If you're hoping to study abroad in the United States, you may be thinking, "How am I going to pay for it?" If that's the case, then you're in the right place. Read on to learn more about financial aid for international students.


The first step is to set a budget and figure out how much you can afford to spend on traveling abroad. To study abroad in the United States, part of the application process is to show that you can cover tuition, housing, food, books and more. To do this, you will need to complete an International Student Finance Certification form; the university you are applying to will likely provide you with the form.


There are a few options when it comes to financial aid: federal loans, private loans, need-based financial aid, and scholarships/grants. Unfortunately, most international students are not eligible for federal student loans through the U.S. Department of Education (However, there are some cases where non-citizens are eligible for federal loans). But again, there are other options.

As the name suggests, private loans come from private lenders, such as Sallie Mae® ; you can also get a private loan from a bank or credit union. If you apply for a private loan, you will most likely need a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Another option is need-based financial aid; however, not everyone qualifies. To determine your eligibility, you will need to complete the International Student Financial Aid Application, which will likely be provided by the college to which you are applying.

You may also be eligible for a scholarship or grant, also known as "gift aid"; unlike loans, you do not need to repay the money awarded. Scholarships and grants can be awarded for a variety of reasons, including field of study, heritage, hobbies, volunteerism and more. These monetary gifts often come from colleges or private organizations: scholarships and grants awarded by colleges are often merit-based, meaning they are based on academic achievement.


Although international students are not eligible for federal loans, it is important that they complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The FAFSA is the form used to determine eligibility for federal loans, but schools also use it to determine if international students are eligible for school or state scholarships. Because you do not have a U.S. Social Security number, you will not be able to submit the form online, but you can print a copy or email it.

Before you begin filling out the forms, contact the school(s) to which you plan to apply to find out what forms they require. Also, the sooner you can send in your aid forms, the better: some financial aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Something else to research: see if your home country offers financial aid to students studying abroad in other countries.


When it comes to financial aid and the admissions process, there are two approaches schools follow: need-blind and need-aware. Need-blind means that colleges will make admissions decisions without considering the applicant's ability to pay; need-conscious is when colleges make admissions decisions with the applicant's ability to pay in mind.


Once you have your financial plan ready, you can begin the fun parts of the process, like choosing your school and program of study. It all starts with taking an English proficiency test to help you pursue your dreams. Taking the TOEFL iBT® test is a smart choice: it's accepted by more than 11,500 universities and institutions in over 160 countries.