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U.S. Study with U.S. Funding? YES!

Want to study in the U.S., but think you’ll never be able to afford it?

Let’s crunch some numbers together:  723,277; 7.7 billion; 4,900. Can you read the story they tell? Here are the amazing facts:  this year, 723,277 international students enrolled on undergrad and graduate programs at approximately 4,900 accredited colleges, universities, and institutes in the U.S. They received $7.7 billion in financial aid from their schools. The information comes from the latest reports released by the Institute of International Education/IIE and NAFSA: The Association of International Educators, two of the world's largest nonprofit organizations dedicated to international study.

With U.S. study programs tagged at $20,000-60,000/year, how come these international students were able to get the funding they needed?

In our experience at EducationUSA Romania, for international students who cannot afford paying for their U.S. education, most of the funding for U.S. study may come from U.S. university scholarships, grant programs in their home countries, like the Fulbright grants, plus some loan opportunities.

Many international students from this part of Europe receive a comprehensive financial aid package from their U.S. schools. As a rule, they start the application process early and approach it with gusto, work closely with their EducationUSA centers, and tend to excel in school and outside school. Some qualified students, mainly at the graduate level, get full rides - with the U.S. school covering all annual costs, that is tuition and living expenses. Depending on how much you are able to invest in your education, there will be several financial aid opportunities available.

If you need financial aid, when you browse university websites, look for:

Graduate level
  • Fellowships
  • Assistantships: research,
    teaching, admin
  • Tuition remission
  • Loans

Undergraduate level

  • Merit-based aid
  • Need-based aid
  • Sports scholarships (if applicable)
  • Campus employment
  • Loans

Financial support is generally offered for one year of study and is renewed based on academic performances. Some schools automatically consider students for merit-based funding. In other cases, a separate application is required, so make sure your admissions information is well-organized and meets all the deadlines.

A few words now on some types of financial aid available for international students at U.S. universities:

Merit scholarships, assistantships, and fellowships are awarded based on outstanding academic and/or extracurricular achievements, special talents, etc. with no regard to your financial need. Presidential or Dean’s scholarships are good examples of merit scholarships for undergraduate students. For graduate study, teaching, research, and admin assistantships help international students pursue a graduate program while working for the department for up to 20 hours per week. In recognition of the student’s contribution, the department will, in most cases, waive their tuition partially or totally and offer them a stipend to cover living expenses.

Undergraduate need-based scholarships are granted based on demonstrated financial need of a student’s family. The amount of aid available to international students varies from one institution to another. In our Romanian experience, merit-based scholarships have proved significantly more productive to international applicants than need-based ones.  Need-blind scholarships are a particular instance of need-based aid. In this case, the applicant’s financial situation has no bearing on the admissions decisions. Hundreds of U.S. higher learning institutions provide comprehensive financial aid to competitive applicants, including internationals. To name just a few, Grinnell College, University of Richmond, University of Pennsylvania, Middlebury College, Colby College, Hamilton College, Amherst College, Vassar College, Swarthmore College, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, MIT, Princeton University, Yale University, and New York University Abu Dhabi.

Working for the university will also earn you money, depending on the number of hours per week (max. 20 during school, max. 40 during vacations) and type of activity.  Undergrad campus jobs usually bring in around $2,500-3,000 per year. Campus jobs at undergrad level are commonly offered in the university bookstore, library, cafeteria, administrative offices, sports center etc. Graduate students usually take on assistantship positions. Campus jobs are an exciting part of the U.S. study experience: they get you closer to your community on campus and help you acquire valuable skills!

Study loans are sometimes included in the financial aid package. The terms tend to be student-friendly. Make sure you and your family read the paperwork closely and note the time you’ll have to repay your loan, if there’s a grace period after graduation, etc.

Fulbright grants are also an exciting option, usually for graduate study. Fulbright programs offer full funding for international students to engage in grad or post-doc programs at U.S. universities. Head to http://foreign.fulbrightonline.org/ to learn if there are any Fulbright opportunities in your country.

In terms of other non-U.S. university funding, although this source of funding is limited, it’s definitely worth looking into private sponsorships or foundation aid in your home country early on to make sure that you are aware of all the funding opportunities available.

In your search for U.S. admissions and financial aid, careful advance research and realistic expectations are most likely to result in success. It’s never too early to start searching for schools where you’ll get the U.S. education you need for the future you want, plus the financial assistance your application inspires. Best of luck!

This article was contributed by the EducationUSA office of the Fulbright Commission in Bucharest, Romania. EducationUSA’s 470+ Advising Centers affiliated with the U.S. Department of State operate in 170+ countries around the globe and offer free counseling and resources for smart admissions in the USA. Get in touch with the EducationUSA Advising Center closest to you early on in the admissions process for a U.S. successful application strategy! Find your EducationUSA center at www.educationusa.info/centers.php.

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