Financial aid for international students in the USA

If you’re hoping to study abroad in the United States, you might be thinking, “How am I going to pay for this?” If so, then you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for more information on international student financial aid.

Financial planning

The first step is to set a budget and figure out how much you can spend going abroad. In order to study abroad in the USA, part of the application process is proving that you can cover tuition, housing, meals, books, etc. To do this, you will need to complete an International Financial Student Certification form – the university you are applying to will likely provide you with the form.

Types of financial aid

There are a few options for financial aid: federal loans, private loans, need-based financial aid, and scholarships/grants. Unfortunately, most international students are not eligible for federal student loans through the US Department of Education. (However, there are instances where noncitizens 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 get a private loan from a bank or credit union. If you are applying for a private loan, you will most likely need a co-signer who is a US citizen or permanent resident.

Another option is need-based financial aid – however, not everyone is eligible. To determine your eligibility, you will need to complete the International Student Financial Aid Application, which will likely be provided by the university to which you are applying.

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You may also be eligible for a scholarship or grant, also known as “gift aid” — unlike loans, you don’t have to repay the money given. Scholarships and grants can be awarded for a variety of reasons, including field of study, heritage, hobbies, volunteerism, and more. These monetary donations often come from universities or private organizations – scholarships and grants awarded by universities are often merit-based, meaning they are based on academic achievement.

Learn more about forms

Although international students are not eligible for federal loans, it is still important that they complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The FAFSA is the form 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 state where they are. Since you don’t have a US Social Security number, you won’t be able to submit the form online, but you can print a copy or email it.

Before you start filling out forms, contact the school or schools you plan to apply to to find out what forms they need. Also, the sooner you can submit your aid forms, the better – some financial aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Another thing to consider: See if your home country offers financial aid to students studying abroad in other countries.

Blind or need-aware admissions

When it comes to financial aid and the admissions process, schools follow two approaches: blind need and conscious need. Need-blindness means that universities will make admissions decisions without considering the applicant’s ability to pay; Need consideration is when universities make admissions decisions taking into account an applicant’s ability to pay.

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Start your journey

With your financial plan in place, you can begin the 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 test ® Essentials le test TOEFL iBT ® or the TOEFL iBT Home Edition.

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