Finding Financial Aid for International Students

Many international students incorrectly believe that there is no financial aid available to them.  In fact, there are two major sources of financial aid for international students, both of which take a bit of effort to find and win.

1. Institutional Aid

Both public and private universities offer financial incentives for students to attend their institution.  Private universities are typically in a better position to offer financial aid because they do not have a duty to taxpayers.

Most of the institutional aid available to international students is reserved for graduate study in the form of assistantships and fellowships, but there is definitely institutional aid available for undergraduates, although they are quite competitive.

One form of instituitional aid are merit-based scholarships granted on the basis of special skills, talents, or abilities. Your university may have scholarships based on TOEFL scores, academic record, artistic ability, musical ability, or athletic ability.  Merit-based scholarships are usually very competitive. To be considered, you will need to demonstrate exceptional ability in the area required.  The trick is to find the scholarship most targeted to your situation and focus on selling yourself to the scholarship committee.

Need-based scholarships are awarded based on financial need. Those students who can demonstrate need at a predetermined level are eligible for this type of aid.

Academic departments within the university may have funds allocated to assist international students with exceptional need and/or talent. Consult with your university and/or your major department to take advantage of any special funding opportunities they offer.

2. Private Scholarships

It is true that many non-institutional, independently administered scholarships for undergraduate study are available only to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.  However, there are free scholarship databases as well as private, corporate, nonprofit, and government scholarship funds that serve undergraduate international students.

It is very important to do a through search for financial aid, as many grants and scholarships go unawarded for years because no students bother to apply!

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