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Funding Your Education In The United States

For International students, it has never been easy to afford an education in the United States. Recent turmoil on the financial markets has resulted in a loss of many loan programs, requiring international students to be more resourceful than ever as they try to fund their education in the United States.

There is no avoiding hard work-and even one scholarship application can e time consuming-but with early research, careful planning, and some good advice, you can map a strategy to reach your financial goals and achieve a U.S. education.

Understanding The Cost

Take a realistic approach to your goals given your financial resources. Tuition and living expenses vary widely at U.S. schools- from as low as 15000$ per year for some community colleges to $50,000 and more per year for elite private colleges (at the Harvard Medical School), one year of tuition and living expenses is currently $66,000). The following factors will also have a bearing on your expenses.

Location. Location matters tremendously. The cost of living in a big city such as New York or Los Angeles can be three or four times that of a smaller campus in a rural town. Your personal and family funds will o a lot further at a less expensive school that is not located in a major city.

Community Colleges. Sometimes using a state’s community college system can be a money-saving approach. Many students benefit from attending a community college for two years to complete an associate degree, and then transferring to a university to complete their bachelor’s degree.

Budget. Whatever school you choose, make a comprehensive realistic budget.

Start with the figures published by your school, and then add in all personal expenses. Being realistic up front will help avoid unnecessary financial trouble later.

Working in the United States

For many international students, the opportunity to work while studying in the United States can be very rewarding-it helps them become immersed them in the U.S. Culture, meet other people, gain experience, practice English, and earn some spending money. But don’t rely on earning enough to pay for your studies!
International students on F-1 visas are allowed to work in the United States, but only in accordance with complex guidelines from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services (USCIS).

  • You may only work 20 hours per week while school is in session (full time during breaks).
  • You may only work on campus, except in accordance with Optional Practical Training (OPT) and Curricular Practical Training.
  • You must maintain valid F-1 student visa status.

Speak with your international student advisor before applying for any job; they can give you good advice and point you in the right direction.

Institutional Aid

International Students should not rely too heavily on institutions for funding, especially as an undergraduate. According to the 2009 Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education, only nine percent of international undergraduate students in the United States reported school aid as a primary funding source for their education.

On the other hand, the same study showed that 43 percent of international graduate students report school aid as a primary source of funding. Certain assistantships, fellowships and other funding exist exclusively for graduate students. Some schools offer more aid than others-typically more elite schools with large endowments.

Independent Scholarship Search

There are thousands of scholarships for international study, including tuition waivers at particular schools and prestigious programs such as the Fulbright program. Applying for scholarships takes some effort. Here are a few tips.

  • Contact potential sources of aid in your home country. Your ministry of education or similar agency will know of funding sources specific to students from your country.
  • If you’ve already selected a school, your university’s administrative offices are the best resources for financial assistance. Be persistent and thorough – talk to the admissions office, the international student office, and your specific academic department. Not all scholarships and tuition waivers are well publicized.