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Recap: Exploring Financial Aid and Funding Options

How do you pay for your U.S. education? Should you apply to a selective exchange or study abroad program? Look for scholarships? Take out loans? Will you get your aid from the U.S. government, your school or a private company?

There are many options and many decisions, and this month our bloggers spent some time writing about how they did their research and figured out how to afford their U.S. studies.

Get Your Information Right

Rudro says he almost gave up his opportunity to study in the U.S. because he didn’t think he could afford it and didn’t know what his options were for finding funding. So let’s dispel some of the myths that colored Rudro’s decision-making.

[Read Rudro’s full post on what he wishes he'd known about financial aid]

Yes, U.S. schools are expensive. Unlike in some other countries, many U.S. universities are private, so tuition is not subsidized by the government. Even public universities, which tend to be cheaper, will typically only offer their lowest tuition rates to residents of a particular state.

However, you can control the cost by picking your school carefully. The most expensive schools are not necessarily the best schools, and a little research can turn up some cheaper options. In fact, there are a select number of schools that are nearly free, and some schools that are very generous towards international students when it comes to financial aid based on merit or need. You can also limit costs by starting at a community college and transferring to a 4-year institution.

And while it is true that many financial aid options are reserved for American students, there are scholarships and other funding sources that you can look into. Besides the well-known Fulbright program, there are a number of other State Department-funded options, and a number of scholarships funded privately or by non-profits.

Stories from the Trenches

With all of these potential options, how do you decide what is right for you? Our bloggers have taken a wide variety of paths to fund their studies, and you can learn from their experiences.

Exchange Programs and Scholarships

Sebastian is at the University of Kansas through a full scholarship offered by the Institute of International Education. He found the scholarship after completing his freshman year at a university in Bolivia and transferred to the U.S. to complete the rest of his education.

[Read Sebastian's story]

Rudro ended up participating in a “twinning” program, where he started his education in his native Malaysia and then transferred to a U.S. university for his junior and senior year. He says that by spending his first two years at a local community college, he was able to save enough money to afford doing the next two in the U.S.

[Read Rudro's story]

Senzeni is part of the U.S. Student Achievers Program, which she says has been a great experience. The program helps pay for various application fees and supports students in finding other sources of financial aid.

[Read Senzeni's story]

Institutional Financial Aid

Nick and Nareg both researched exchange programs, only to decide that they were better off relying on institutional financial aid – scholarships and loans offered by their university. They say that exchange programs and scholarships are difficult to get, and eligibility requirements can be stringent, so they focused on getting good packages from their school.

[Read Nick and Nareg's story]

Jaime is American, but she also struggles with getting enough financial aid to afford her education. She received a federal work-study award, but says she is still communicating with her school’s financial aid office to identify more sources of funding.

[Read Jaime's story]

Research Your Options

Here are some useful links to help you find out more information:

- EducationUSA’s financial aid page

- IIE’s database of scholarships, fellowships and grants

- Our list of additional resources