Sources of Financial Aid
The cost of higher education in the United States rises year after year, and many students are finding that they are unable to support themselves. There are a number of other avenues that you can explore when looking for sources of funding for your education.
On-line Scholarship Search
Research scholarship and financial aid options online. The following sites provide information specifically for international students:
International Education Financial Aid (IEFA) provides financial aid, college scholarship, and grant information for international students wishing to study abroad. Their search feature allow users to find scholarships around the world.
International Scholarships deliver a comprehensive listing of grants, scholarships, loan programs, and other information to assist college and university students in their pursuit to study abroad.
Your Home Country
Your own home country could possibly be a source of funding, either from organizations or companies from your home country or you government. For instance, Saudi Arabia launched a program that provides full scholarships to over 10,000 Saudi students studying in the USA. Investigate this option thoroughly before you leave. Bear in mind when you are applying for aid from your home country that there may be some stipulations involved. For example, you may have to return home to your country once you have graduated.
There are several international organizations, such as the Fulbright Commission, who grant aid to students all over the world. Other such organizations that offer aid are:
Many of these organizations require you to be in your home country when you apply, so plan ahead, as they can be very competitive.
Many U.S. colleges and universities offer limited financial aid for international students through their financial aid offices. In general, however, there is much less money available for undergraduate study in the United States than there is for graduate study. Visit our Schools Awarding Financial Aid pages to see which US schools offer aid to international students. Private institutions can sometimes discount or reduce the costs of tuition; public institutions seldom have this option. You should request information about financial aid when you request an application form from the institution's admissions office.
In some instances, it may be possible for you to participate in a formal exchange between your home institution and the institution you wish to attend in the United States. You can get more information on such exchanges by contacting the international student offices at the U.S. institution or by contacting the corresponding office at your institution. It is possible for this kind of person-for-person exchange to reduce expenses.
International students are not eligible for U.S. federal aid such as Stafford Loans or Plus Loans. However, there may be other sources of funding if you are an international student coming into the U.S. to study, so check with the U.S. embassy in your home country.
The biggest source of income for international students is your family. A recent study by the Institute of International Education (http://www.iie.org) showed that nearly 65% of all international students in the USA were funded by there family and relatives, with college and university funding coming in second. International student funding can be quite competitive, so your family may be another source of funding for you to explore.
International Student Loans
International students are not eligible for U.S. government-backed loans like Stafford Loans or Plus Loans, but international students are eligible for private international student loans to study in the USA. You will need to meet specific eligibility requirements like attending an approved school and having a cosigner in most cases. If you do not have a cosigner but would still like to apply for a loan, see if a no cosigner loan is available to you. If you decide to apply for a loan it's important to be careful about taking on too much debt, you should only borrow what you truly need to cover the cost of studying and living in the US.
As you begin to think about funding sources for your educational and living expenses in the United States, remember that you cannot count on working in the United States unless you have been granted a teaching or research assistantship. When you submit evidence of your financial resources, you cannot reply on potential income. The income on which you base your application must be assured, and it must be equal to or exceed the costs of the first year of your studies.
Immigration regulations are very strict with respect to working while carrying a student visa. F-1 status, which is the most common status for full-time international students, allows for part time, on-campus employment (fewer than 20 hours per week.) J-1 student status allows for similar employment, with similar restrictions, as long as permission is given by the exchange visitor program sponsor. Visit our Working in the USA pages for more information on employment opportunities and restrictions for F1 students. M-1 visa holders for technical and vocational programs are not permitted to work during the course of their studies.
Jobs available on campus typically do not pay much, certainly not enough to finance a university education. Do not count on this kind of a job for anything more than a supplement to other funds.
Careful long- and short-term planning is necessary to ensure that you will have a rewarding educational experience in the United States. If you are realistic about your financial needs, you will be better able to enjoy the exciting academic and cultural experience of living and learning in the United States.