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University, College Funding - Scholarships & Assistantships

It is important to understand that most universities offer financial assistance to international students based primarily on merit and rarely on need. The amount, and type of assistance offered varies, based on the university, department and level of study.  Assistance of funds is more likely in Graduate studies and less in Undergraduate courses. Also funds are more likely to be available in fields like Engineering, Physical Sciences and Biological sciences, rather than in courses like Humanities, Social Sciences and Management.

You must submit a financial aid application if you intend to seek financial assistance for your studies abroad. The policies regarding financial aid vary considerably. The profile of a college usually indicates the type of financial aid it offers. For aid, Undergraduate students have to submit the institutionís own financial aid forms, as well as the Foreign Studentís Financial Aid Form, which is provided by the college and administered by the College Scholarship Service of the College Board. A bank statement will also often be required. Some details, usually asked in these forms are :   

  • Your total personal annual income
  • Total annual income of your Parents
  • Your average annual living expenses
  • Some details of your and your parents' assets
  • Sources of funding for your education other than from the University
Note : Even if no assistantship is available at the time of admission, most Indian students manage to get some kind of financial aid from the university after one or two semesters. So it makes sense to go to the US for education if you can manage one yearís expenses on your own.

Postgraduate students have to indicate their requirement for financial aid at the time of filling in the application form.The different types of financial help available:

Types of Assistance

Merit based assistance is awarded in many forms, from tuition waivers, various types of assistantships, to fellowships.  The most common are listed here :

  1. Tuition Waiver :  This means that the student does not have to pay the tuition fees at the university. However, general fees (for the use of university facilities like the library, computers, and sports and health services) usually have to be borne by the student. A tuition waiver is frequently awarded in conjunction with a scholarship or teaching/research assistantship.

  2. Scholarship / Fellowship : This is usually an outright grant based on the studentís academic ability and performance. Hence, Only a truly outstanding student may be considered for this type of award, before enrolling at the university. A full scholarship would pay for a studentís entire living expenses at that university, whereas a partial scholarship would require additional funds from the student.

  3. Assistantship : Most students who receive assistance usually do so in the form of an assistantship, i.e. a cash stipend sufficient for their living expenses, and/or tuition waiver. To get this, they have to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week. This work normally consists of teaching and research activities. These are usually for graduate courses. Teaching assistantships are more likely to be in universities, which have large undergraduate classes whereas research assistantships tend to be more common in those fields and universities in which considerable research is in progress. Information brochures of most universities give this information. Often, teaching and research abilities must be proved before assistantship is granted. Hence, many universities grant this only after the first semester. You may also be required to take TSE (Test of Spoken English) to qualify for a teaching assistantship.

Who Should Apply?
Students have a greater chance of getting financial aid if they :
  1. show evidence of a high level of academic achievement
  2. achieve high Standardized Examination scores (GRE, GMAT, TOEFL etc.)
  3. demonstrate financial need but have private funding to cover some of the cost. Financial need is not crucial for some awards.
  4. enroll in a field or have teaching experience in a subject offered at the undergraduate level (to increase opportunities for a teaching assistantship)
  5. specialize in a field or have a research interest which parallels that of the department and faculty or private funding source (which increases opportunities for research assistantships and grants)
  6. have outstanding letter(s) of recommendation and an impressive statement of purpose.
  7. send a sample of professional writing, published or otherwise.
Note : Even if no assistantship is available at the time of admission, Most Indian students manage to get some kind of financial aid from the university after one or two semesters. So it makes sense to go to the US for education if you can manage to cover one yearís expenses on your own.



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