Maximise your chances at financial aid, but be realistic
Financial aid is a popular topic for students who are considering foreign education. And for good reasons; the cost of fees and living expenses can exceed one crore rupees, depending on the college and destination. Efforts to defray these costs are understandable, however the amount of aid available is extremely limited. If you are worried about funding your education here are some things you need to know.
1. The Basics – In the US, most financial awards and scholarships are given by universities themselves. There is very little financial aid offered by external agencies. In the UK, Canada and other destinations colleges also offer a few partial scholarships. The best way to learn about scholarships is on the website of the college. You can also learn more about financial considerations and options through the country-specific education offices such as EducationUSA, The British Council or Education au/in Canada. Also remember that in any country private universities have more flexibility to offer money to international students. Public institutions, which are funded by taxpayer money, have do not have funds to allocate to non-citizens. In the UK and Canada almost all universities are public, so funding available is less. However in the US, there are many more private colleges and hence more awards available. Public universities in the US do not consider ability to pay when offering admissions but nor can they offer much aid to meet financial need — It’s a common tale to hear students admitted to UC Berkeley or Univ. of Michigan but cannot attend due to the cost.
2. The Reality – Every year a few very talented and very fortunate students are awarded full scholarships to study at some of America’s best universities. The key word here however is FEW, like about ten to twenty students. So if you are among those who require your entire education to be funded you had better be a topper and more. I hear from students all the time who want to study in America but need aid, but they are nowhere near the caliber that can get the awards. It is very important to be realistic about what you can achieve because the US application process is time consuming, demanding and requires meticulous planning. If you do not have top school marks, above 2200 on SAT or 34 on ACT, deep extracurriculars, multiple awards and preferably some kind of international accolade or experience, it will be almost impossible for you to be a contender for a full scholarship at a top US college. I am sure you have heard of exceptions to this, but have heard far more cases that follow this rule than defy it, so be realistic. Furthermore, you should understand that the requirement for aid makes the admission process even more competitive. Even if you have all the above qualifications, there are limited awards, so the majority of applicants will be denied. It is risky to pin your educational aspirations on a full-scholarship to study in the US.
3. The good news – But hope is not lost! While full aid is not as abundant as you might have hoped, partial aid is much more common. Every year hundreds of students are awarded small amounts of money to study (think $10,000-$25,000/year). Such awards can be based on need or on merit so if you can fund part of your education, and you plan your applications in a smart way, you may be able to minimize your expense. Again, these awards are given by the colleges and normally all applicants are considered as long as they apply in time. And these awards are available at both public and private colleges and universities.
Financial award information changes quickly, so stay on top of the latest news by checking college admissions and financial aid web pages and liking them on Facebook so you are aware of updates and additional scholarships available. If you do your research well and find the right colleges you should be able to get a discount on some of the high fees at colleges abroad.