Money for international students

Colleges, especially in the US, are horrendously expensive. For the past generation, tuition has increased at rates higher than inflation. Part of that increase has to do with all the addition services and programs, not to mention the improved quality of dorms and cafeterias.

In the US, colleges fall into two broad categories:
1) Those that have no money for international students
2) Those that do

If you cannot afford the cost of attendance and the university falls into category one there is no point in applying. Given that most schools connect their money to need, it is important to clarify a couple of things:

  • Need is based on your ability to pay. Not your desire or hope to pay. You need to be clear exactly what you can realistically afford. A helpful tool, although not terrible accurate for those outside of the US is a financial aid calculator, which can give you an estimate of your expected family contribution.
  • Cost of attendance is different than tuition. Given the cost of living in the US, it is important to take all the numbers into consideration. Going to school in New York City is not the same as going to school in Iowa.
  • The more money you need, the more you need to impress the admission folks.
  • If you have 40,000 dollars is put aside for your education, you need to divide it by four. So this means you will have 10,000 dolllars a year you can contribute. Do not plan on paying for one year and then figuring it out after that.
  • If you do not apply for aid, you will not get anything.
  • Aid includes grants and gifts and tuition discounts which all imply you do not have to pay them back.
  • Aid Can include loans, which means you must pay them back. in some cases you will need a US co-signer.
  • Aid can include a job on Campus. You will be guaranteed work, but not a specific job. The pay is the same regardless of the position. through work you may meet some of the most interesting people who will become your best friends even if the job is not glamourous. You may also work directly with a professor on original research.

Those that provide some sort of financial support fall into three categories:

  1. Need blind–it does not matter your financial situation. They will base their admission solely on your abilities and talents. If they afford you and you need money, they will finance you. The need blind schools are
  • Harvard
  • MIT
  • Yale
  • Princeton
  • Middlebury
  • Williams
  1. Need Sensitive–These universities have some funds available, but their decision to admit you is connected with your financial need. The more money you need, the more they are going to have to want you to afford you. Also known as”need-aware”, this is the largest cluster of colleges.
  2. Scholarships–these are based on merit. Need is not taken into consideration. Some are automatic, such as University of Miami ,which looks at your GPA and SAT scores to determine an award, others are highly competitive selection criteria, such as Wesleyan’s Freeman Scholars Program.

Figuring out who has the means to help if you need money to go to university is no easy task. Honestly policies, scholarships and applicant pools change vastly every year. The need blind list is truly highly selective. A few of us have been tinkering around with data that is published and compiled lists of our own:
Doug Thompson, the executive director at Overseas Association of College Admission Counseling is the acknowledged expert in the field. Each year he publishes and share his list. It is down and dirty compilation of numbers from a variety of sources. I have done an analysis and concluded as follows:
A. Large state schools tend to give out the most awards, but they tend to not cover a significant percentage of the cost of attendance.
B. Small, primally liberal arts colleges tend to award most of their students something as a way to attract talent, I suspect.
C. The final column shows the schools most likely to step up to help you finance your education if you need it. These are schools whose average award covers over 80% of the tuition.

A. Most Awards B. Percent of students awarded C. Percentage of cost covered
University of Texas at Austin Harding University Berea College
University of Texas:Arlington Concordia College:Moorhead Wesleyan University
Brigham Young University:Hawaii Lake Forest College Connecticut College
Arizona State University Polytechnic University St. Lawrence University
University of Houston Berea College Colby College
Drexel University University of the Ozarks Williams College
Harvard College Canisius College Middlebury College
Parsons School of Design Randolph-Macon Woman’s College Occidental College
University of Texas:El Paso Kenyon College Harvard College
Calvin College Calvin College Wellesley College

Other schoola with high percentage of cost covered include:

Reed College
Vassar College
Swarthmore College
Bowdoin College
California Institute of Technology
Trinity College
Lafayette College
Oberlin College
Bates College
Kenyon College
Colgate University
Hamilton College
Mount Holyoke College
Dickinson College
Smith College
Princeton University
Lehigh University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Columbia University:Columbia College
Amherst College
Washington & Lee University
Bryn Mawr College
Whittier College
Gettysburg College
University of Pennsylvania

Note, that is is not an exhaustive list. But it does give you an idea of the trends.

Now the Council of International School publishes its own financial aid lists. From these lists, I was able to extract a the colleges in order of the percentage of of the cover of cost to attend based on the average award:

Williams College
Wesleyan University
Colby College
Ramapo College of New Jersey
Harvard College
Wellesley College
Amherst College
Middlebury College
Colgate University
Swarthmore College

Which list is better? Really they are both very good, but CIS includes Merrit based Awards. CIS list of schools providing aid in rank order of number of students:

Harvard College
Foothill and De Anza Colleges
Illinois Institute of Technology
California State University Fresno
Fairleigh Dickinson University
Grinnell College
Ithaca College
Middlebury College
Ohio Wesleyan University
University of Rochester

Finally, I compiled a list of schools that historically have been generous to international students in the past. This is found inside the pages of the international Counselor.

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