Navigating the financial aid system can be one of the most important (and confusing!) parts of the college application process. For international students, this process can be even more frustrating. This week, our experts weigh in on your financial aid options as an international student and give you the best tips on how you can get money to go to college in the United States. Jake Nichols of Grand Rapids, Mich., asks:
Q: What financial aid is available for international students?
A: There are two questions that need to be asked.
Eric Furda, dean of admissions, University of Pennsylvania
1. Will applying for aid as a non-U.S. citizen or permanent resident impact my admissions decision? 2. If admitted, what will my financial aid package look like from the perspective of grants, loans, and any potential gap to meet the full cost of attending the school? The University of Pennsylvania has a need-blind admissions policy for U.S. citizens/permanent residents and for citizens of Mexico and Canada. All other students compete for funds allocated for international students, an amount which is approximately $6 million to $8 million per year.
Once admitted to Penn, all students, regardless of country of citizenship, receive a financial aid package that in most cases includes some job on campus, and the rest of the package is institutional grant money, which does not get paid back. No loans are part of the financial aid package.
[Learn about the increase of international students at U.S. colleges.]
A: International students also have options when it comes to financial aid.
John Carpenter, founder, AskJohnAboutCollege.com
Most financial aid in the United States is restricted to students who are from the United States or who are legal residents or green card holders—and, of course, that is all related to taxes and federal money. However, there is money available for international kids, just not a lot, and what's available really varies from school to school.
A handful of schools have a lot of money for any kid, and a handful of schools have money just for international kids. If you're a United World College Scholars student for example, you're eligible for a grant from the Davis Foundation, or if you're admitted to one of the very wealthy institutions in the United States, chances are money will appear for you.
[Find out about campus resources available to international students.]
Check each college's website to see what might be available. Write E-mails. Ask questions. You'll probably be required to submit a statement of finances from your parents with some documents from a bank, translated into English. Another idea is to look at smaller colleges that have lower overall fees to begin with; many of those schools are very eager to have international students and have set aside money to help make a less expensive experience become even more affordable.
In every case, ask about your tax responsibility at the school that does give you scholarship money. It's one thing to think you're going to school at a discount or free, and then something else to discover that you have a tax bill at the end of the year.
[Check out these scholarship sources for international students.]
A: International aid varies widely.
Chris Hooker Haring, dean of admissions and financial aid, Muhlenberg College
Some colleges offer aggressive scholarship programs for international students. Others have very limited aid for internationals. Some offer merit aid to international students. Others are need-based only. It can vary widely from campus to campus, so check the financial aid and international student sections of college websites for specific information about each college in which you have serious interest.
Visit the Unigo Expert Network for more expert explanations about international student financial aid and to have your own questions answered.