How to Get Financial Aid as an International Student

Many colleges in the United States are making a big push to recruit international students to come and study. The sad truth is that this isn’t always an effort to diversify the campus. At some colleges, this is done to bring in more money. Unfortunately, international students often pay a lot more than U.S. citizens for the privilege of attending university thanks to fewer resources at their disposal.

Hope isn’t lost, however. While foreign students are at a disadvantage, financial aid is still available in different forms if you’re willing to look for it.

Merit-Based Scholarships

Tuition in the United States can be outrageously expensive at more than $50,000 a year. As shocking as that price is, discounts can be had through merit-based scholarships. According to U.S. News & World Report, 375 of ranked universities offered scholarships to international undergraduate students. The average amount of these scholarships was $18,790.

Some of the most generous scholarships came from the most prestigious universities in the country, such as Yale University – $56,630 average in aid to 349 students – and Harvard – $51,854 average in aid to 540 students.

Attending universities like those are out of reach for all but the absolute best and brightest students, whether they’re from the U.S. or not. Fortunately, all universities typically publish a list of many available scholarships, so check them closely and see if there are any you can apply for. Some of these scholarships are need-based and can be helpful depending on your background.

Outside organizations can also provide grants. The searchable database from the Foundation Center is a good place to start.

Student Loans

For U.S. citizens, federal student loans are fairly easy to obtain and often come with below-market interest rates. That support usually doesn’t extend to international students, but there are other avenues available depending on the country you come from or the program you use.

First, there is a way to get a U.S. federal loan if you’re an international student. Sallie Mae, the largest provider of federal loans, can provide you with a loan if you have a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen. This can be a trusted friend or a family member, but finding someone is often easier said than done. If you don’t pay the loan, then the co-signer who offered to help will be punished, so make sure you take that into consideration. Fill out an application on the Sallie Mae website.

Depending upon what country you come from, your own government or local bank might provide student loans to study outside the country. Check out this list from eduPASS to see what might be available.

Keep on Searching

Searching for financial aid can be overwhelming at times, but the end result will be worth your efforts. Even a tiny scholarship of few hundred dollars makes a big difference. Contact your university’s financial aid office for any opportunities. In addition to that, regularly browse the Internet to find any possible scholarships. Most students don’t even look, so you’re at an advantage if you’re always on the hunt.