Financial Aid for International Students

Written by

George D. Baker


August 14, 2014



For most students living in and out of the country, attending a college or university in the United States can be very expensive. It can be even more expensive, however, for international students to find the funds to enroll in college in the U.S.A.

Few universities have much funding set aside to help international students. In fact, most U.S. Colleges do not offer financial assistance to students from other countries at all. Furthermore, foreign students typically do not qualify for federal financial assistance, either, making financial aid funding for international students very hard to find. Even though financial aid opportunities for international students are few and far between, there are some options out there. Foreign students just need to spend more time doing research and to take these helpful points into account.

How Much Will Your College Experience Cost?

Before anything else, international students need to set some time aside to figure out roughly how much the yearly cost of studying in the U.S.–including the tuition expenses, fees, and room and board will be. Coming up with a rough estimate will definitely help international students prepare a much-needed budget and determine the amount of financial aid or funding that they need.

Considerations international students need to take into account:

  • Application fees Most schools charge $50 to $75
  • Entrance examinations Entrance exams cost around $100 to $200 for every examination, with most students taking a minimum of two tests. An estimate of about $500 per student is a good number.
  • Tuition and fees Tuition commonly costs between $5,000 and $30,000 every year, depending on the type of school.
  • Books and course materials Textbooks and supplemental materials can cost around $500 to $1,000 per year.
  • Housing Finding student housing can be expensive. Renting a dorm or finding an apartment typically costs between $3,000 and $7,500 every year.
  • Food Many students initially forget to account for this obviously necessary expense. Food can cost around $2,500 to $3,000 a year.
  • Health insurance Health insurance costs round $300 to $500 a year.
  • Unknown costs Additional personal expenses can cost at least $1,500 per year.

Sources for Funding for International Students

Home Country Assistance

Organizations in an international student’s home country sometimes offer financial assistance for students pursuing educational opportunities in the United States. Funding may be available from the government or sometimes from private agencies. Typically, this type of financial support comes with strings attached. Usually students who take advantage of this type of financial aid are required to return home to their home country after completing their higher education.

Financial Aid from the College You Will Attend

Some public and private colleges and universities offer financial incentives to encourage international students to attend their school. Most of this funding is available for graduate international students in the form of fellowships and assistantships. Financial aid offered by schools is commonly in the form of scholarships based on need and merit. Need-based programs are granted on predetermined financial need. Merit-based funding is very competitive, awarded based on special abilities and talents. Schools may offer these scholarships based on academic excellence, artistic skills, athletic ability, or sometimes even on examination scores. Certain academic departments may offer funding to international students who demonstrate exceptional talent or need. International students should consult with representatives in their major department to obtain information about special funding opportunities. Be warned in advance: private schools are much more likely to offer financial aid than public or state universities. Additionally, some U.S. institutions have direct exchange programs with schools in other countries. These programs include financial aid for international students. Get on the web and search for these opportunities! They’re out there!

Scholarships and Grants

Most scholarships are available only to citizens and permanent residents of the United States, but there are some scholarship opportunities out there for international students. Private scholarships are available from international organizations, like the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the Organization of American States. Additionally, Fulbright scholarships are awarded to graduate students worldwide. Applicants must take a GRE or GMAT examination and the TOEFL exam.

It is necessary to conduct a thorough search through scholarship databases to locate the additional scholarships for international study. International students need to be wary of fraudulent scholarship scams that are specifically targeted at those eager to attend college in the United States. So you know in advance, no scholarship should require individuals to send money or provide bank account or credit card information.

Looking for a scholarship? Research over 250 scholarship opportunities by visiting our scholarships section. There is over $150 million in scholarship funding available across different majors and levels of study. 


While rare, there are some loans available for international students who meet specific criteria. Though its a long shot, a small number of banks in the U.S. will offer loans to international students if they have a cosigner that is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. These loans commonly target international students from certain countries. Examples include Credila Financial Services, International Student Loan Program (ISLP), and the TERI Professional Education Plan. Now is the time to contact any friends or family you may know in the United States and beg them to give you financial assistance. Hopefully you won’t have to resort to that, however. You won’t if you follow all of these tips and start early!

Written by:  George D. Baker

George D. Baker is a long-time contributor to College Mouse. Now retired, Mr. Baker volunteers at adult education programs in his local community.

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