As an international student planning to study in the USA, there’s no doubt that you’ve already started to contemplate the financial implications of this decision, and you are probably wondering what your options are for financing the cost of studying outside your home country; and you’re quite right to do so – as you may already have realised, there is little information about sources of financial aid for international students who want to study in the US, and often the information that you can find is unclear or even misleading – especially when it comes to unscrupulous lenders (or even loan scams).
But don’t let this put you off your search. We have created this extremely useful post to give you as much information as we can to help you fulfill your dream of studying in the USA and finding the funding to enable you to do that.
Here at International Student Loan we recommend that you first talk to your college or university before pursuing any other alternative funding sources. They may be able to guide you to their own funding opportunities or specific contacts that they have established themselves that are able to assist non-US residents studying in the US.
There are 3 main offices you should contact at your university:
- The Financial Aid office
- The department or faculty office of your chosen program of study
- The Office for International Students (often called the Office of International Student Services)
Much support for international students in graduate programs in the US is provided by the universities and colleges themselves in the form of teaching assistantships and research assistantships. These are often based on academic merit and not on financial need. In most cases you would be required to pass the Test of Spoken English (TSE) in order to qualify for a teaching assistantship, but check with the school you’re interested in.
Some foreign schools have exchange programs with schools in the US. These exchange programs often include financial aid for the students. If you are already studying at a university in your home country and would like to find out about this type of exchange program the office for international student services at your home university would be the best place to contact.
Once you have established the financial aid that you can access through your chosen university or college, it is time to start looking further afield for other, alternative sources, too.
Such resources might include:
- Yourself and your family
- Organizations in your home country
- Private US Organizations and Sponsors
- International Organizations
- Fulbright Program
Yourself and Your Family
According to the Association of International Educators, more than two-thirds of international students in the US receive help from their families, in addition to their own resources, to fund their study in the US. Whatever outside help and financial aid you receive, you will also need to use your own funds and probably rely on support from family and friends to pursue your dream of an education in the USA.
Organizations in your home country
One of the best sources of financial aid for international students comes from organizations in their home country that want to invest in and develop the education of talented students, recognizing the benefits that an international education can provide.
Your own government may provide financial aid (often on the condition that the recipient of the aid returns to their home country on completion of their studies). We suggest you make contact with your country’s ministry of education and or ministry of culture.
Private organizations such as businesses, religious groups, and charitable foundations may also offer support in the form of financial aid for international students – often this is linked to the background of the student or the chosen field of study. We advise you to search online for these opportunities, and speak to local educational institutions who may be able to refer you to these programs.
Private US Organizations and Sponsors
You can use scholarship databases such as International Education Financial Aid and International Scholarships. These databases are free to use and contain information on the scholarships, grants, and awards that are available for international students.
Some of the organizations that offer funding for international students studying in the United States are:
- The United Nations
- the Organization of American States (OAS)
- The International Maritime Organization
- The International Telecommunications Union
- The League of Red Cross Societies
- The Soros Foundation
- The World Health Organization
- The World Council of Churches.
These awards are extremely competitive and are mostly for graduate students rather than undergraduates.
You usually have to apply for this type of funding from your home country, so if you have already embarked on your educational journey in the US you may not be eligible. It is therefore important for you to research these opportunities well before you travel.
The Fulbright Program works two ways: U.S. citizens may receive funding to go to a foreign country and non-U.S. citizens may come to the U.S. (Foreign Student Program, Visiting Scholar Program, Teacher Exchange Program, etc.).
In order to be considered for Fulbright programs, foreign candidates must demonstrate exceptional academic achievement, leadership potential, flexibility and the ability to interact successfully in the USA.
The Fulbright Foreign Student Program enables graduate students, young professionals, and artists from abroad to conduct research and study in the United States.
Fulbright grants are offered in many academic disciplines, but not in clinical medical research (research involving patient contact). Fields of study cover mathematics and sciences, the fine arts, humanities, and social sciences.
Applicants are required to take the TOEFL and GRE or GMAT exams. Professional education, such as medical schools, is not eligible. Fulbright students are required to be on J-1 visas for the entire duration of their sponsorship.
You should contact your nearest US embassy or consulate, the Fulbright Commission office, or educational advising center for information about applying to the Fulbright Program in your country.
Of course, we couldn’t write a post on our own site about international financial aid and not mention international student loans. International student loans are available to help students cover the cost of their education so they can attend the US college or university of their choice.
With international student loans, students can borrow up to the total cost of their education minus any financial aid received. Our loans work for all nationalities, and students can apply from anywhere in the world including from their host country.
You can check what is available to you by using our international student loan comparison tool.
Interested in finding out about some common myths regarding international student loans?