According to the Institute of International Education, almost 820,000 international students attended college in the US during the 2012/2013 school year. Interestingly, 49 percent of these students came from South Korea, India and China. However, regardless of their home nation, many international students need to seek financial aid in order to attend the U.S. college of their choice. Fortunately, there are multiple options available to help students meet their goal.

Can International Students Receive Assistance from the U.S. Government?

In most cases, foreign citizens are not eligible to receive financial aid from the U.S. government. It is important to note that there are some exceptions, and this makes it vital to fully explore all available options before completely ruling out the possibility of government assistance. For example, U.S. nationals and individuals who have an applicable Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) or a T-visa may qualify for federal student aid.

What Are the Best Ways to Find Financial Aid?

There are many different ways for students to look for scholarships and other forms of financial aid online. For example, Education USA offers a five step guide to help international students with the entire application process. Additionally, you can utilize a scholarship search to look through a list of more than 7,000 opportunities that are sorted by award type, residence, study level and affiliation restrictions. It is also a good idea to speak with the consulate or embassy of your home country to learn about other options because your government might offer financial assistance to citizens who are planning to go to the U.S. for college.

Will the School of My Choice Have a Big Impact on Aid Options?

There were almost 345 ranked colleges in the U.S. that each offered a minimum of 50 international undergraduates financial assistance in the 2012-2013 school year. In other words, there is financial aid available for international students, but you need to pay close attention to the colleges that make it more readily available. For example, Harvard University provided scholarships to 530 international students with an average amount of $52,578 in 2012-2013. Yale University came in second place that school year with 347 scholarships, and a total of six ranked colleges provided more than 100 international students with at least $50,000 in aid.

Scholarships and Loans

By their very definition, scholarships provide students with free financial assistance for college that does not need to be paid back. On the other hand, loans often accrue a high interest rate, and this can make it difficult for students to repay everything in a timely manner. Fortunately, if you are unable to qualify for a scholarship to the school of your choice, you might be able to receive assistance through the Aga Khan Foundation. This group works with students in 24 countries to help them achieve their educational goals by awarding a 50 percent scholarship grant and 50 percent loan to each eligible individual. This is definitely a good way to reduce your expenses, and all students who live in qualifying countries should consider taking a look at this option if they are unable to get a full scholarship from another resource.

As you can see, international students do have a lot of options to help them pay for college, but you need to be willing to put in the time and effort to take advantage of each potential opportunity. Students might also be interested in determining which schools have the highest percentage of international students. Keep in mind that this can present you with multiple pros and cons, especially when you consider that a larger international student body will mean that there are more people competing for the available student aid.

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