Expert advice from a Cialfo Community webinar featuring two US Directors of International Admissions and a veteran counselor
There are so many things to consider when it comes to deciding on your university, and finances are a big part of it. The cost of tuition, student accommodation and other living expenses can add up. US universities have a financial aid system that can seem complex, especially for international students.
Schools in the US generally fall under three categories when it comes to financial aid in the admissions process:
The admissions office does not know how much financial aid the student needs. Out of the thousands of colleges and universities in the US, there are only about 100 institutions that have a need-blind policy.
The college has access to a student's financial situation, and some or even all of the decisions made will factor in how much financial help a student will need. The admissions process will not be affected by their financial need up to a certain threshold.
In this case, the college meets 100% of the student’s financial need, but the aid may constitute largely of student loans, which might not be ideal.
It's easy to confuse being need-blind with meeting full need, but these are not always related. There are only 7 institutions in the US who are need-blind and will meet 100% of that need!
Financial aid can be further split into 2 categories:
This is aid that students need to repay, or earn themselves, with assistance from the college. It includes campus employment and student loans.
This consists of grants and scholarships that are given to students with no requirements of repayment.
Cost of attendance is the general sum of expenses the international student will incur while studying at the college. This estimate is used to calculate the amount of financial aid the student will receive.
Cost of attendance includes:
In addition to these costs, there may be some school- and course- specific expenses such as seismic fees, meal plan administration fees, academic activities fees and fees for student services.
Once the cost of attendance is calculated, schools will calculate the expected family contribution to determine the student’s financial need. This is done by factoring in the amount of money the family has, the number of members in the family, and how many members in the family are in university.
The formula for calculating financial need is as follows:
Using financial need, schools then determine the amount of aid provided to the student. The amount of aid, as well as how much of it constitutes student loans, varies from school to school.
The next important thing students need to take note of would be the documentation and deadlines of the application process. There are three main forms used to apply for financial aid:
The CSS Profile costs $25 for one college, and an additional $16 for each additional college, while the other forms are free. The forms used vary from school to school, so it’s important to carry out research on which form to use.
Following this, there are two additional documents students must submit:
During the application process, bear in mind these important deadlines:
Applying for financial aid is by no means a simple process. Here are some resources students can use to get more in-depth information into the entire process:
Image credits: Dollar Gill and Dmitry Demidko
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