American International School of Guangzhou

Financial Aid

Financial Aid – An Overview for Students and Parents

The cost of higher education is certainly a consideration for students and their parents. The most important general advice we can share is to talk about college costs as a family. Open and honest discussion about the budget for university is essential and will help families to make careful decisions about what country and to what colleges or universities a student will apply.

The information provided below is intended to serve as a general introduction to a very detailed topic. We hope you will find it useful in gaining a basic understanding of what is needed in order to apply for financial aid as a U.S. citizen and also as an international student.

The Admissions application process is separate but related to the Financial Aid application process.  The following information should help clarify the relationship between the two.

- Although admissions counselors do not determine financial aid awards, they are usually aware when they review admissions applications if an applicant is requesting financial aid or not.  Especially for students who need substantial assistance, there is a chance that applying for aid could reduce one's chances of admission.

- Colleges that are "Need Blind," do not factor financial aid requests into their admissions decisions.  Admissions counselors at need blind colleges are not aware when they review applications if financial aid has been requested.  If students are accepted, need blind colleges are committed to meeting their financial aid need, regardless of how great the need.

Financial Aid Basics for U.S. Citizens

As a starting point, determine your state residency status. Each state has its own policy so it’s important to carefully read the regulations. Colleges and universities enforce the regulations and make the final determination regarding residency for tuition purposes. 

It’s easy to become consumed by vocabulary while learning about financial aid. The U.S. government information site for financial aid professionals (IFAP) has a comprehensive glossary to terms that may be helpful.

A common mistake for many parents is to assume that they will not qualify for financial aid. We urge families to carefully consider this and seek our advice about applying for financial aid early in the process. Of course it’s necessary to consider the price tag of a university education, but don’t make the mistake of thinking private institutions are unaffordable.  The methodology for computing financial aid status at public institutions differs from private institutions. For more information consult the FAFSA site and the CSS Financial Aid Profile site.  Lastly, families should be cautious when searching for scholarships.  Any website or agent that requests a fee to provide this type of assistance could be scam.  A wealth of information on this topic can be found at the US Federal Trade Commission website.

Financial Aid Basics for International Students Applying to U.S. Universities

By definition, an international student is anyone who needs a visa to study in the country to which they will apply for university. Planning to study abroad is an exciting prospect, but it is the responsibility of the student and his or her family to finance this education. International students applying to U.S. universities should be aware that they will not be able to apply for government-sponsored aid programs. International students do not need to complete the FAFSA form.  Instead, international students applying for financial aid, mostly in the form of scholarships, will be asked to complete specific forms provided by the college or university to which they are applying. Two examples of such forms are the CSS Profile for International Students and the International Student Financial Aid Application.

International students applying to U.S. universities must complete a certification of finances showing the amount of U.S. dollars available in the bank to pay for the student’s higher education fees, even if the family is not applying for financial aid. This form is required in order to obtain a student visa, but is included as part of the application process at many U.S. institutions. An example of such of form can be found on most U.S. university websites. We’ve provided, as an example, the form used by Boston University.

Some important considerations before you apply to a U.S. university as an international student:

If you know that you need financial assistance to attend college in the states, be sure to apply ONLY to colleges that will offer funding to international students.  Many U.S. colleges and universities seek to admit international students and will offer attractive aid packages for strong students. Be sure to do your research!

Download Doug Thompson’s List of U.S. Colleges and Universities that provide financial aid to international students. Doug is a member, as we are, of OACAC (Overseas Association for College Admissions Counseling) and we thank him for maintaining this list. The Council of International Schools also offers spreadsheets containing useful data about university costs and financial aid awards for international students.

Start early…searching for scholarships and completing the additional paperwork and essays that may be required can be time-consuming tasks!

Early Decision may NOT be a good option if you need additional funding beyond family resources. It is best to wait for all offers of admission in order to consider all potential financial aid packages.

Additional Websites for U.S. Citizens and International Students Applying to U.S. Universities

Financial Aid and Scholarships – U. S. Citizens

CollegeBoard – Paying for College

CollegeBoard offers a multitude of information about college costs in the U.S. and the financial aid process.  This site is most useful for U.S. citizens.


This is the official site for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for U.S. citizens.


This is a scholarship search site. It’s one of many on the web. Students can register to be notified via email about scholarships for which they may be eligible. Targeted mostly toward U.S. citizens, but international students who want to study in the U.S. may be eligible for some of the awards.


This is an award winning site that provides an extensive variety of resources and information to help make sense of the financial aid process. 

Financial Aid and Scholarships – International

US Journal of Academic Options for International Students

This site contains information and resources for international students who are trying to finance a U.S. college education.


Targeted toward international students, this site offers a worldwide scholarship data base that can be filtered by location, college major, and type of financial aid.

International Education Financial Aid

Sponsored by the International Student Network since 1998, this site offers a scholarship search function and other general information for students that want to study abroad.


This site provides financial aid and other information for international students who want to study in the U.S.