Are You Optimistic or Pessimistic About Financial Aid?

The New York Times’ “The Choice” blog has been holding a Q&A about financial aid, and we asked their financial aid expert (Mark Kantrowitz of whether he had any advice for international students. He gave a matter of fact (and not-so-rosy) picture of what foreign students can expect in terms of assistance:

Before a student can obtain an F-1, J-1 or M-1 visa, the student must demonstrate that he or she has sufficient resources to cover the cost of his or her education. An F-1 visa requires the student to demonstrate that he or she has enough money to pay for the first year of study, though some colleges will require students to demonstrate that they have enough money to cover the entire stay in the United States. Students entering on an M-1 or J-1 visa must demonstrate that they have enough money to cover the entire stay in the United States.

Don’t count on being able to earn the rest of the money after you arrive in the United States. International students and their spouses are not allowed to work while in the United States on a student visa except in very limited circumstances.

The financial resources can include financial aid from the college. But financial aid for international students to study in the United States is extremely limited.

A list of United States colleges that provide financial aid for international students can be found at

International students are not eligible for federal student aid from the United States government. Private student loans may be available, but generally require a creditworthy cosigner who is a United States citizen or permanent resident.

There’s no disputing the fact that studying in the U.S. is expensive, or that most international students will have to pay much or all of their way – according to the latest data, 63% of funding for international students in the U.S. is provided by the student and their family.  But lest you give up all hope, an additional 23% of funding is provided by colleges and universities, and you can find out which schools are giving that aid to their international undergraduates in a list compiled by the OACAC (or by looking at the College Board International Student Handbook 2012).

– See also: A side-by-side comparison of colleges with the lowest net cost for international students and American students

Find out what routes our bloggers pursued to finance their education

Also, it’s not quite true that international students can’t work in the U.S.  All F-1 visa students are allowed to work on campus for up to 20 hours a week when school is in session.  Our blogger Sebastian actually has TWO campus jobs at the University of Kansas, and Summer works part-time job at Cornell’s dining hall.  The University of Pennsylvania offers a pretty clear explanation of the various rules about working as an international student.

So what do you think?  Are you optimistic about affording a U.S. education, or not so much?

There are tons more questions and answers in the New York Times‘ series, and you can see all of them at They’re definitely more geared towards American students, but you may find a gem or two for foreign students (let us know if you do!).


  1. Thanks for such an informative post! Financial assistance is a hot topic for international students looking to study in the US. The Department of Education’s newly released website is a good start to make sure that students are informed of the tuition and costs.

    There are also international student loans available to students studying in the US. recently launched the first-ever loan comparison tool designed specifically for international students. By entering some basic information, students can review terms and conditions of various lenders, and then apply for the loan that works best for them.

  2. Thank you for the post,it was very illuminating!!!!I’m so pessimistic about getting a financial aid.I know it is difficult to get one but I hadn’t ever imagined that it was virtually impossible..:(

    1. My perspective is that it’s easy to be pessimistic just looking at the numbers, but you have power to set yourself up for success, and there are lots of resources you can and should take advantage of. EducationUSA centers are really important resources. Lists of schools that give the most financial aid to international students can help you figure out where to start your search. Websites that let you search available private and government scholarship programs to figure out what you’re eligible for. Webinars to help you understand how to apply for scholarships and financial aid. International admissions officers and international student service offices at schools you’re interested in to help you understand what might be available at that school.

      Yes, it’s a lot of research and legwork to sift through all these things and apply to all the different things, but the point is that I feel like a lot of people get discouraged and give up BEFORE they’ve really tried the things that are out there, and my goal with posting this sort of information, and particularly with posting the Friday lists of upcoming webinars and online events, is to help empower you to find the opportunities.

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