Financial Aid Information for International Students

how to get student loansBeing an international student adds another dimension to the process of applying for financial aid, as the avenues through which an international student will pursue and receive aid are often different than those domestic students use—that and the competition for international aid is often greater. But if you’re applying to attend college in the United States as an international student, don’t give up hope for financial aid. There are still certain avenues you can use to help fund your education.

The good part about being an international student

Many colleges and universities are actively seeking to establish and/or maintain a significant international student presence on campus. As a result, some of these schools may offer international students better financial aid and scholarships in order to draw them to their school. The packages that schools offer to international students and domestic students are similarly constructed: many scholarships and grants are earmarked for specific categories of students, including international students. Not surprisingly, competition for such aid and scholarships is fierce, as it is only available in a limited quantity. Your best bet is to apply to colleges (and for financial aid) as early as you can. To discover what’s available in terms of scholarships for international students, contact the financial aid offices of each school you are planning to apply to.

The bad part about being an international student

In the United States, federal financial aid is only available for U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens. This kind of aid generally includes federal grants and federal student loans (such as Stafford, Perkins and PLUS). Eligible non-citizens include U.S. nationals, U.S. permanent residents with a Permanent Resident Card, or people with an Arrival-Departure Card from USCIS with one of the following designations:

  • Refugee
  • Asylum granted
  • Cuban-Haitian Entrant, Status Pending
  • Conditional Entrant, issued before 4/1/80
  • Victim of human trafficking
  • Parolee (with specific guidelines)

However, people with a Notice of Approval to Apply for Permanent Residence, with student visas, or with exchange visitor visas are not eligible for federal student financial aid in the United States. That means you’ll have to come up with other funding for your education if you don’t have the money yourself and aren’t awarded the money as part of your financial aid package (which may still include things like institutional scholarships or fellowships). If you need help, contact the financial aid office at the schools you’re interested in applying to or have already been admitted to.

Where else can you find money to go to school in the United States?

bank loansAs an international student, the best places to find funding for your college education are often at home. Many students rely on family and friends for a large percentage of support. Outside sources, such as corporations, government agencies, special foundations, or local businesses, often offer some type of funding or scholarships for students who want to study abroad.

Specific organizations also offer scholarships to international students in an effort to promote international education and cultural exchange. These organizations include the League of Red Cross Societies, the World Health Organization, the World Council of Churches, the United Nations, and the International Institute of Education. Browse the web, check their websites, contact them directly, and be sure to apply for every scholarship you’re eligible for. Make sure you meet all criteria and submit your applications as early as possible to maximize your chances of winning.

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Financial Aid Basics