Many international students have the dream of studying in some of the best universities with world-class faculty. Consequently, countless international students decide to pursue their higher education at United States institutions. International students are a vital component of US colleges, as they bring a diverse campus environment and also help with significant income opportunities through tuition. Many students are qualified, yet sometimes they lack a certain commodity that prevents them from attending their dream university: money.
A large group of students often feel this as a disincentive, but it shouldn’t be that way. There are many universities that provide generous financial aid, offer employment opportunities, are need-blind in the admission process, or are low cost for international students. Read on to learn more.
What does it mean to have a “need-blind” admission policy?
“Need-blind” is a term related to financial aid. It means an institution has an official policy of not considering applicants' financial resources when deciding to offer them a spot at their college. When it comes to international students, there are few universities that have this policy. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is one of them, but also keep in mind that their acceptance rate for international applicants is only 2.9%. Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, and Amherst College are the only other US schools with need-blind policies for international students.
Universities with generous financial aid for international students
There are many great colleges and universities that offer tremendous financial help for students all around the world. Some of them include Columbia University, Duke University, Dartmouth College, and Stanford University. For example, Columbia promises to meet 100% of every admitted first-year student’s demonstrated financial need for all four years of university, “regardless of citizenship.”
If you’re interested in the liberal arts, there are many more choices, such as Skidmore College, Williams College, Pomona College, Trinity College, Smith College, and Wellesley College. Though international students aren’t eligible to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), many private colleges encourage all of their applicants to fill out the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE to apply for institutional aid. If the fee to submit this form presents a hardship, waivers may be available. Both well-known and not so familiar schools have generous need-based aid for international students. Even though these colleges are highly selective and the financial aid process is competitive, they are worth a try.
Name-brand vs. unknown and private vs. public
Many students have a misconception about financial aid and think that only well-known, highly selective universities offer it, but that's not always the case. Some name-brand universities don't provide any financial assistance for international applicants, while other often unnoticed schools offer generous financial aid. Private institutions usually offer the most help; Bard College (a liberal arts school in New York State), Denison University (a private institution in Ohio), and Illinois Institute of Technology (a private research university in Chicago) are just a few examples.
Public schools don’t often offer financial aid for international students, but they are usually much more affordable with lower tuition and fees. They might also offer scholarships, grants, or loans. Michigan State University, University of Oregon, and University of Georgia offer scholarships for both national and international students.
The difference between scholarships, grants, and loans
The main difference between scholarships, grants, and loans is repayment: when you take out private loans, you have to pay back what you receive while you’re in school and/or after you graduate. (Federal loans from the US government are not available for international students.) In contrast, scholarships and grants are types of aid that you do not have to pay back. These may be given by governments, nonprofits, or educational institutions. There are many different scholarships and grants available for non-US students; you just have to search for them.
If you have any doubt about paying for university, don’t hesitate to contact the financial aid office of any school you’re interested in and ask them about different opportunities. You can search for the school online, go to the undergraduate or international student admission sections, and look for information on “financial aid for undergraduate students” or “international student financial aid.” With research and reflection, you can find the perfect university with the right financial fit. Do not give up!
Find more international-friendly universities on CollegeXpress with our featured International School profiles.