If you’re hoping to study abroad in the United States, you may be thinking to yourself, “How am I going to pay for it?” If that’s the case, then you’re in the right place. Keep reading for more information about financial aid for international students.
The first step is establishing a budget and figuring out how much you can spend on going overseas. In order to study abroad in the United States, part of the application process involves proving that you can cover tuition, housing, dining, books, and more. To do this, you’ll need to fill out an International Student Certification of Finances form — the university you’re applying to will likely provide the form for you.
Types of financial aid
There are a few options when it comes to financial aid: federal loans, private loans, need-based financial aid, and scholarships/grants. Unfortunately, most international students are not eligible for federal student loans via the U.S. Department of Education. (However, there are some cases where non-citizens are eligible for federal loans.) But again, there are other options.
As the name suggests, private loans come from private lenders, like Sallie Mae® — you may also be able to secure a private loan from a bank or credit union. If you apply for a private loan, you will most likely need a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
Another option is need-based financial aid — however, not everyone qualifies. To determine your eligibility, you’ll need to fill out the International Student Financial Aid Application, which will likely be provided by the university you apply to.
You may also be eligible for a scholarship or grant, also known as “gift aid” — unlike loans, you don’t need to pay back the money awarded. Scholarships and grants can be given for a variety of reasons, including field of study, heritage, hobbies, volunteerism, and more. These monetary gifts often come from universities or private organizations — scholarships and grants awarded by universities are often merit-based, meaning they’re based on academic achievements.
More about forms
Although international students aren’t eligible for federal loans, it’s still important that they fill out a Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The FAFSA is the form that’s used to determine eligibility for federal loans — but schools also use it to determine if international students are eligible for scholarships from the school or the state where it’s located. Because you don’t have a U.S. social security number, you won’t be able to submit the form online, but you can print out a copy or submit it via email.
Before you start filling out forms, contact the school(s) you plan to apply to so you can find out what forms they require. Also, the sooner you can submit your aid forms, the better — some financial aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Something else to look into: see if your home country offers financial aid to students studying abroad in other countries.
Need-blind vs. need-aware admissions
When it comes to financial aid and the admissions process, there are two approaches that schools follow: need-blind and need-aware. Need-blind means that universities will make admissions decisions without considering the applicant’s ability to pay; need-aware is when universities make admission decisions with an applicant’s ability to pay in mind.
Start your journey
Once you have your financial plan in place, you can start the more fun parts of the process — like choosing your school and program of study. It all starts with taking an English-proficiency test to help you pursue your dreams. Find the exam that’s right for you — choose from the TOEFL® Essentials™ test, the TOEFL iBT® test or the TOEFL iBT Home Edition.
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