A United States education is an expensive investment for international students. Between tuition and fees, room and board, books and insurance the cost of a US education quickly adds up to many thousands of dollars. The process is made even more complicated by the fact that each institution has its own process and its own words for when and how they give out aid.
In the U.S. many institutions, give aid to bachelors students in the form of merit scholarships which are based on academic performance, and need-based assistance which is based on the student and family’s ability to pay. Graduate students receive support in the form of assistantships, which usually have a work component, or grants which are typically based on academic performance or other factors. It is important to stress that not every University offers the same types of assistance. ome require a special application, especially for need-based assistance, others consider students automatically.
Few institutions offer full scholarships or full support to undergraduates, though there are some out there. For graduate students there is more support available, but the most generous institutions tend to be larger research Universities with doctoral programs, particularly in the sciences and engineering. However with all things in U.S. higher education, it depends. Remember that the goal is not to receive the largest scholarship, the goal is to graduate with a U.S. degree for the lowest possible cost. There is a saying in America that “a dollar saved is a dollar earned.” If you find ways to save money, that reduces your costs.
For undergraduates some common ways to reduce costs include undergraduate transfer credit for courses that you take abroad or in your home country. Typically, these cost far less than courses in U.S. and many institutions will allow you to transfer as much as two years’ worth of credits. Another way to save money is by taking examinations such as the International Baccalaureate (I.B.) or Advanced Placement (A.P.). Many universities award credit for passing those examinations. Some may award up to one year of credit which can save you thousands of dollars. Transfer credit for graduate student is less common, but there are some which allow it.
Another key way to help meet the costs of attendance is through working. As international students on the F-1 visa (the most common immigration status), during your first year you are allowed to work on campus. After one year, you may have the option to perform paid work outside of campus through the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) as long as it is related to your field of study and is approved by your university. Not every University offers employment on campus or CPT to international students so that should part of your research as well.
These are a few examples of how you can lower your cost to earn a degree and there are others. The key is research and asking questions. Good luck!