Should I apply for financial aid as an international student?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

Should I apply for financial aid as an international student?

Connie Boger

Financial Aid for Internationals

Yes, you can apply for financial aid. Some scholarships and grants are specific about US citizenship, some are not.

Sarah Contomichalos
Manager Educational Advisory Services, LLC

Financial Aid and the International Student

If you require financial aid in order to be able to attend a particular college, you must indicate this on your application. It is very difficult to successfully apply for financial aid once you have been accepted. Only a handful of colleges are "need blind" for international students. While FA is more limited for international students it is available at a number of schools. International students should also apply to colleges where their grades and scores put them in the top percentages of applicants. Many colleges offer the most generous merit scholarships to those students look to be the strongest students.

Dale Ford
Counseling Department Chair Singapore American School

Avoid it if you can

Only a small number of US colleges offer financial aid to international students. Most expect international students to fund the full cost of their education. If you must have aid, don't apply to a college which doesn't offer it. To have a decent chance at getting financial aid you must apply to colleges offering aid and be a top applicant in that college's applicant pool. Applying for aid will definitely reduce your chances of admission at all but the six or so colleges which remain "need blind" for international students.

Saroj Jagernauth

Should I apply for financial aid as an international student?


Jonathan Dunn
Director Creative College Counseling, LLC

Should I apply for financial aid as an international student?

This depends upon the schools to which you intend to apply. There are many schools that offer financial aid for international students, but not all do. Most offer merit aid for international students.

Kristina Dooley
Independent Educational Consultant Estrela Consulting

Financial Aid Factors for International Students

International students who are considering applying for financial aid should be certain that they truly need assistance before submitting an application as many schools are "need-aware" or "need-conscious" when reviewing applications. What this means is that some universities will not admit an international student if they are not able to fully meet their financial need thus leaving many students who might otherwise be admissable to receive rejection letters. While most universities in the U.S. do not offer need-based assistance to international applicants, most schools will include this subset of students in their pool for merit-based scholarships.

Pamela Hampton-Garland
Owner Scholar Bound

Financial Aid & International Students

Every student should apply for financial aid because many schools use the financial aid appication information to determine the distribution of scholarships and other aid including merit based scholarships.

Patricia Krahnke
President/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

Should I apply for financial aid as an international student?

Short Answer: Financial aid is not offered to international students through the U.S. federal government; however, many colleges and universities give “scholarships” in the form of tuition discounting to international students to encourage them to attend (NOTE: These scholarships may only be for the first year.) This means they simply reduce the cost of attendance by making your tuition lower than an American student who is asked to pay full tuition. Often this discounting will be called an "academic scholarship." But, hey, it's money, right? Detailed Answer: If the college does not offer you a scholarship, and you really want to attend that institution, ask them if they can offer you some money to attend. (NOTE: Most colleges generate their scholarship award via the admissions office, which means any notice of scholarships will come via your letter of acceptance or in the spring as a separate notice. U.S. colleges are increasing their competition to get you to attend their college or university. They will say it’s because they welcome the diversity that you might bring, and certainly that's a wonderful contribution you can make to our colleges. But the bottom line is that all almost all American colleges and universities are in financial crisis, and they believe you can pay for the education without much financial assistance from them. They know that many of their competitors are offering prospective international students substantial tuition discounts (which they are calling “scholarships.”) So if the institution you are interested in does not offer you a “scholarship,” you can either 1) agree to pay the full amount of tuition, 2) pressure them for money, or 3) you can tell them you will attend another college that is offering you a “scholarship.” Then see if the college you really want to go to will decide to offer you money. If you do receive a scholarship, make sure it is renewable over the four years of your undergraduate degree. Many, many colleges use scholarships (or tuition discounting) as bait to get students to attend the college the first year. They hope that the student will become emotionally and socially integrated to the point that they will do anything to pay the full amount to continue attending, even without a scholarship. This can place undo hardship on the international student’s family (it certainly makes it very difficult for American students.) To see which colleges (by state) in the U.S. offer scholarships to international students, visit [Keep in mind that the list of institutions mentioned on this page specifically are EXTREMELY difficult to get into, even for top students. But many, many other colleges and universities in the U.S. offer outstanding, prestigious degree programs.]

Karen Ekman-Baur
Director of College Counseling Leysin American School

Should I apply for financial aid as an international student?

I also entered this answer in a slightly different form for another question which was similarly formulated. The amount of financial aid available to international students varies from one institution to another, so it is very important when researching colleges/universities to find out how each school deals with this issue. Scholarship and financial aid offerings are usually accessible on each institution's website, as well as an indication of the procedures to be followed in applying for that aid. Some schools do have need-based aid for international students, but this aid is usually quite limited. There are other institutions which have quite generous financial aid offerings for international students and state that they will meet the full financial need of any student, domestic or international, who is accepted to the school. Keep in mind, though, that your idea of your family's financial "need" could differ considerably from your financial need as calculated by the institution. Many schools offer merit-based aid which is available to international as well as domestic applicants, with decisions on the awarding of this aid being focused on the student's prior academic success, standardized test scores, leadership success, or other specified criteria. Some of this aid is awarded automatically if certain high school grades, standardized test scores, or other obvious criteria have been achieved. Other awards must be applied for. Some will require additional essays and/or recommendations in addition to those needed for the college application. Application forms for these scholarships will be found on the websites of the relevant institutions. A student with outstanding skills in a particular academic discipline, athletics, music, art, or some other specialized area might qualify for aid or scholarships awarded through the relevant department within an institution. A few institutions in the U.S. offer international students the same tuition as in-state applicants, an amount which is considerably less than tuition costs for out-of-state domestic applicants. Often students who receive this type of tuition assistance are asked to participate in various cultural sharing activities within the school and local community as a way of repayment. International students should also consider approaching governmental agencies in their respective countries to find out if financial assistance is available for students studying in another country. Another source of financial aid could be various civic organizations within the student's country. Students who are citizens of the European Union would do well to look at institutions in the U.K., particularly Scotland, and the Republic of Ireland, as well as universities in the Netherlands and Finland, in which there are many English-language programs. Tuition rates for EU citizens applying to many/most institutions in those countries will usually be equivalent to the rates for citizens of the country in which the school is located, and these rates are often extremely economical! Hope that helps!

Kathleen Harrington
Owner New Jersey College Consulting

Should I apply for financial aid as an international student?

Most US colleges will encourage international students to apply for financial aid. Although many items are needed to receive aid for attending college in the USA, if not eligible, the college may still like to review the financial aid paperwork to potentially award the applicant with other monies such as grants and scholarships. The FAFSA will ask the applicant for a social security number. If the applicant does not have a SSN#, he or she can apply as a eligible non-citizen. Unfortunately, if an applicant is attending school on a student visa, he or she will not be eligible for financial aid. The best resource to utilize is the financial aid office at your potential school of interest. Also, additional information can be found on the FAFSA website.