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Financing Your American Education

Right now, you are probably wondering how to go about obtaining financial aid and scholarships. The process can be somewhat complicated but certainly not impossible; if you are thorough in your preparation and careful about deadlines, you can enhance your chances for success.

With almost 4,000 colleges and universities, the United States offers unparalleled opportunities to choose the size, location, and style of university that’s best for you. However, while the educational prospects seem endless, your financial resources might seem quite finite.

Right now, you are probably wondering how to go about obtaining financial aid and scholarships. The process can be somewhat complicated but certainly not impossible; if you are thorough in your preparation and careful about deadlines, you can enhance your chances for success.

Many colleges and universities actively seek international students or U.S. citizens who have lived abroad. Because you offer diversity and a broader world-view, you may be offered financial enticements to attend. Some institutions will have substantial financial aid programs, while others will have modest awards or almost none. If you have limited resources, part of your higher education research should include seeing what kind of financial support is offered and how to get it.

To start, here is some general advice for all students:

  • Start researching as early as possible. Gathering information and sending forms may take more time than you expect. Use e-mail for the most efficient communication.
  • Be aware of your citizenship status. Each college or university will have specific instructions about applying for financial aid based upon your status.
  • Pay close attention to all instructions and deadlines for filing forms. Keep lists or make notes on a calendar.
  • Be aware that you will have to provide family financial information in U.S. dollars.
  • Remember that tuition is not the only expense; you will have to provide for room and board and other fees.
  • Institutional websites will provide you with estimates for all fees and personal expenses. You should also think carefully about the cost of transportation.
  • Be wary of individuals and companies that offer to find scholarships for a fee or offer you a “guaranteed” scholarship if you provide a credit card number or other personal information. These are likely scams and should be avoided.

The most important advice is to be aware of all forms, documents, and deadlines that are necessary to apply for financial aid and scholarships. All students must meet all deadlines if they want to receive full consideration for available funds. If you are a U.S. citizen living abroad, you will have the opportunity to apply for federal, and possibly state, financial aid. (If you are a U.S. permanent resident, you will have the same opportunities as U.S. citizens.) If you are not a citizen of the United States or a permanent resident, you will have to depend upon financial aid offered directly from colleges and universities or from private sources.

Whether U.S. citizens or not, students who live abroad offer colleges and universities the diversity of views and opinions that make campuses vibrant and lively with conversation. Financial aid officers are there to help you and to make sure that you have done all that you can to maximize your chances for financial assistance. Stay organized and keep your eye on the goal. If you become confused along the way, ask for help. Great rewards are possible.

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