Financial Aid Options for International Students

Financial aid options are limited for international students, especially if they are not citizens of Canada or Mexico. Most US federal and private student loans, grants and scholarships are restricted to US citizens and permanent residents. However, there are a few student aid options that are available to international students. They are usually scholarships, fellowships and other types of financial awards. All are fairly competitive, but they are well worth it, since they go a long way towards lessening the international students' financial burden.

Financial Aid from the Students' Country of Origin

First and foremost, international students should consider student aid options in their respective native countries. Many governments provide scholarships for students who choose to study in United States. In many cases, a student must agree to work toward a certain major (usually some sort of economics-related major) in order to qualify for this type of student aid. For more information about this program, students should consult the cultural section of the website of their nation's American embassy or contact whichever body of government is in charge of education.

Alternatively, international students may be able to get aid from their country's businesses, foundations, social and/or religious groups and other organizations.

Financial Aid from International Organizations

Many international organizations will provide scholarships for international students. Such organizations include the United Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS), AMIDEAST, the International Maritime Organization, the International Telecommunications Union, the League of Red Cross Societies, the Soros Foundation, the World Health Organization, and the World Council of Churches, among others.

International students will usually need to apply for those scholarships while they are still living in their native countries, before they travel to United States to study. It is worth noting that many of their student aid programs are usually geared towards graduate students.

Financial Aid from the Fulbright Program

Fulbright Program is a student aid program sponsored by the US Department of State. It is largely geared toward students with undergraduate degrees or higher. While the program is fairly flexible, it is also one of the most exclusive. Out of millions of applicants, only several thousand international students throughout the world receive grants through Fulbright program every year.

The requirements vary depending on the grant issued, but they usually include passing scores in Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE), as well as letters of recommendation. For more information, students should consult Fulbright program website for their country of residence.

Financial Aid from US Educational Institutions

Some American colleges and universities may be willing to offer grants to undergraduate and graduate students. However, the value of those  grants does not usually exceed 1/5 of the cost of attendance. Furthermore, the schools that give out financial aid to international students have strict caps on how many students may get the grants any given year. In some cases, it's as low as fifteen. While it's better than nothing, it still requires international students who manage to get it to find some other form of aid to fully cover their educational expenses.

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