There is limited financial aid for foreign nationals to study in the US, with the possible exception of citizens of Canada and Mexico.
Most grants, scholarships, and loans from public and private sources are restricted to US citizens and permanent residences. U.S. government student loans are not available to international students. Only two percent of all international students in the United States receive any funding from the U.S. government.
Certain agencies of the U.S. and foreign governments offer scholarships to international students. U.S. government funding comes only in the form of assistantships, fellowships, and awards programs. Colleges and universities provide funding through scholarships, grants, and fellowships, although these are limited and most are for graduate-level students.
Websites for additional information for international students
- Guide to Study in the USA
- International Education Financial Aid
- Association for International Educators
Sources of Financial Aid
Because sources of financial aid to study in the US are extremely limited, you will have to be resourceful and explore every possibility. In addition to the sources listed below, we recommend searching the FastWeb database, because it is free and has good coverage of the awards available for international students. To discover what is available, search some of the free scholarship and fellowship databases listed on the FinAid site. Be aware that fee-based scholarship matching services often do not have any listings of awards for international students. Most awards listed in these databases are restricted to US citizens and permanent residents.
ScholarshipsCanada.com is a large searchable database of more than 17,000 scholarships, prizes, and bursaries for students in Canada. It includes both school-administered and private awards. ScholarshipsCanada.com is published by EDge Interactive, 3470 Pharmacy Ave., Toronto, Ontario M1W 2S7, Canada, phone 416-494-3343, fax 416-494-0949.
GrantSearch Australia offers customised keyword searches of a database containing over 1,400 grants, scholarships, fellowships and awards available in Australia. The cost is AUD45 + AUD5 postage (approximately US$40).
International Education Financial Aid site contains a free searchable database of 870 scholarships and awards for international students. Most are restricted to use at specific universities.
SOS Stöd & Stipendier AB (SOS AB) is a Swedish-based scholarship and grant search service, serving primarily European students who wish to study abroad. They also serve American students who want to study in Europe or in the Pacific region (Australia, NZ, Far East). They also do grant searches for institutions and associations with international activities.
Aid from Your Home Country
One of the best sources of financial aid to study in the US is organizations in your own country. The nearest educational advising center may have information about local sources of support.
Your own government may have financial aid available. (Usually this support requires that you return home after your education is complete.) There may also be private organizations in your home country that provide support for study in the US. Businesses, foundations, and religious groups might have funds available.
Aid from the US Government
Please note that the US government student assistance programs, including the Pell Grant, Stafford and PLUS loans, and work-study programs, are not available to international students.
There may, however, be aid available from the US government for students from specific countries. Your best bet for finding out if there is any financial aid from the US for students from your country is to contact your embassy, the US Department of State, and the US Information Agency. You should also write to the Agency for International Development, Office of International Training, Washington, DC 20523.
Aid from US Educational Institutions
Some US schools have direct exchange programs with their counterparts in foreign countries. Such exchange programs often include financial aid for the international student. To find out about these programs, ask your local university.
Assistance from Your Family
More than two-thirds of international students in the US finance their education using their own resources and the resources of their family. Less than 20% of the financial aid comes from US sources.
So you are most likely going to have to rely on your own assets, your parent’s money, and contributions from relatives.
Teaching and Research Assistantships
Teaching and research assistantships are available at some universities for graduate students who assist an instructor with specific tasks in exchange for financial aid. Eligibility for such assistantships usually is based on academic merit or previous experience, background, and training, not on financial need. Assistantships may not cover all expenses, so you might need additional financial resources.
Working in the United States
Working in the United States is sometimes possible, but U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) regulations strictly prohibit international students from working off-campus in their first year. The rules also impose restrictions beyond the first year. Do not expect to be able to finance your study by working while studying in the United States.
Loans from some commercial banks require approval from a school’s financial aid office and proof of the creditworthiness of both the student and a co-borrower who must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Loan fees are very expensive; therefore, international students should use them only as last resorts.
Schools with Financial Aid for International Undergraduate Students
Some US schools are more likely than others to offer financial aid for international undergraduate students.