Paying for College

Financial Aid for International Student

Question: I am an international student who wants to go to college in the USA. I have no money and want my major to be business administration. What steps should I take?

It is difficult--but still possible--for international students to receive financial aid from US colleges and universities. This is because the colleges cannot rely on US government money for assistance (as they can with domestic candidates) and must thus fund international students using their own resources. A small handful of colleges are "need blind" for international applicants (meaning that they do not consider financial need when making admission decisions but will then provide aid to those who require it). The last Web site mentioned below includes a list of need-blind schools.


In the vast majority of cases, however, colleges that provide aid to international students will do so ONLY WHEN THE STUDENT'S PROFILE IS SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER THAN THAT OF THEIR TYPICAL ADMITTED STUDENT. In other words, to get $$$ as an international student, your SATs, GPA, etc. must be FAR STRONGER than they would have to be, if you weren't looking for financial assistance. (If you have not yet taken the SAT or registered to do so, that should be your first step. Go to: http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/sat/about.html . Also, if your native language--or the language of instruction in your high school--is NOT English, you will have to submit a TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score. See: http://www.ets.org/toefl/ )

To begin your hunt for appropriate colleges, here are a couple of search tools you can use:

First, try the College Board online search mechanism.

Click on "College MatchMaker," which you'll see on the left side of the page, just below where it says "College QuickFinder."

Next, respond to the series of questions that follow. You'll be asked about various preferences (two-year vs. four-year school, location, size, etc.) and then about choices of majors and other activities. Look for the question under the "Cost and Financial Aid" heading that says, "Find colleges that offer financial aid for international students." Be sure to check it.

Once you've responded to all of the questions on the form, hit "Results." At that point, you should have a list of colleges to investigate further. If the search nets no target schools for you, then go back to the questionnaire and broaden some of your choices and try again.

Hint: You should try this search two ways. The first time, under "Academics" enter your REAL SAT scores and GPA and see which colleges land on the "Results" list. Then try the questionnaire again, but--this time--enter grades and test results that are LOWER than yours. If you can generate a list of colleges that offer aid to international students and whose typical entering student has statistics well below yours, then you have identified the colleges that will be most likely to give you aid.

Another place to look for possible college matches is here: http://www.internationalcounselor.org/College%20program/the%20list.htm

At the very bottom, you'll see colleges that may fully fund international students. Some of these (e.g., Reed, Franklin and Marshall, Colby) are quite prestigious. Some are not. You might want to investigate all of them (note, however, that Smith is for women only). Keep in mind that the less selective the college, the greater your chances will be.

Expect disappointments, but be persisent. Good luck.