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      The process International students can go through to attain Financial Aid towards their U.S. education can be arduous at best. So here, we show you a Financial Aid step by step application process, applicant prerequisites, and finally, some resourceful ways to find that pot of gold: Financial Aid.

Compile a list of funding sources. You may find that you are eligible for a wide range of funding based on your field of study, country of origin, area of research, gender, and/or academic qualifications. Researching for funding sources you are eligible for can take up a lot of time. You may need to read through lists of several hundred scholarships as well as finding other Financial Aid opportunities before you find one or two for which you are eligible. However, that one scholarship/Financial Aid award may provide you with tuition and living expenses for the year.

Apply to college much earlier than domestic applicant deadlines. International applications usually should be in earlier than domestic (U.S.) because of extra paperwork, like release of International funds for payment and because most institutions want verification of all methods of payment (from the International student) for entire length of enrollment. Without payment verification, they will not issue an I-20 form, which is an application for both an F-1 (full-time student) visa and an M-1 (technical school student) visa.

Get Financial Aid application forms. Youíll need to fill out a "Certificate of Finances" (which verifies ALL methods of payment throughout entire four years) and either the "Foreign Student Financial Aid Application" (like "Certificate of Finances", is published by CSS and attained through your high school counselor/college Financial Aid office) or the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form (which can be attained at the Web site of The U.S Department of Education). Check with the Financial Aid office of your desired institution to see which form they do accept.

Research the specifics of writing successful Financial Award applications. Remember that award applications have a certain format just like a curriculum vitae/resume or a research papers does.

Prepare a professional application. Create a time frame for your application process: Be aware of the deadlines for each award. Allow yourself enough time to write several drafts of your portion of the application. Give a draft to a native English speaker for review. Give the people who will be writing your recommendations plenty of time as well (you most likely will need 3 or 4 recommendations). Mail complete, neat, clear, concise and well-organized applications that will arrive well before the deadline.

Assess all methods of payment for your education. You should assess all methods of payment for the entire four years. Not only is this important for the college to know, but this is necessary in order to attain a student visa. During the visa application process, you need to verify all methods of payment by completing the appropriate form and submitting it (along with visa application and passport) to your US Embassy or Consulate. The documents you need are: an "Affidavit of Support" form which verifies your sources of college financing (you can get this through your U.S. embassy or consulate), and a Form I-20A-B if youíre applying for an F-1 (full-time student) visa OR a Form I-20M-N if you're applying for an M-1 (technical school student) visa. Both these forms are issued by the college. If youíre applyiing as an exchange student, you need to fill out an IAP-66 form for a J-1 (exchange student) visa. The IAP-66 form is issued by the organization or U.S. Government agency that is sponsoring you.

Look into Health Insurance. If youíre on a J-1 (exchange student) visa , you must have health insurance before enrolling. If youíre without, not to fear, you can take advantage of the universityís health insurance program, which can be fairly reasonable.

Prerequisites for International Students seeking aid. Applicants seeking aid from the college should either really show Financial Aid need and/or have a strong academic record, because colleges generally award Financial Aid to International students sparingly. For instance, institutions like Stanford only issue Financial Aid to about 40 International applicants a year.

Having a reliable American co-signer is usually required (good backup for the International applicant with bad, little or no credit history).

Plan to be a full-time student. Most Financial Aid is given to students enrolled with a 12 or more credit load during a semester.

If you have any of the following immigration documents or a "Green Card" (which entitles you to most of the rights of a permanent U.S. citizen), you are eligible to apply for Federal Financial Aid:
  • I-551 (the new Green Card, replaces the I-151), or I-688 (Temporary Residency card).
  • I-797 (Employment Authorization) along with approved Immigrant visa.
  • I-94 (Departure Record) which is for asylum, refugee status, "indefinite" parole, humanitarian parole, and immigrants from Haiti or Cuba.
If you donít have these documents yet, contact your embassy for the necessary applications, like the I-90 form for a Green Card.

What you can do Now and in the Future. Call your own embassy and find out what scholarship/aid information is available. Embassies tend to have more one-year stipends than funding for multi-year study.

Check out the Web site of your desired college to see what they do offer.

Discuss Financial Aid planning with the campus Financial Aid Officer/International Student Advisor of your desired university.

You can contact the Foreign Service Council: International Student Resource Center. The Foreign Service Council is located in Washington, D.C. Their address is 2337 18th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009 and phone number is (202) 232-4979.

You can contact the Foreign Service Council: International Student Resource Center. An organization that is a good resource for Financial Aid information is NAFSA, the Association of International Educators, located in Washington, DC. The Financial Aid for Foreign Nationals Studying in the United States section of the NAFSA Web site provides some valuable information for the International applicant.

The Financial Aid for International Students section of the site provides very informative information about Financial Aid resources for International students.

There is an alphabetical listing (albeit not very extensive) of what some colleges do offer in International student Financial Aid available through Grove (The CIRCA Unix Computers at the University of Florida).

The International Student section of has a great list of scholarships for International students (even has a special link for Canadians seeking scholarships).

To find out about getting a visa, check out the Getting a visa section at Study in the USAís Web site. Study in the USA also offers information for the International student about universities and colleges in the USA and intensive English Language schools and programs.

A student can be awarded the opportunity to work a part-time job (to help finance their education) within the school based on being financially eligible according to federal and university policies. This is a good thing to try for since the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) has strict regulations that prohibit foreign students from working off-campus in their first year. This does not apply to exchange students though, who may work off campus under limited circumstances provided they have obtained prior written authorization from the Responsible Officer. Their employment does not require additional permission from INS. Check with the Financial Aid office of your desired institution about work-study opportunities.

To find about job opportunities for International students in the U.S., check out the International Resources page at (first year students should check out work-study opportunities).

Transfer students should check out study abroad/exchange student programs, which can provide a full or partial waiver of tuition or fees. For info on these programs, check with the study abroad office of your current university (also check out

Financial Aid for Graduate Study Foreign graduate students have significantly more opportunities for Financial Aid than foreign undergraduate students. The amount of Financial Aid for foreign graduate students is nevertheless quite limited.

Most support for graduate study in the US by International students is provided by the schools themselves in the form of teaching assistantships and research assistantships. These assistantships are based on academic merit, not financial need. There is very little Financial Aid for International students available from private sources.

Nevertheless, check with both the relevant department(s) and the university's Financial Aid Office about Financial Aid programs for International graduate students.

Some Final Tips International Students should look first to their home country for Financial Aid - since many countries will assist students in their studies if they are going into fields that are of "critical need" - such as certain technological fields, medical fields, and educational fields. It varies greatly from country-to-country, and of course can require they return to their home country and work for a predetermined length of time.

Finally, donít wait till the last minute to look for Financial Aid. Since finding it can be a difficult process, youíre most likely to get Financial Aid if you do some research early, even before applying to college. Persevere in your pursuit, and the reward can be yours!

  FASTaiD© 1998 CEE       All rights reserved. Do not copy or redistribute in any form.         Mail: Editor