The financial aid system is one of the most important yet confusing parts of the college process. Through financial assistance, thousands of families can send their kids to college each year. These resources are available for anyone, including international students.
Before determining your eligibility for financial aid, I think it’s important we define what falls under the “Financial aid” umbrella.
Financial aid for academic purposes includes; federal student aid, grants, scholarships, and loans. By this definition, you may qualify for financial assistance but not necessarily all types of aid.
Unfortunately, federal student aid in the United States is restricted to citizens and eligible non-citizens.
However, the good news is there’s still money available for international students – maybe not a lot – but there’s still some options. Keep reading below to find out what you may qualify for.
Grants and scholarships
Although resources are limited, you could still get free money towards college in the form of grants and scholarships. Many organizations and academic institutions offer scholarships and grants to students like you.
These funds are typically merit or need-based. One thing to keep in mind is that most types of financial aid require an application. Scholarship applications are offered by the institution, company, or organization that’s offering the scholarships. Grants work much of the same way.
You’ll have to do some research to find these additional financial aid opportunities. Unlike those offered through federal aid, which you automatically apply for via the FAFSA®, these will be independently provided by the company themselves.
Taking out private loans is another route you could take. Although not ideal, many families across the United States rely on private loans to cover the remaining cost of tuition. Loans often come with high-interest rates and fees. Also, unless you have a good credit history, you will need to get a cosigner.
A cosigner will guarantee lenders that you will pay the loan back. If this is an option you’re considering, then be sure to choose the lender that best suits you.
Search for your options
Make a list of schools you want to attend. Check each school’s website to see what financial aid programs are available for international students.
You will find that some schools offer financial aid to all kinds of students, while others offer financial support to just international students.
Most programs will ask for some sort of documentation about you or your family’s finances. They may want to know your parent’s income and bank statements to determine if you qualify.
Ultimately, financial aid availability varies from campus to campus. Therefore, check each school’s financial aid section for international students.
Ask for help
If I had to give you the ultimate piece of advice, it would be — don’t be afraid to ask for help. Call or email schools that interest you. Feel free to ask what financial aid international students have access to.
Attending a smaller school might be the answer
Another option to consider is attending a smaller school that has a lower cost of attendance. Some small schools are eager to accept international students that contribute to a diverse student body population. These schools often have money set aside for those students.
College (regardless of your citizenship status) can be very expensive. The financial aid system is a tedious process. For international students, this process can even be frustrating. Even though you may not qualify for all types of financial aid, you still have great options to choose from!