Can FAFSA help international students gain financial aid for universities in the US?

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Anand Patinge

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The cost of higher education is constantly rising. International students often pay almost thrice the amount of the cost of education as American students. Moreover, it is relatively easier for American students to acquire federal and institutional financial aid as well. 

International students have fewer solutions at hand. For instance, FAFSA only avails federal financial aid to US citizens and eligible non-citizens. 

However, federal financial aid is not the only option. You can use the FAFSA to obtain private financial aid from institutions as well. FAFSA is viewed as a standard form to determine whether a student is eligible for financial aid. Keep reading to learn more. 

What is FAFSA?

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), is a free form circulated by the US government. The form allows you to avail of financial aid offered by the government to help you pay for college. Annually, almost 13 million students who file the FAFSA got over $120 billion in scholarships, work-study, or low-interest loans from the US Department of education. 

What is FAFSA

Such financial aid includes:

Financial Aid  Opportunities
Loans Subsidized Loan, Plus Loans, Federal Perkins Loan, Unsubsidized Loan, Direct Loan
Grants Federal Pell Grant, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Teach Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant
Scholarships  Need-Based, Merit-Based
Work-Study  Part-time employment, Full-time employment

FAFSA Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: How is FAFSA relevant for international students?

Answer: Many states and colleges use the FAFSA to decide whether the student is eligible for private financial aid. In such an instance, an international student who has filled the FAFSA has a higher chance of obtaining financial aid from institutions that offer it. 

Question 2: Can international students avail federal financial aid?

Answer: No.

Question 3: Is there an application fee when filing the FAFSA?

Answer: No. The FAFSA is free and you do not need to pay anyone to download it from the internet or fill it for you.

Question 4: What kind of information is required to fill the FAFSA?

Answer: Relevant financial information such as your family’s finances, tax returns, assets, parental income, etc. You must take assistance from your parents when filling out the FAFSA.

Question 5: Does the FAFSA need to be filled annually?

Answer: Yes. You have to submit the FAFSA before each academic year if you’re looking to obtain financial aid for that year. 

Question 6: On what basis is the FAFSA aid allotted?

Answer: The FAFSA student aid is distributed on a first-come, first-served rule. 

Question 7: How is the FAFSA important – for international and local students?

Answer: The US government sets aside billions of dollars worth of financial aid for potential college students. The only way to avail of that aid is to fill out the FAFSA on time. Upon submitting the FAFSA, you automatically qualify for a low-income federal loan. 

International students can maximize their chances of obtaining financial aid from private institutions by filling out the FAFSA. Some university/school/state scholarships, such as Princeton University, Rice University, and Stanford University. use the FAFSA to determine the eligibility of students as it is one of the most comprehensive forms out there.

Who is eligible to fill out the FAFSA?

The FAFSA must be filled out by students who are in need of financial aid to study in the US. The following are the eligibility criteria:

  • The student must be a US citizen.
  • In order to fill out the FAFSA online, the student must have an appropriate and working Social Security Number (SSN).
  • The student must be enrolled into a degree or certificate program. 
  • The student’s academic performance must be above an acceptable margin.
  • The student must be eligible for the direct loan fund program.
  • The student must provide a self-attested certification statement in the FAFSA form guaranteeing the lack of any defaults on the federal student loan, liability of money against a federal student loan, and a guarantee that the aid will only be utilized for educational purposes. This may include paying tuition fees, room charges, purchasing books, essential supplies, etc.
  • International students can be regarded as eligible for FAFSA if they complete one year of education in the US, along with the other aforementioned eligibility criteria. International students can email the Flexible Spending Account (FSA) their Social Security Number (SSN) in order to obtain an ID to fill out the form online. If the International student does not have a SSN and has not completed one year of their education, they may download the form and fill it out online. The procedure and relevant links are mentioned in the article. Keep reading to find out more.
  • Certain non-citizens are also eligible for the FAFSA. Such non-citizens are treated differently than international students with regard to the FAFSA. Eligible non-citizens are:
    • US national native of American Samoa or Swains Island
    • A permanent US resident
    • An individual with an arrival-departure record from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services with any one of the following designations : Parolee, T-Visa, Conditional Entrant, Refugee, Asylum Granted, Victim of Human Trafficking, or Cuban-Haitian Entrant.

Application Procedure for FAFSA

Application Procedure for FAFSA

The first step for US and International students is to begin planning early. Most federal aid, and a significant amount of institutional aid is distributed on a first-come first-served rule. 

International students can avail only institutional aid through the FAFSA. Yet, it may be one of your best options at easing your cost of education. Get in touch with the financial aid office of the the university you wish to apply to, and inquire about how much support can a FAFSA form offer you.

The FAFSA form can be filled online or manually. International students are recommended to fill the form online as they do not have Social Security Numbers. Social Security Numbers are required to make an account on the official website. 

If you’re a US Citizen, or an eligible non-citizen, follow the following steps:

  • Create a account.
  • Start your FAFSA form
  • Fill out student demographic sections
  • Add every school you’re considering attending
  • Answer the dependency status question
  • Fill out the Parent Demographic section
  • Supply your Financial Information
  • Submit the form 

Application Procedure for FAFSA

You can also electronically access the form through iTunes and Google Play

If you’re an International Student:

  • Download the FAFSA form from the official student aid website. 
  • Fill out all the relevant details as mentioned above.
  • Mail the form to the address on the form.

Deadline for FAFSA Submission

Deadline for FAFSA Submission

The deadline for the submission of the FAFSA form changes annually. However, the deadline for 2022 and 2033 has been June 30th for the first round of submissions. We can assume that the deadline will remain the same for the upcoming year as well.

However, keep track of the deadline on 

Other Financial Aid Options

International students do not have the privilege of obtaining federal aid from the US government through the FAFSA. Regardless, the FAFSA opens up a large variety of options for them. A majority of universities assess the FAFSA to establish the eligibility of an international student for financial aid.

Filling the FAFSA gives you a head start in your search for financial aid. As an international student, it is the best decision to keep all your options open.

Moreover, there exist financial aid options even in the country you’re currently residing in. Federal aid is available to students in their home country to fund education abroad. Make sure to explore your options within your own country while you apply for financial aid abroad. 

Here are some tips on how to obtain the best scholarships for studying abroad:

Other Financial Aid Options

Picture of Anand Patinge

Anand Patinge

A master storyteller, Anand has enriched multiple entities with captivating designs, compelling messaging, and impactful media campaigns. Beyond work, you can find him feeding stray dogs, exploring art, and watching insiprational documentaries.

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