Financial Aid for International Students

Find out how foreign students can receive college aid from US schools.

March 10, 2014

The US government also offers aid to students from some countries.
Photo: Thinkstock

Students from other countries who are not US citizens but who want to pursue their college education in the US can qualify for financial aid. However, this aid is very limited for students seeking college degrees, and only slightly less limited for students at the graduate school level. The basic requirement for international students in order to receive this college aid is that they must be a permanent resident or have an alien registration card.

Not all colleges and universities offer aid to international students seeking their university degree, but you will find both private colleges and public schools that do. This type of money for college usually comes in the form of a scholarship program.

International students can face increased challenges in determining how much college money they need to help pay for tuition.

Scholarships to pay for college are awarded both on the basis of financial need and also for academic skills or achievements. If international students score well on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam, for example, they may be awarded a scholarship based on this merit.

How to Find Financial Aid for International Students

International students have a number of avenues to find scholarships for college. You should first talk to the guidance counselor at your school to find out what types of financial aid are available, and if you know which colleges and universities you’re interested in, contact those schools to ask if the school offers aid or can direct you to scholarships for international students.

The US government also offers aid to students from some countries. To find out if your country is represented, contact your embassy or the US Department of State. International students may even find that their country offers college aid to students who want to get a university degree in the US. Your embassy may be able to provide you with more information about this, or you can contact your country’s ministry of education.

You can also contact local businesses, foundations and any religious or personal organizations that you or your family are affiliated with to see if they offer money toward education.

How to Calculate How Much Financial Aid You Need

International students can face increased challenges in determining how much college money they need to help pay for tuition and other costs if they are not familiar with prices in the state they plan to study in or with US education costs or living expenses.

As you’re calculating your financial aid, be sure to look at each school’s billable costs, such as tuition and room and board, as well as non-billable costs. For information on a school’s billable costs, perform a Campus Explorer college search and look at each school’s expenses section.

Schools’ non-billable costs can be a bit trickier. Contact the school’s college admissions department and financial aid department to find out what additional costs you may face during the school year. These can be related to your classes, the weather, transportation and typical student life.

Here are some additional costs you may want to consider when determining how you’ll pay for college:

  • Travel expenses, both to your home (Do you plan to return to your country for holidays, vacations and family events?) and to school (Will you reside on or near campus? If not, will you need to buy a car or pay for public transportation)
  • Books, classroom supplies and other required items for your courses
  • Health insurance (Are you covered by your home country, or do you need additional coverage?)
  • Clothing (Does the school you’re attending have a very different climate than what you’re used to?)
  • Meals (Will you be on a school’s meal plan?)
  • Computer costs (Will you be buying or renting a computer? Will you have to pay for Internet service?)

International Students College Aid Tips & Tactics

  • Creating a personal relationship with financial aid officers, college admissions staff and other scholarship providers can be more challenging when you’re unable to meet with them in person. However, if you’re asked to interview for financial aid or you’d like to have a real-time conversation, ask if they would be willing to set up a Web conference with you.
  • As you’re creating a college budget and determining your money for college, keep in mind that shifts in exchange rates could significantly impact the value of your money. If you find that your economic situation has worsened dramatically after you’ve been awarded financial aid, you may want to consider contacting the school to see if adjustments can be made based on the changes to the exchange rate.
  • If you’re applying for scholarships for college, be aware that there are scammers out there who may be looking to prey on international students. Before you provide any personal or financial information to an organization, check with your school counselor or the financial aid office of a school you’re applying to in order to make sure the scholarship provider is legitimate. Some warning signs to watch out for: being asked to pay a fee or provide personal details, like your credit card or bank information.
  • Are you from a Latin American Or Caribbean country? If so, you may be able to receive an interest-free loan from the Organization of American States through the Leo S. Rowe Fund.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

How to Compare Financial Aid Packages
Award Letter Basics
How to Appeal a Financial Aid Award Letter
Questions to Ask Schools' Financial Aid Offices

See All College Financial Aid: The Basics of Student Aid and FAFSA Articles

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