Can international students apply for assistance through the FAFSA?



  • Some colleges use the FAFSA to determine how much help they will provide to international students.
  • You will not be eligible for government assistance, as it is only available to US citizens.
  • Colleges may also require other financial aid forms designed for international students.
  • Learn more about Insider’s student loan coverage here.

If you are an international student wishing to attend a university in the United States, you may need financial aid to be able to pay for your studies. Although the US government does not offer you financial assistance, your university or home country may give you money to go to school.

What are the FAFSA and international students eligible for?

The Free Federal Student Aid Application, or FAFSA, is a standard form used to determine eligibility for financial aid, including grants, work study, and loans.

International students are not eligible for US government assistance. However, it’s important to always fill out the FAFSA, as some colleges use it to see if you’re eligible for help from the school itself. Check with your school’s financial aid office to see if it uses the FAFSA for international students.

International students also don’t have a social security number, so you won’t be able to complete the FAFSA online. Instead, you will need to print the form and mail it to the federal student aid office. The sooner you complete the form, the better, as some types of aid have a limited amount and can be distributed on a first come, first served basis.

What financial aid forms do international students need to complete?

With the FAFSA, international students may need to complete additional forms to qualify for institutional assistance. Some colleges will require you to complete the Application for International Student Financial Assistance (ISFAA) to determine your eligibility for assistance, and you can find this application on each school’s websites.

Others may require the College Scholarship Service (CSS) profile, and you can find the specific application designed for international students here. The CSS profile will ask you for information about your family’s income, assets, and expenses. You can enter this information in your country’s currency and the College Board will convert the currency for you.

What options do international students have to pay for college?

Some schools, but not all, offer financial aid to international students, including “freebies” like scholarships and grants. This can play a role in where you decide to apply. You can find a list of these schools, broken down by state, here. You can also get financial aid from your home country, as the governments of many countries provide aid for students studying in the United States.

Private scholarships may also be available, including those for certain majors, athletic achievement, volunteering, etc. If you still can’t afford the cost of your college or if you’re uncomfortable taking out a loan, you may want to consider a cheaper school.

Another option available to international students is a private student loan. Most private student loan companies offer loans to international students as long as they have a co-signer who is a US citizen. However, be careful before taking out private student loans. They may come with high interest rates and limited repayment options. Additionally, you will need a US citizen willing to co-sign your loan.

Financial aid options for international students are more limited than for US citizens. That said, there is still money available for you – you just need to contact the schools that interest you to inquire about your options.


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