How can I apply for financial aid and student loans if I'm an international student attending a U.S. college?


I’m an international student. I have been admitted to university in the United States of America. How can I apply for financial aid and student loans?


There is very little financial aid for international students to study in the U.S., just as there is very little financial aid for U.S. students to study in other countries. Most students must rely on resources from their friends, family and sponsors to pay for college in the U.S. There may also be money available from businesses, foundations, the government and religious groups in their home country.

International students are not eligible for U.S. federal student aid, such as the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Work-Study, Direct Subsidized Loan, Direct Unsubsidized Loan, Perkins Loan, or PLUS Loan. Most international students do not satisfy the citizenship requirements for U.S. federal student aid. International students are also ineligible for most state student financial aid.

The number of scholarship programs open to international students is limited. These scholarship programs are also very competitive. See Scholarships for International Students to Study in the U.S. for more information.

Beware of scams. Because financial aid for international students is limited, international students are prone to being victimized by swindlers who promise financial aid in exchange for an up-front payment. If you have to pay money to get money, it’s probably a scam.

Student Loans for International Students to Study in the USA

International students are not eligible for U.S. federal student loans. They may, however, be able to obtain a private student loan from a U.S. lender if they can get a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) to cosign the loan.

International students may be able to qualify for some state loans, if they are enrolled in a college in the state and have a U.S. citizen or permanent resident cosigner. Most state loans, however, are restricted to students who are U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Colleges with Financial Aid for International Students

Some colleges award institutional aid to international students. These colleges may require international students to file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as a convenient way of getting the student’s financial information into the college’s administrative software system, but these students will not qualify for U.S. federal student aid. They must select the “No, I am not a citizen or eligible noncitizen” answer to the FAFSA question about citizenship status. Some colleges may ask international student applicants to complete the College Board’s International Student Financial Aid Application (ISFAA) instead of the FAFSA.

The following colleges and universities, listed in alphabetical order, award a significant amount of institutional aid to undergraduate international students. To be included in this list, the colleges must award a total of more than $1 million to international students, with an average award of $7,500 or more.

  • American University (DC)
  • Amherst College (MA)
  • Bard College (NY)
  • Bates College (ME)
  • Beloit College (WI)
  • Bennington College (VT)
  • Berea College (KY)
  • Boston University (MA)
  • Bowdoin College (ME)
  • Brown University (RI)
  • Bryn Mawr College (PA)
  • Butler University (IN)
  • California Institute of Technology (CA)
  • Carleton College (MN)
  • Clark University (MA)
  • Colby College (ME)
  • Colgate College (NY)
  • College of Wooster (OH)
  • Concordia College (MN)
  • Connecticut College (CT)
  • Dartmouth College (NH)
  • Denison University (OH)
  • DePauw University (IN)
  • Dickinson College (PA)
  • Duke University (NC)
  • Elizabethtown College (PA)
  • Farleigh Dickinson Univ. (NJ)
  • Florida Inst. of Technology (FL)
  • Franklin and Marshall College (PA)
  • George Washington Univ. (DC)
  • Gettysburg College (PA)
  • Grinnell College (IA)
  • Hamilton College (NY)
  • Hampshire College (MA)
  • Harding University (AR)
  • Harvard University (MA)
  • Hendrix College (AR)
  • Illinois Inst. of Technology (IL)
  • Ithaca College (NY)
  • John Hopkins University (MD)
  • Kenyon College (OH)
  • Knox College (IL)
  • Lafayette College (PA)
  • Lake Forest College (IL)
  • Lawrence University (WI)
  • Macalester College (MN)
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MA)
  • Middlebury College (VT)
  • Minnesota State University Mankato (MN)
  • Mount Holyoke College (MA)
  • Northeastern University (MA)
  • Oberlin College (OH)
  • Ohio State University (OH)
  • Ohio Wesleyan University (OH)
  • Pepperdine University (CA)
  • Princeton University (NJ)
  • Randolph College (VA)
  • Reed College (OR)
  • Rice University (TX)
  • Sarah Lawrence College (NY)
  • Savannah College of Art and Design (GA)
  • Skidmore College (NY)
  • Smith College (MA)
  • Southern Methodist Univ. (TX)
  • St. John’s College (MD)
  • St. Lawrence University (NY)
  • St. Louis University (MO)
  • St. Olaf College (MN)
  • Stanford University (CA)
  • Swarthmore College (PA)
  • Trinity College (CT)
  • Union College (NY)
  • University of Chicago (IL)
  • University of Cincinnati (OH)
  • University of Denver (CO)
  • University of Miami (FL)
  • University of Pennsylvania (PA)
  • University of Richmond (VA)
  • University of Rochester (NY)
  • University of Southern California (CA)
  • University of Tulsa (OK)
  • Vassar College (NY)
  • Washington and Lee Univ. (VA)
  • Wellesley College (MA)
  • Wesleyan University (IL)
  • Wesleyan University (CT)
  • Wheaton College (MA)
  • Whitman College (WA)
  • Williams College (MA)
  • Wittenberg University (OH)
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MA)
  • Yale University (CT)
  • Yeshiva University (NY)

Many more colleges offer financial aid to international students enrolled in graduate school. The financial aid is usually in the form of a teaching assistantship, research assistantship or fellowship. Colleges often require international students to have a passing grade on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or Test of Spoken English (TSE) in order to qualify for a teaching assistantship.

Visa Requirements

International students typically arrive in the U.S. on an F-1 Student Visa, J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa, or M-1 Vocational Student Visa.

The F-1 visa is for full-time enrollment in a U.S. college or university. The college must issue an I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status) before the student can obtain an F-1 visa.

The J-1 visa is often used for practical training.

The M-1 visa is used for trade or vocational schools and is limited to one year in duration.

The international student must demonstrate that he or she has sufficient funds for the first year to obtain an F-1 visa and for the entire stay to obtain an M-1 or J-1 visa. Some colleges require international students to demonstrate that they have sufficient funds for their entire stay even for an F-1 visa.

Don’t count on being able to work after arriving in the U.S. International students may be precluded from working or restricted to part-time jobs, depending on the type of visa. International student employment is usually limited to part-time jobs arranged through the college’s financial aid or career planning/placement office. The student’s spouse may not be able to work at all.

International students are also required to have health insurance. It is a good idea to get dental and vision insurance, even though this is not required for a visa.

Other Resources

Other sources of reliable information include the college’s International Student Advisor, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and the Institute of International Education (IIE).