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Articles / Applying to College / Aid for International Early Action Applicant?

Oct. 11, 2013

Aid for International Early Action Applicant?

Question: I am an international student from Myanmar who has decided to apply for universities using the Early Action. I am confused because I don't know what financial aid is available for international students. If you could tell me the financial aids available for international students, you'd be helping me with a major headache! Thanks for your help in advance!

There is little consistency in the US admission and financial aid process. You have to go on each institution's Web site and search for financial aid information that is specific to international students and often it can be a “major headache" indeed to find the right pages. Here are some examples:

GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: http://uadmissions.georgetown.edu/international/#FAin

STANFORD UNIVERSITY:http://admission.stanford.edu/application/international/

I don't know which schools currently interest you, but there are some that have no aid at all for international students and there are some (e.g., MIT, Cal Tech) that do have aid for internationals but don't permit international students to apply in the Early Action round if financial aid is required. So, as noted above, you must read each Web site carefully to see what the policy is at the colleges that interest you.

If you do an Internet search for “aid for international students+doug thompson .pdf" you will get a link to a list (now several years old) that includes many—but not all—of the US institutions that provide financial aid to international students. From this document you can also get a general idea of which colleges offer a lot of aid and which offer very little.

You can also seek this information on a college-by-college basis by using the College Board Web site. First go to http://www.collegeboard.org/Then type in the name of the college that interests you. Next, click on “For International Students" on the left-hand menu. You will see the annual amount that the university spends on aid to international students and the number of students who receive it. If there are no figures listed, it could mean that the college offers no aid to international applicants, but you should check that school's Web site to confirm. Of course, when you see the total amount of aid awarded and the number of students who receive it, it's impossible to tell whether some students receive a lot of that aid while others receive only a small amount. But at least this will give you an approximate sense of whether the college seems to be fairly generous to international applicants.

No matter where you are applying, please be aware that it is very difficult for international students to get financial aid. Your best bet is to apply to colleges and universities where your grades and standardized test scores put you well above the typical admitted freshman. If you are aiming for the most selective colleges in the US (e.g., Ivy League schools, MIT, Stanford, etc.), you should have not only outstanding grades and test scores but also something else that sets you apart. This “something else" could be a unique talent in science, arts, sports, and so on OR it could be an unusual background. (Perhaps you grew up very poor and overcame significant obstacles or, conversely, maybe you grew up very rich and had extraordinary experiences because of it.)

Many international students seem focused on only the short list of US colleges and universities that are most well known. But because financial aid is so competitive, it would be wise to keep an open mind and explore broader options, too.

Finally, keep in mind that Early Action is not “binding," meaning that a student who is accepted via EA is not obligated to enroll. Thus, admission officials usually admit only the strongest candidates in the Early Action round because they don't want to save a space for a solid but not stellar student who may not show up anyway. So if you are deferred but not denied in the Early Action process, don't be discouraged. Be sure to notify admission officials that you are still eager to attend and send an update with new grades, accomplishments, etc. before your application is reviewed again. Admission officials can be especially wary of accepting international students who need aid via Early Action, before they have a chance to view the entire applicant pool.

Good luck!

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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