, it’s super important that you start researching financial aid and funding options early. In order to get your I-20 Form (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students), you will need to submit proof (usually a bank statement or scholarship information) of funding for a year.
For example, when I applied to college I had to submit a certification of finances as proof that I would be able to fund my first year of school (this is especially nerve-wracking because, unfortunately, most of us don’t have a year’s worth of college tuition sitting in our bank account). Afterwards, I was accepted and I applied for the scholarship I now have. Every school does things differently, so research, research, research!
3. Consider looking for funding options within your own country.
Many countries offer assistance to students looking to study in the United States. Some governments offer scholarships or some sort of financial assistance to qualifying students. This will definitely vary according to your country, and the process of applying can be as worrisome as applying to college itself, so do your research and be prepared.
This option did not really interest me because the way it works in Panama is that after you are done with college, you have to come home, and the governmental institution can even require you to work in a specific place. I have no idea what I want to do after college yet, and while I love my country with all my heart, there’s so much world to see, and I didn’t want to feel like I was limiting my options for life after graduation. You may be in a similar situation, and that’s totally fine, but still if this option is available for you, you should definitely consider and look into it.
4. Some schools offer need-blind and full-need admission to international students.
This means that the school admits students regardless of their ability to pay, and for those students that cannot afford the price tag, the school will award scholarships and grants to cover the difference. These schools are MIT, Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Dartmouth College, and Amherst College.
However, these are not the only schools that provide financial assistance to international students. According to U.S. News, 345 U.S. colleges offered aid to at least 50 undergraduate international students for the 2012-2013 school year. University of Chicago, Williams College, Yale University, Skidmore College, Harvard University, Amherst College, Wesleyan University, Stanford University, Trinity College, and Dartmouth College are the 10 colleges that offered the most financial aid to international undergraduate students during the 2012-2013 school year.
However, it’s important to note that, for example, the University of Chicago only offered assistance to 57 undergraduate international students, less than 11% of all undergraduate international students. These are all things to take into consideration while looking at colleges and universities.
5. Research, research, research!
Some colleges offer a lot of financial aid for students, while others only have a limited amount to offer. Some colleges offer merit scholarships, while others only offer need-based assistance. Some scholarships are offered to students of specific countries or regions, and some scholarships are offered to students majoring in a particular area. It varies greatly from college to college, so it really is in your best interest to do a lot of research. Check online sources, look for information in the admissions section of the college’s website, call, and email as needed.
6. Some helpful sources to check out: