Financial Aid Tips from Admissions Officers

In some recent interviews, admissions officers from U.S. colleges have been explaining how schools provide financial aid to international students. Their biggest message? It varies. A lot.

Here’s one approach, explained by a representative from Mount Holyoke College:

Eric Furda, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, told U.S. News and World Report that international students applying for financial aid need to consider a few questions as they research universities.

First, he said, students should ask:

Will applying for aid as a non-U.S. citizen or permanent resident impact my admissions decision?

A few schools are need-blind, which means they don’t factor financial aid needs into their admissions decisions, but most are “need-sensitive.”

Katryna A. Swartwout Ryan, associate dean of admissions at Colgate University, explained to the New York Times how financial aid gets factored into admissions decisions at a need-sensitive school:

We use the financial aid resources we have to admit and aid the strongest students from around the world, but since there is not an infinite amount of aid available we reach a point in the admission process where we are unable to admit any more students who require financial aid. Students who don’t require aid are not vying for the same limited resources.

The second question international students need to ask themselves, according to Eric Furda, is:

If admitted, what will my financial aid package look like from the perspective of grants, loans, and any potential gap to meet the full cost of attending the school?

As we’ve pointed out many times, the amount of financial aid available to international students varies widely from school to school.

[Check out some resources for finding out how much aid may be available at a school]

But what can also vary is how this aid is offered. Katrina A. Swartwout Ryan pointed out a number of elements to be aware of, including:

1. Whether the school offers merit-based aid, need-based aid, or both
2. How much of your demonstrated need they will meet
3. Whether you reapply for aid each year or keep your initial aid package

She also explained how her own university approaches each of the questions. Take a look at her full interview and compare Colgate’s approach to that of Mount Holyoke to see some of the ways these differences can play out.

» For more useful tips, see our previous article: Visa Tips From Visa Officers.


    1. It was a REALLY helpful article. Thanks to you and Colgate for being so open and out there with information.

      1. Jessica i must confess your comments are very helpful please i want someone who will me to U.S.A to complete my study and my football career am in Nigeria please help me here is mine email thank you?

  1. to jessica staal
    in us
    my son wants study in us but his parent no rich , but i as parent saw in voanews has saw
    fanansial aid , so i interest to it , how many my son if he school in uni one year and if graduate 3 years again how to pay if he is foreignner and his sister has greencard in 2009
    how about solution how about dorm room , living cost ! but he is healhty , can he part time so the living cast cover it ? can you give me as parent solution , tx
    ir imawan 62 years old in indonesia 62224233101628164863422

  2. Hi,

    I’m looking for master degree in history, but I need a scholarship. Is there any full scholarship for international students (I already know for Fulbright and Rotary), maybe a scholarship from some university or history department? Also I would like to know where can I look for internship related to history?

    Thank You for your answer!

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