Financial Aid

Need-based financial aid is different from merit-based scholarships.

International students (non-citizens) are not eligible for the federal aid that US citizens receive.  Very few US schools offer need-based aid for international students, and the competition for that aid is strong. Check with each school or college on their admissions and/or financial aid web pages for required documents and deadlines.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q:  What does a school mean when they say they are need blind or need aware?
A: “Need-blind” means that a college admits students on the basis of academic and personal promise, without regard to their ability to pay.  Many need-blind colleges also offer to meet 100% of need.  But need-blind for admission does not automatically mean that a college will meet an international student's need after they are admitted.  Double-check that the stated policy applies to international students.
  • Need is determined by institutional formula and is different at each college.  There may be several different forms and documents to determine family need.
  • The CSS PROFILE, found at the College Board website, is used by many universities to determine aid for international students.

Q:  What is meant by proof of funding, Financial affidavits, and Declaration of finances certification forms (DCF).
A: Proof of funding serves several purposes, the primary one being to prove that a student can meet the cost of attendance at a particular college or university and is therefore eligible for a student visa.  It may also be required as part of a request for financial aid.

  • A number of institutions don’t need to see a Declaration of finances certification forms (DCF) -- sometimes called a Financial Affidavit -- and bank statements until the student is admitted and wishes to enroll.  However, many colleges ask for these documents at the time of application.  These policies are institution-specific. Research them carefully.
  • Many individual institutions require their own forms and don't accept the generic College Board form.
  • Bank Statements:  Research the greatest cost of attendance among the universities of interest in order to prove that the student can afford the most expensive institution on their list. Advise students to obtain multiple original copies from their family's banks* in August - no earlier - along with a few extras, and to return to school in the fall with these copies.  Statements should be recent and many colleges/universities will not accept them if they're more than, for example, six months old.  Additional documentation may be required prior to admission, at the time of the I-20 transfer.  Some schools may require proof of funding for more than one year.
*Or from their own account, in rarer cases where the funds are held in the student's name
Q: How does an international student qualify for financial aid? 
A:  It is difficult for international students to qualify for financial aid or student loans. There are few institutions that offer financial assistance and the number of awards is limited. The range of aid can vary from an application fee waiver to almost full assistance. Some scholarship opportunities are offered to only current, not new, international students. 
Q:  How does an international student qualify for merit scholarships? 
A:  Individual institutions determine student eligibility for merit scholarship awards. Some will offer a small number to international students while others don’t offer any awards. It is best for the student to inquire at each university in which s/he is interested.
Q:  Can international students file for FAFSA? Are international students eligible for US federal financial aid? 
A:  Generally, international students cannot file FAFSA nor are they eligible for federal financial aid. The exceptions are those students with permanent residency (green card), dual citizenship in the U.S., or designated refugee/asylum seekers. International students who are applying for a green card cannot file FAFSA until the green card is issued.
Q:  How can an international student obtain total or close to total funding? 
A:  It is extremely difficult to find total or close to total funding for an international student's education in the US. The level of financial generosity varies by college and university, and the source of funding can be alumni and other donors who endow scholarships for this purpose. But obtaining funding is not impossible if the student has an excellent academic record or has a unique talent.
Q:  Do you have tips on how best to procure bank statements and parents’ signatures for financial aid materials when the parents live abroad? How early do you recommend trying to collect these materials? 
A:  For colleges, the financial information documentation must be relatively current, with specific parameters varying by institution. As counselors, you should alert parents to this part of the process early in the fall of the senior year.  Show them examples of the forms and statements needed.  Have instructions translated or explained into their native language if possible, as this process can be very confusing and alarming to parents.  Cultural issues come to the forefront here when it comes to disclosing sources of funds to strangers. 



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