How to Get Financial Aid as an International Student
July 21st, 2015 by Anum Yoon

money and capMany colleges in the United States are making a big push to recruit international students to come and study. The sad truth is that this isn’t always an effort to diversify the campus. At some colleges, this is done to bring in more money. Unfortunately, international students often pay a lot more than U.S. citizens for the privilege of attending university thanks to fewer resources at their disposal.

Hope isn’t lost, however. While foreign students are at a disadvantage, financial aid is still available in different forms if you’re willing to look for it.

Merit-Based Scholarships

Tuition in the United States can be outrageously expensive at more than $50,000 a year. As shocking as that price is, discounts can be had through merit-based scholarships. According to U.S. News & World Report, 375 of ranked universities offered scholarships to international undergraduate students in the 2013-14 school year. The average amount of these scholarships was $18,790.

Some of the most generous scholarships came from the most prestigious universities in the country, such as Yale University – $56,630 average in aid to 349 students – and Harvard – $51,854 average in aid to 540 students.

Attending universities like those are out of reach for all but the absolute best and brightest students, whether they’re from the U.S. or not. Fortunately, all universities typically publish a list of many available scholarships, so check them closely and see if there are any you can apply for. Some of these scholarships are need-based and can be helpful depending on your background.

Outside organizations can also provide grants. The searchable database from the Foundation Center is a good place to start.

Student Loans

For U.S. citizens, federal student loans are fairly easy to obtain and often come with below-market interest rates. That support usually doesn’t extend to international students, but there are other avenues available depending on the country you come from or the program you use.

First, there is a way to get a U.S. federal loan if you’re an international student. Sallie Mae, the largest provider of federal loans, can provide you with a loan if you have a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen. This can be a trusted friend or a family member, but finding someone is often easier said than done. If you don’t pay the loan, then the co-signer who offered to help will be punished, so make sure you take that into consideration. Fill out an application on the Sallie Mae website.

Depending upon what country you come from, your own government or local bank might provide student loans to study outside the country. Check out this list from eduPASS to see what might be available.

Keep on Searching

Searching for financial aid can be overwhelming at times, but the end result will be worth your efforts. Even a tiny scholarship of few hundred dollars makes a big difference. Contact your university’s financial aid office for any opportunities. In addition to that, regularly browse the Internet to find any possible scholarships. Most students don’t even look, so you’re at an advantage if you’re always on the hunt.

22 Comments

  1. Mohammed Taofeeq says:

    I really want to know if one could be eligible to international loan as international student.

  2. Rex says:

    Thanks. However, I also believe that an interactive community of scholarship seeking students will be a lot more helpful.

    • Jennifer Frankel says:

      Hi Rex, thanks for your insight. We focus on international student loans, but there are many great websites out there that also offer scholarships. Best of luck!

  3. Samie says:

    Hello,
    I am an international student, I am looking a loan of 7000 $ for studying in USA.

  4. CRUZ OYOUGOU says:

    WHAT DO I NEED TO HAVE FINANCIAL AID IN SCHOLARSHIP?
    IM AN UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT, WHO WILL COME TO USA AND STUDY THERE.

    • Jennifer Frankel says:

      Hi Cruz, the good news is that there are many scholarships out there! Check out IEFA.org or InternationalScholarships.com to find scholarships and view their requirements. You can also contact your school as they may also provide students with scholarship options. Thanks!

  5. Akande Ibrahim olawale says:

    please help me out how can I have access to financial aid as an international student

  6. san pisey says:

    I need student loan for my study master. I am going to pay back all principle and interest after finished. I will work in your country until I paid already. you can keep my passport or everything. It hard to give you believe me. who can help me I never forget in my life. I hope God Bless me to give someone to help me. I want to take knowledge to develop my country. Bless you!

  7. WAZIRI MAPUNDA says:

    how are you?. iam here looking for the scholarship on the Masters of Science In Early Childhood Education at The Walden University

    • Jennifer Frankel says:

      Hi Waziri, thanks for your message. We are doing well, hope you are too! While we do not have any scholarship programs, you can check out IEFA.org to see which scholarships you are eligible for. Best of luck!

  8. DUKUNDANE says:

    I need financial aid for studying masters as an international student,please help me.

    • Jennifer Frankel says:

      We have loan programs available to international students studying at an approved school in the United States, with a US co-signer. The co-signer must be a US citizen or permanent resident with good credit and income history and who has lived in the US for the past two years.  You will also have to provide a valid student visa in order to finalize the loan.  You can apply for up to the total cost of education, as determined by your school, minus any other aid received. After you apply and receive credit approval for you and your co-signer, your school must certify the amount of the loan. The proceeds are then disbursed directly to the school. You should apply for a loan after you have been accepted and enrolled into an eligible school. You can start the application process and find all available lenders here: http://www.internationalstudentloan.com/apply/

  9. Julie says:

    Why is it hard to obtain financial help as an international student! I can’t find a consigner & the British student finance bodies won’t help! I’m going to be kicked out of uni if I can’t get help!! Can you advise?

    • Jennifer Frankel says:

      Hi Julie, it is tough! Our loans are only available for international students in the US and they do require a US cosigner.  That co-signer must be a US citizen or permanent resident, with good credit, who has lived in the US for the past two years. This is typically a friend or family member of yours.  If you cannot find a co-signer that meets these requirements, you are unfortunately ineligible for our loans. I would recommend contacting your school as they may have additional resources.

  10. angira says:

    i am from india wishing to pursue a bachelors in computers or mechatronics.in the US. As for every international student the financial considerations are more important. all i wish to know that with best of my efforts how much (maximum) aid can i obtain through various sources for the entire course of 1 year.. please note that i may not necessarily be the best of the world’s talent but certainly am quite hard working. can you please advice s that i can plan further.

    • Jennifer Frankel says:

      Hi Angira, we have loan programs available to international students studying at an approved school in the United States, with a US co-signer. The co-signer must be a US citizen or permanent resident with good credit and income history and who has lived in the US for the past two years.  You will also have to provide a valid student visa in order to finalize the loan.  You can apply for up to the total cost of education, as determined by your school, minus any other aid received. After you apply and receive credit approval for you and your co-signer, your school must certify the amount of the loan. The proceeds are then disbursed directly to the school.

      You can start the application process and find all available lenders here: http://www.internationalstudentloan.com/apply/

  11. Ayman Morris says:

    I need to get LLM degree before i apply for bar exam and i am foreigner so i am looking for cheap law school in USA and i am wondering if it would be easy for me to get loan for that .

    • Jennifer Frankel says:

      We have loan programs available to international students if you are studying at an approved school in the United States, with a US co-signer. The co-signer must be a US citizen or permanent resident with good credit and income history and who has lived in the US for the past two years.  You will also have to provide a valid student visa in order to finalize the loan.  You should apply for a loan after you have been accepted and enrolled into an eligible school.
      You can see eligible schools here: http://www.internationalstudentloan.com/eligible_schools/all/

      You can start the application process and find all available lenders here: http://www.internationalstudentloan.com/apply/

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