Before You Arrive
How will you pay for your college education in the United States? That's a very important question you will want to consider carefully before you arrive in this country.
First, find out how much to expect to spend on your studies. Review the article
Budgeting for College to learn more.
You'll want to start looking for financial support early in the college admissions process. Ideally, you should begin looking 12 to 18 months before your intended date of study.
Keep in mind that the I-20 form requires proof of funding for the first year only, however, many academic institutions and US Consulates require you to prove that you can pay for your entire period of study.
Unfortunately, you can't expect to finance your studies by working in the United States. The US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) prohibits international students from working off-campus in their first year. The rules are restrictive after that year too. So, you'll need to rely on other sources, as you won't be able to earn enough money.
How do most international students finance their education?
At the undergraduate level, approximately eight out of ten international students finance their own education through personal and family sources. At the graduate school level, that figure drops to nearly half of all students.
There are scholarships and grants available to assist students in financing their education. Private organizations (US and other nations), foundations and international agencies offer scholarships, grants and other financial aid to international students. However, the competition for this funding is very tight. This financial aid is usually reserved for students with special qualifications, such as those with especially strong academic, athletic or artistic talent.
Most of the scholarships and grants offered in this country are limited to US students. There also tends to be more financial support for international graduate students than for undergraduate students.
That's why you need to do your homework first. You should leave plenty of time to request scholarship applications, gather supporting materials and submit the completed requirements well ahead of the deadline. It's also very important that your application be well written without any grammatical mistakes or misspelled words. These types of errors will significantly lower your changes of success.
Where are some good places to seek scholarships and grants?
- Professional trade organizations in your country (such as banking or electrical engineering) are a possibility, if you are planning to study in these areas and can demonstrate academic potential.
- Religious, civic or community groups in your country may provide financial aid, particularly if your academic and leadership skills are especially strong.
- Government agencies often award scholarships to students, especially if you happen to be studying a field that is important to your country's growth strategy (e.g., medicine). You'll want to research your own government's policies on this area. Only two percent of international students receive funding from the US government.
- Some cross-cultural groups in the United States provide scholarship money to deserving international students. You might try approaching a cultural organization that encourages greater cooperation with your nation.
- Colleges and universities provide funding through scholarships, grants and fellowships. These are mainly for graduate students. However, you might try researching direct exchange programs that exist between a university in your native country and an US institution. They sometimes provide a full or partial waiver of tuition and fees.
- Graduate students also can explore teaching and research assistantships. These students assist a teacher in exchange for financial aid. The programs are typically based on academic merit or previous experience, not on financial need.
To learn more about financial aid for international students, you might want to consult these resources: