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With US universities frequently topping international university ranking lists, the US has long been one of the most popular destinations for students pursuing higher education abroad. In the 2018-2019 academic year - the final full year before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic - nearly 1.1 million international students attended US universities, comprising 5.5% of the country’s total student population. These students are drawn to the US by a myriad of factors: the outstanding quality and prestige of its 4360 higher education institutions, the rich social and professional opportunities offered by its universities, and the flexibility of its higher education curriculum, which typically does not require students to commit to a primary area of study until the end of their second years of enrollment.
While studying in the US is undoubtedly attractive to international students, there is one other defining characteristic that many prospective applicants associate with the American higher education system: its high costs.
As of October 2022, the average cost of attendance at a higher education institution in the US (including tuition, books, supplies, and other expenses) stands at $35,551 per year; that number jumps to $54,501 per year for students attending private, not-for-profit institutions.
Considering that most undergraduate students graduate with their bachelor’s degree after four full years of attendance, these costs can seem prohibitive for many international students and their families.
Can I afford to study in the US?
However, these numbers only tell part of the story. A growing number of US universities have expressly stated that they are committed to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of their applicants, whether domestic or international students.
What does this policy mean exactly, and what are its implications for the admissions chances of international applicants who require financial aid?
Which universities have adopted these policies?
This blog will aim to answer all these questions and provide greater clarity for international families interested in applying to US universities but concerned about the financial consequences.
International students applying to US universities who want to apply for financial aid will be required to complete the CSS Profile, an online application that provides universities with a snapshot of the student’s family’s financial standing: income, assets, liabilities, etc. Based on this information, each university will internally determine how much money they expect the student’s family to contribute to their education, sometimes known as the Estimated Financial Contribution (EFC). If the university accepts the student, they will construct the student’s institutional financial aid package around this EFC.
Universities that commit to meeting a student’s full demonstrated need promise to provide aid that meets the full difference between the total cost of attendance and the family’s EFC, whether through grants, loans, work-study packages, or a combination of the three.
It is critical to note that a large majority of universities in the US are need-aware for international students, meaning that an applicant’s financial need is considered by admissions officers when issuing their admissions decision. As such, students with greater financial need will typically be rejected at higher rates than students with less or no financial need. This stands in contrast to need-blind universities, which do not consider an applicant’s financial needs when making decisions.
As of January 2023, there are currently seven universities in the US that are both need-blind for international students and committed to meeting the full financial need of all students who apply, both domestic and international.
This is a highly selective set of universities; the financial rewards can be plentiful for students who meet the lofty standards for acceptance set by these institutions.
Many universities commit to meeting full demonstrated financial needs for all students while remaining need-aware. Thus, while they do provide significant financial aid packages to some international applicants, students should be aware that their financial status will still be a factor in the admissions process and that, as such, they must still put together a stellar application that goes above and beyond in justifying why the university should invest financial resources in their enrollment. Universities that fall into this category include the following:
As can be seen, US universities value the contributions that international students make to their educational communities, and many are committed to ensuring that all students, regardless of background or financial status, have the opportunity to attend without incurring undue financial burdens. Education at a top US university does not have to be expensive. An affordable US education is undoubtedly attainable for determined students who go the extra mile to excel in high school.
The Crimson Access Opportunity (CAO) program seeks to match high-achieving high school students who require financial support with teams of experienced admissions professionals to maximize their chances of attending their dream universities at an affordable cost.
The CAO program is completely cost-free and requires students to complete an application. CAO students have been accepted to top universities like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Duke, Tufts, Bowdoin, and many more!
The 2021-2022 cohort of CAO students received over 8 million USD financial support. Also, the 2022-2023 cohort of students have already received more than 4 million USD just in the early round this year from the universities they were accepted to.
Priority Deadline for CAO: March 1, 2023, at 11:59 PM in your local timezone.
Final Deadline for CAO: April 7, 2023, at 11:59 PM in your local timezone.
Learn more about CAO through our CAO Website!
Top 3 Reasons to Apply to Crimson Access Opportunity