Saturday, 18 July 2015

Pick the right varsity, get funded too

Originally Published in The Hindustan Times Education Supplement

It is no big discovery to learn that undergraduate education abroad is expensive. As of August 2014, the annual cost of attending college in the US is approximately $50,000 to $60,000 or Rs. 30 to 36 Lakhs.  That is a whopping quarter million dollars over four years.  While this estimate does college fees, living expenses and insurance, additional costs will include travel to and from India. And, if a student elects to attend a summer term or do an extra year, expenses increase.
 There is financial support available to many foreign students, but we never know from which colleges financial offers will be awarded. Often students receive great award packages from colleges that are their second or third choice, while their first choice offers come with a full price tag. If financial aid is important to you is always good to apply to a range of colleges that might offer you some kind of a scholarship.

Need Based Aid
There are two different types of financial aid in the U.S. – Need based and merit based. Need based awards are given to whose families can demonstrate financial need through their CSS profile. Colleges typically identify themselves as conforming to either a ‘Need Blind’ or ‘Need Aware’ admissions policy for international students.

Colleges with a ‘Need Aware’ admissions policy, consider qualified students’ ability to pay as they are making their admissions decisions. Simply put, if student A and student B are both qualified for admissions, but student A needs money and the college cannot offer support, student A will not be admitted. If however, student A is a much better student than student B, and the college has funds available, then student A will be admitted with a financial aid package.

If a college describes its admissions policy as ‘Need Blind’ this means that when they are making an admissions decision, they do not take into account a student’s financial need. They literally do not look at that part of the application. (note that some colleges follow a need blind admissions policy only for U.S. citizens.)

Finally, some need blind colleges are committed to meeting the full amount of demonstrated need for all admitted students. That is, if you are admitted and you have declared need, you will get it. There are only six such colleges in the US. These are: Amherst College, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, MIT, Princeton University, Yale University.

Merit Based Aid

The majority of international students who receive financial assistance are awarded merit-based aid. This means is they are offered money based on their merit – i.e. their academic or extracurricular performance. These awards range from full scholarships, covering tuition and living expenses to smaller token amounts. The awards can be given for all four years or only for the first year.

Merit based awards are usually institution specific and are offered by the college itself, not an external organization. A separate application is not typically required for these awards, though sometimes there are priority deadlines for scholarship consideration, and once the college is considering you for an award, they may ask for additional materials. For example when a student was recently being considered for The University of Richmond’s prestigious Presidential Scholarship, she was asked for an additional essay and a sample of graded course work. In other cases, however awards are given without any additional information. Merit based financial awards are usually offered around the same time as admissions decisions are released.

External scholarships
Scholarships offered by external organizations are, unfortunately, few and far between. A helpful source of information on scholarships that are sponsored by external organizations is the US India Education Foundation (USIEF: The USIEF provides information about dates and application procedures for specific awards.

If financial support is important to you, choose colleges wisely from among those that are known for offering financial aid to attract top Indian students. Over the past years I have known Indian students who were offered scholarships from the following excellent US colleges: Boston University, Clark University, Grinnell College, Tulane University, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, University of Richmond, University of San Francisco, Washington University in St. Louis. There are many others besides these that can set you on a promising and less expensive path to an education abroad.

The above is an excerpt from: Acing Admissions – The Indian Student’s Comprehensive Guide to US College Applications, by Kimberly Dixit and Kavita Mehta to be published by HarperCollins in mid-2015 


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