Funding Your Undergraduate studies

A good undergraduate education from a top US school will put you on the fast track to your goals. But this will certainly not come cheap!

The US student support organization College Board estimates that the annual costs for undergraduate studies come to about $25,620 (INR 18,29,152) for Public colleges, and an average of $34,740 (INR 24,80,279) at Private colleges.

This figure rises if we look at the tuition and fees for the undergraduate courses at some of the top US colleges for 2018-19:

University Tuition and Fees in USD INR
Princeton $49,450 Rs. 35,30,507
Columbia University $48,436 Rs. 34,58,112
UCLA $41,275 Rs. 29,46,849
Stanford $49,617 Rs. 35,42,430
Harvard $48,949 Rs. 34,94,738

Students also have to arrange for other expenses, including books and study materials, room and board. This could cost an additional $15-18,000 (INR 10.5-12.5 lakh). Thus, along with tuition, travel and living expenses, the annual cost for an undergraduate student can rise as high as $65,000 (INR 46.5 lakh).

These huge costs can be a major stumbling block for even the brightest students. Of course, one of the first options that comes to mind of SAT aspirant  is student loans. But even though student loans have comparatively lower rates of interest, it would still be extremely high for such a large amount. Even with family support, this is an exorbitant amount to pay.

Luckily, the picture is not as bleak as it seems at first sight. While the tuition and fees are quite steep, the on-ground fact is that most students don’t actually have to pay this amount!

College Aid and Scholarships

All universities offer a variety of aid and scholarships, which can substantially reduce the cost burden of the course. And yes, this is true for Indian applicants as well!

Aid can be either Need-based, and Merit-based. Need-based aid takes into account the socio-economic condition of the applicant’s family, and ability to meet the financial burden. Merit-based aid assesses each applicant on the strength of their application and overall potential. Thus, factors like SAT test scores, GPA, sports ability, artistic talent, or other additional qualifications matter a lot.

How do you figure out if you qualify for either of these kinds of scholarships? Well, the first and easiest step once you have shortlisted your dream colleges, is to check the aid information on their websites.

All US university websites now have a calculator for Fees and Financial Aid. Students can input various data such as their family income and other parameters to find out if they are eligible for such aid, and if so, then how much. You can also learn more by using the resources offered through the US Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Centre, at this site: https://collegecost.ed.gov/

You will be shocked to learn that the highest priced and most prestigious universities often are also the most generous in terms of funding.

It’s hard to believe, right?

  • Princeton University, on its website, states that families with income up to $65,000 (INR 46.5 lakh) can qualify for financial aid. On average, each student was granted aid of $53,100 (INR 37.9 lakh). Learn more at: https://admission.princeton.edu/cost-aid
  • The University of Pennsylvania offers total annual funding of over $9 million (INR 64,25,59,500) for international undergraduate students.
  • Harvard University offered average grants of $60,687 (INR 43,32,778) for undergraduates in 2016-17.
  • Yale offered 336 international undergraduate students an average of $58,864 (INR 42,02,624) in grants.
  • NYU, one of the most popular universities for international students, offers an average scholarship of about $30,000 (INR 21,41,865) to 1st year students. You can learn more at: https://www.nyu.edu/admissions/undergraduate-admissions/high-school-counselors/nyu-scholarships.html

The NYU site also specifies that international students who want to be considered for such scholarships must complete the CSS profile, which you can find at: https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org/

In addition, some universities offer community-focused scholarships, such as the American University Emerging Global Leader Scholarship (AU EGL), offered by the American University (Washington DC), to undergraduate students who are active in social and civic activities. While it is offered in any field of undergraduate study, it is aimed at students who seek to work with under-served communities in their home country. The scholarship can be renewed every year of the course, as long as the student maintains his/her grades. (More information at: www.american.edu/admissions/international/egls.cfm)

Remember, each university has different aid and scholarship requirements and offerings. Once you have finalized the colleges you want to apply to, you can find details about the financial aid.

However, the websites may not have all the answers! You must reach out to the college administration and get all the possible information directly from them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can also get in touch with alumni and current students and get their inputs. They have already gone through this process, and can really help you out!

With this aid and scholarship, the total amount to be paid is reduced substantially, which makes a student loan much more affordable. For many, a loan may not even be necessary, as the amount can be covered by the family without much trouble.

International Scholarships from Other Institutions

The college-sponsored grants and aid opportunities are not your only financial option either. There are a number of outside institutions that sponsor students who wish to study abroad. Here are just a few:

Tata Scholarships for Cornell University: The Tata Education and Development Trust has endowed Cornell University with $25 million (INR 178,48,87,500) to financially aid meritorious underprivileged Indian students in Cornell’s undergraduate program. There are 20 scholarships offered, and you can find more information at: https://admissions.cornell.edu/apply/international-students/tata-scholarship

– TOEFL Scholarship: This offers 15 merit-based scholarships ($7000 each—about INR 4.7 lakh) for academic expenses of undergraduate students at any of the universities listed in the TOEFL Destinations Directory. You can learn more at: http://www.indiaeducation.net/scholarships/toefl-scholarship-program-in-india.html

– Asian Women in Business Scholarship Fund: A merit-based scholarship offered to Asian women who have demonstrated leadership, academic excellence or community service. Applicants must be enrolled in an undergraduate program in order to apply. More information at: http://www.awib.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewPage&pageID=811&nodeID=1

Clearly, your dream school is not out of reach if you access these options for financial aid and scholarships!

To get the best possible scholarships, remember:

– Check your aid eligibility on your chosen college website, and reach out to the administration for more information.

– Plan beforehand and apply well within the deadlines. Reach out to SAT coaching institutes in your town (Gurgaon). This will not only ease your stress, but allow you plenty of time to plan your finances based on exactly how much aid you are offered.

– Ensure your school grades and SAT scores are as near perfect as possible. For most merit-based scholarships and grants, this is an essential factor.

– Often a Scholarship Essay is required in addition to your application essays. You can share your goals, any financial constraints, community service, athletic or artistic awards, and explain how you seek to make a real impact and contribution at college and beyond. Be realistic, but show your passion.

– Connect with local alumni and find out any alternative scholarships that you may be eligible for.

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