What financial aid is available for international students?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

What financial aid is available for international students?

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

What financial aid is available for international students?

There is very little financial aid available for international students who want to pursue their undergraduate degrees in the U.S. While that should not stop you from applying for aid, you should be aware that chances are very slim that you will receive grants or scholarships. For more information on aid for international students, please check out this site: http://www.edupass.org/finaid/. It is a part of FinAid -- which is one of the most reputable authorities on financial aid for college students in the U.S.

David Allen
Managing Director Global College Counselors Ltd


There's lots of it around if you are prepared to look and ask. Some colleges have more available but almost all will have merit aid which is available to all students and some specific international scholarships.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

What financial aid is available for international students?

Basically, U.S. federal and state funding is not available for undergraduate studies to a foreign national. Depending on the school, institutional need-based or merit scholarships may be available but these limited resources are often highly competitive. Other sources of funding might be found in your home country. There are free scholarship databases available on-line. Be careful to protect yourself from scholarship scams.

Helen Cella

What financial aid is available for international students?

Merit money

Mark Gathercole
University Advisor Independent University Advising

What financial aid is available for international students?

Need-based aid is available at a number of schools, but at all but 5-10 of them, the need for financial aid may affect a student's chances of admission. Merit-based aid is available to international students at most universities in the U.S., and does not affect a student's chances of admission. Merit scholarships are given for a number of reasons by admissions offices, and international students have as good a chance of receiving it as anyone. The schools which are the most likely to award merit aid to an international student are those where the student falls in the top half of the applicant pool, and schools where there are not many other international students.

Darla Andrews

What financial aid is available for international students?

As a student, you are responsible for the cost of tuition and fees, as well as room and board, books and supplies, and transportation. International students may qualify for some scholarships and tuition assistance, but may not be eligible for most financial aid.

Annie Reznik
Counselor/CEO College Guidance Coach

Very Limited Need-Based Aid for International Students

International students who will be enrolling on an F1 or J1 visa will not be eligible for federal financial aid programs. Most private or institutional aid is also limited to US citizens and permanent residents. Students who live abroad but will not seek a visa for study will be eligible for aid and should apply.

Patricia Krahnke
President/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

What financial aid is available for international students?

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 http://www.internationalstudent.com/schools_awarding_aid/ [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.]

Dr. Bruce Neimeyer
CEO/Partner Global College Search Associates, LLC

What financial aid is available for international students?

Some schools do offer financial "assistance" for international students. It really depends on the school. In most instances, the financial assistance for international students comes in the form of scholarship dollars and it is therefore based on academic merit rather than financial need. There are some colleges that do offer financial assistance based on financial need but still not that many. In these instances, the schools will typically have their own financial aid evaluation form for international students to complete. To find out which form is required, it is important to contact either the international admissions office or the office of international student services depending on the school. Some financial institutions may also offer student loan options but these are between the financial institution and the student and the schools are not involved in the process. However, you chosen college's financial aid office might be able to point you toward a lender that they know can assist you with this option. It is rare but you never know. Finally, the scholarship office at many schools may know of outside scholarship opportunities that you might be able to apply for that could offset some of your educational expenses. Reach out to them for any ideas or experiences they have had that might help you in obtaining some funding.

Ellen erichards@ellened.com
Owner Ellen Richards Admissions Consulting

What financial aid is available for international students?

The financial aid system for colleges and universities in the United States is not set up [use thesaurus] for the benefit of international students. Financial aid is focused mainly on domestic students who need it. This brings up many different issues. First, on one hand it seems fair that the financial aid that is available goes to citizens of this country since they do live here and it seems that should be a benefit of being a citizen of the United States. On the other hand, it brings up some issues because there are undocumented students living in the United States today and they do not have the financial resources to pursue a college education. Thus, those very students who are first generation are not citizens and therefore cannot use the power of an education to raise their status from the one in which they have lived throughout their lives up to this point. Thus, many immigrants who are undocumented struggle to find a way to pursue an education when most of the time they have little to no resources to do so. This is a hot topic for some educators and can result in what some may deem a tragedy for the students who have worked very diligently to be accepted at a great college or just be college bound at all and not have the opportunity to pursue that. That being said, fact does remain that financial aid is reserved for American citizens and most citizens would think that that would qualify that decision as a fair one. One other aspect of the lack of educational funding for international students is that colleges today, particularly the University of California system use the fact that international students cannot gain financial aid as a means to increase their funding. That is, every international student represents the full price of admission, which at these days can be upwards of $50,000 per student. Whereas a domestic student most likely will qualify for some sort of financial aid. So the financial aid available to international students is extremely limited but at the same time it is a shame that there are billions and billions of dollars of scholarship money available to domestic students and so few take advantage of the opportunity to pursue those scholarships because they require additional work such as essays or completing paperwork or asking for recommendations. However, students who are motivated enough to make the most of the resources could actually save their families a lot of money – money that international students and undocumented students would [most likely take advantage of/die for that money] so in other words, domestic students forgo the opportunity to pursue a lot of money in scholarships whereas ironically, the international students and the undocumented students do not have even the right to pursue that funding.