If you’re an international student applying to U.S. colleges, you may have noticed the “FAFSA” mentioned on school admissions and application materials. What is the FAFSA anyway? The FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and it is required of all U.S. citizens and permanent residents who wish to receive financial aid. If you are an international student, that is, NOT a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you should NOT fill out the FAFSA.
What you DO need to complete though, is what is commonly known as the “Certification of Finances” form, although it might go by other names such as “Financial Certification” form or “Affidavit of Financial Support.” There is no standardized format or name, but the basic requirements are the same. In addition to personal information, such as name, date of birth, address, etc., you will need to list out all of the sources of funding available for you to finance your U.S. education in the following categories: personal savings, parent savings, sponsorships, government scholarships, or other sources. You must provide evidence of enough funding to cover the school’s Cost of Attendance, which is an estimated amount set by the school to cover tuition and the associated costs of attending school, like housing, books, transportation, etc. for an entire academic year.
For each source of funding you list out, you will need to provide additional evidence, typically in the form of a bank statement or letter, certifying that these funds do indeed exist. Additionally, if you have another person or agency providing you with funding, you will usually need to have that person or agency sign the Certification of Finances form, attesting that they will provide you with the listed funds for your education.
After the Certification of Finances form and supporting documents are submitted, provided that you pass the school’s other admissions requirements, you will be able to receive an I-20 form, which will enable you to obtain a student visa and be on your way to studying in the U.S.!