Figuring out the financial aid system is one of the most important—and confusing—parts of the college application process for any student. For international students, the process is even more frustrating and bewildering. This article will seek to help you navigate this trying process.
In the United States, most of the financial aid is restricted to students who are from the United States or who are legal residents or hold green cards—this is all related to taxes and federal money. Don’t worry, though; there is aid available for international students, you just have to know how to look for it.
The amount of aid available varies widely from school to school. Some schools offer a large amount of aid for any student, while other schools offer aid for just international students.
The best way to make sure you have a full understanding of the financial aid offered by a certain school is to keep in contact with the school. Check the college’s website to find out what aid might be available; write e-mails; ask questions. Find out as much information as you can. You will most likely be asked to submit a statement from your parents with some documents from a bank (these may have to be translated into English).
Make sure you ask about your tax responsibility at the school that does give you scholarship money. You don’t want to think that you’re attending school at a discount or for free, only to discover that you have a tax bill at the end of the year.
You’ll also want to ask about any scholarship programs for international students that the school might offer. Some schools offer aggressive scholarship programs for international students; others only have very limited aid for international students. Some schools offer merit aid to international students, and others are need-based only. Scholarship programs vary widely from school to school, so you should check the financial aid and international student sections of college websites for specific information about each college in which you are interested.
After you have been admitted to a school (or several schools), the financial aid office at the school(s) will sent you an aid offer. This offer includes the types and amount of aid for which you are eligible. Because your financial aid package is created for you and based on the cost of attending a particular school, your aid amounts will vary according to school.
You can use this financial aid package to figure out your net price, or net cost, for each school to which you’ve been accepted, and decide which school will be most affordable for you.
First, you will need to find out the cost of attendance for your program. If the school doesn’t list the cost of attendance on your aid offer, you can ask the financial aid office for this information. Make sure the figure includes the amounts you will pay to the school directly, such as tuition and fees, as well as other costs, such as living expenses, books and supplies, and transportation.
Next, you need to subtract the grant and scholarship amounts on your aid offer from the cost of attendance amount, as well as any savings you have available to put toward your school costs for the school year. The amount that remains is your net or out-of-pocket cost.
The net costs is the amount of money you will have to pay out of your own pocket, using earnings from work or loan funds that you borrow. Compare the net costs for each school that you are considering to see which is the most affordable for you. Because your aid offer might include student loans, you should also consider the amount of debt you would be taking on at each school.
If you have any questions or don’t understand your aid offer, don’t hesitate to contact the school.