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International, and in Need: Financial Aid for International Students in the US

Applying to US Colleges, be it private or public, can be a nerve-wracking ordeal because it is high-stakes and time-consuming. More importantly, choosing a university in the US can be stressful because tuition costs are extremely high. While US citizens are often eligible for many funding schemes should their families prove unable to bear such costs, international students who need financial aid may find themselves in a tough spot.

If you are getting your US college list in order and you are an international student, then it would be advised that you strategically choose the schools you apply to if you know you may not afford to pay full tuition. Here are some key considerations in crafting such a strategy!

Need-blind Colleges

When researching a university’s financial aid policy for international students, you will frequently come across “need-blind” colleges. If a university describes itself as need-blind for international applicants, that means your decision to ask for financial aid will not impact your chances of being admitted.

Be aware, however: universities that are not need-blind will look at you differently as an applicant if you indicate that you need financial aid! Need-blind colleges though, typically, segregate their admissions and financial aid applications, meaning a student’s need will not be seen by the admissions team.

In fact, quite a few colleges in the US have become need-blind for international students, and more are introducing this policy as time goes by. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  1. Babson College
  2. Georgetown University
  3. Pomona College
  4. Tulane University
  5. University of Illinois
  6. University of Miami
  7. University of North Carolina

Need-aware Colleges

Just because a college is need-blind, however, does not mean that international students will receive all of the demonstrated financial assistance they require. International students who apply to colleges that are only need-blind may still come up short and would need to pay some expenses out-of-pocket.

That’s why prospective internationals should look out for another term – need-aware (or full-need) universities – while applying. Need-aware simply means that should a student be accepted and demonstrate they require financial aid, the university is committed to meet 100% of the financial assistance needed.

Be careful, however! Universities may be need-aware for internationals, but that in no way means they are automatically need-blind as well. Thus, if you apply to a university that is need-aware, you may still be penalized during the admissions process for requiring aid.

Which colleges, then, are your best options for maximizing chances of admission and gaining financial aid to your satisfaction? You would have to look at the rather short, but great list of universities that are both need-blind and need-aware:

  1. Amherst College
  2. Harvard College
  3. MIT
  4. Minerva Schools at KGI
  5. NYU Abu Dhabi
  6. Princeton University
  7. Yale College
  8. Yale-NUS College

The Application Process

If you are an international student who has to apply for financial aid, you will most likely do so using the CSS Profile application on Collegeboard.org. Alternatively, some universities may have their own application portals, and that will be something to look out for when you are filling up your application schedule!

The CSS Profile will ask you questions about your family’s finances – property owned, earnings in the past fiscal years, shares owned, etc. Be sure to collate such information in advance before starting to fill out the CSS Profile. Usually, the financial aid application is due slightly later than the rest of the application, but it differs based on university. Colleges may allow you to submit your financial aid application slightly later on a case-by-case basis, but that may also mean you will receive the amount of aid offered later than your admissions offer.

The amount of aid one may receive is often calculated based on a family’s earnings, but it varies from college to college. Harvard, Princeton and Yale pledge to cover all of tuition for students whose families earn less than $65,000 per year, whereas other universities do not specify this so explicitly.

Navigating all the information regarding financial aid for international students is quite tricky. Before committing to your prospective college list, make sure you go through their websites looking for those need-blind and/or need-aware specifications if you are in need of financial aid!