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THE USA: Student Finances

Financing your studies in the USA

Find out how you can finance your studies when studying abroad in the US

United States Dollars

Against notoriously high tuition costs, being able to fund your studies in the US might seem a distant daydream for international students. Whilst some student visas will allow you to work up to 20 hours of part-time per week, your income will be nowhere near enough to cover your total living and tuition costs. But not to worry: there are plenty of funding options available to help you completely or partially finance your studies. American universities and external funding bodies offer students thousands of dollars in financial aid per year, across a range of study levels and subject areas. We’ve laid out your main funding options as an international student in America: all you need to do is apply.

Scholarships from your Host

Your host institution should be your first port of call in looking for funding. In 2012-2013, nearly 345 US colleges awarded financial aid to international students, with the average value of a scholarship coming to US$ 17,721.

Your host will have the most accurate idea of the costs you’ll need to cover whilst completing one of their study programmes, and so are most likely to have scholarship and financial aid options best suited to your needs. Host-provided aid is often only available to students of that university, and so there is also likely to be less competition in securing funding.

For example, New York University awards three separate scholarships to a limited number of admitted students, including both local and international students. Each of these schemes offers students varied degrees of funding for two years of their study programme, the highest of which provides students an annual stipend of US$ 20,000.

Scholarships and grants can range from partial cover of tuition fees to complete cover of tuition and living costs, and are often means-tested or academically awarded. You’ll need to meet certain, strict criteria as outlined on your university’s website, as well as lodge an application for the scholarship by a certain date. Scholarship applications almost always require additional documentation such as bank statements, letters of reference and proof of identification.

You can search for a scholarship in the USA through our site.

Check if your institution offers Scholarships to international students

Scholarships from Home

Your home institution can sometimes offer to offset some of your tuition or living expenses. You’ll usually need to meet certain requirements or specialise in a certain subject areas, such as Foreign Language or Engineering. You can check your eligibility for scholarships and financial aid on your home institution website.

If you are completing an exchange programme in which study credits completed in America will count towards your home degree, you will pay tuition to your home institution rather than your host, but may be eligible for a study grant based on your financial situation, study programme requirements or subject area.

University and institution partnerships can also provide scholarships or funding aid to students travelling from one partner institution to another. For example, as the University of Melbourne, Australia is a Universitas 21 (U21) partner, Australian students wanting to study at the University of Connecticut or the University of Virginia are eligible for U21-based funding.

You should always check your scholarship options with your home institution before you apply to check you’re eligible for funding: if you’ve been accepted abroad but are unable to pay tuition you may be not be allowed to complete the study programme, or receive credit for the subjects you’ve completed.

External Organizations

Luckily, there are a hundreds, if not thousands of international and private organizations that offer funding aid to international students. For example, the Fulbright Association runs a number of funding programmes across all study levels to international students beneath a range of study agreements. Students may search for a scholarship using a number of online funding search engines, such as internationalstudent.com, Institute of International Education and scholarshipexperts.com. Scholarships and funding programmes all have a unique set of criteria that are usually subject-specific, means tested or require applicants to be of a certain academic standard.

National educational body Education USA also runs an online service that features the latest updates in US College financial aid opportunities, including the creation of new scholarships and changes to policies where applicable.

You should also be sure to check for organizations in your home country that offer financial aid to international students. For example, the British Council offers a number of financial awards, scholarships and bank schemes for students in the UK looking to study abroad. Students should also be sure to check the website of their local immigration authority for information on international student funding.

Learn more about the Fulbright Scholarship Programme

International Student Loans

If you don’t qualify for financial aid, you’ll always be able to take a student loan from the US government that can cover your complete tuition costs, accommodation rates, books and living expenses. Some loan schemes offer up to US$ 50,000 per year.  Loan plans can be quite flexible, but are credit-based and must be repaid within six months of the completion of your study programme, plus an unfixed amount of interest that is calculated based on a year-per-year index. To secure a student loan, you will need a credit-worthy American co-signer who will be legally bound to pay any outstanding debt if you fail to pay back your loan within the specified time. Your co-signer needs to be a US citizen or permanent resident with an acceptable credit rating, who has lived in the country for at least two years before you apply for your loan.

Students can search for different loan schemes online, using websites such as internationalstudentloan.com and studyabroadloans.com. You will need to enter the name of you host institution or state in order to locate loans you’re eligible for, and can apply online after finding one that suits you.


Now that financing your studies doesn’t seem so impossible, why not browse courses in the US now and start planning your study abroad adventure?

Useful Links

Student living costs in the USA

Tuition fees in the USA



Study in the USA


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