Grade 11

Getting financial aid for your studies

This is a big one!

In this section you can:

The Expert View

Find out everything that is important to know about financial aid from our resident expert.


An introduction to financial aid

There is scarcely any topic concerning applying to university that is more complicated and which attracts more interest, after all there is money involved and this is a chance someone will give your money. It is worth reading on ☺

People approach financial aid for two main reasons:

  • Free money (why pay out of your own pocket when someone else will pay?)
  • They can’t afford to go to college without some financial aid as the price is simply too high.

Financial aid is complicated and so we’re going to attempt to uncomplicate it for you and provide you with the basic knowledge you need to search out your own financial aid. This might be a good moment to insert a disclaimer saying that there is no ‘One Fit’ answer to how much financial aid a student can get as it depends on so many factors. But before we get into that, let’s have a look at the different types of financial aid available.

Read more... this stuff is important!

Now let’s have a look at these in a little more detail so that we can explain what these terms mean. And then, as I know you are keen to start searching for money, we will show you how to go about this task. 

Types of Aid

Merit-based aid

Most scholarships are merit based. This means that they are awarded to students with certain qualities, such as proven academic or athletic ability. Many scholarships require you to maintain a certain GPA to continue receiving aid.

Need-based aid

Most grants are need based. Financial aid (grants, scholarships, loans and work-study opportunities) given to students because they and their families are not able to pay the full cost of attending a certain college. 



Most grants are need based. This means that they are usually awarded based on your or your family’s financial situation. You do not have to pay the money back.

Student loans

Money you borrow from the government, a bank or another source. Loans need to be paid back, usually over an agreed period of time.


Most scholarships are merit based. This means that they are awarded to students with certain qualities, such as proven academic or athletic ability. Many scholarships have rules — maintaining a certain GPA, for example — that you have to follow to continue receiving aid. You do not have to pay the money back.

Other types of scholarships

Sometimes individual universities have their own scholarship programs. May be a company or organization has given some money to the university to found a scholarship program that carries their name. Or, an alumnus has donated money for a scholarship.

Work-study programs in the USA (US Citizens)

A program that allows students to take a part-time campus job as part of their financial aid package. To qualify for the Federal Work-Study Program, which is funded by the government, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Some colleges have their own work-study programs.

Aid from your own government

Many governments sponsor their citizens who want to go and study abroad

Aid from your parents’ employer

Some companies and organizations will pay all or part of your university costs. These are usually international companies/ organizations where the employees are working away from home countries. E.g. United Nations, World Bank, EU etc.

Parental contribution (Bank of Mum & Dad!)

You need to have a conversation with your parents to find out how much they are willing to pay towards the costs of your university education.

And finally, you can get a part-time job to help finance studies.

We’ll be covering the last two in much more detail in another module…

Some critical questions that need to be asked

Sometimes the questions are more important than the answers.

question 1:

Is this university worth the money, or could I get just as good an education elsewhere?

question 3:

My parents really want to support me, but this is a large financial burden for them.

Should I be asking them to do this?

question 2:

If I’m going to pay a lot of money, am I sure this is the right course for me?

I don’t want to drop out and waste my parents’ money

Financial Aid by country

Let’s track down the money!

Well before you get started, you need to understand that just like university tuition fees, there is a lot of variety in what is available depending on factors such as:

  • Your nationality
  • The country in which you are applying to study and get a scholarship
  • How heavily subsidized your university already is by taxpayers’ money
  • How ‘well-endowed’ is the University?!

You may have heard about large amounts of money being available for financial aid in the USA to offset what at first glance may seem very high tuition fees. Other countries heavily subsidize universities with tax money thus keeping fees low, or even free. In these countries there is very little financial aid available as your university tuition fees have already been subsidized by the local taxpayers. 

Before setting off on the trail to track down financial aid, it’s useful to have  an overview of tuition fees  country by country, as it  maybe you don’t need to invest time on searching out financial aid, particularly if you’re applying to a country where tuition is free e.g. Germany.

Financial Aid in the USA

Financial aid in the USA is complicated and multi-layered. We have attempted  to break this down into its constituent parts. Please note that there is more  financial aid available to US citizens than to non – US citizens. 

Financial Aid for US Citizens

Financial Need 

The difference between the cost of attendance (COA) at a college and your  Expected Family Contribution (EFC). While COA varies from college to  college, your EFC does not change based on the college you attend. 

You can fill out a FAFSA form online to ascertain your EFC 

FAFSA(for US citizens) 

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows students to apply for more than $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds. Check out this video for info about the FAFSA and the resources available to help fill out this important application. Visit FAFSA form – Financial AId  to learn more and to fill out the form. 

These are the main types of financial aid available 

Grants (Pell Grant) 

The federal government provides grants for students attending college or  career school. Most types of grants, unlike loans, are sources of free money  that generally do not have to be repaid. 


Scholarships are gifts. They don’t need to be repaid. There are thousands of  them, offered by schools, employers, individuals, private companies,  nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social  organizations.

Some scholarships for college are merit-based. Other scholarships are based  on financial need. You can learn about scholarships in several ways,  including contacting the financial aid office at the university you plan to  apply to. 

Work Study Program 

Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate  students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay  education expenses 


If you apply for financial aid, you may be offered loans as part of your  college’s financial aid offer. A loan is money you borrow and must pay back  with interest. 

In-State Tuition  

This usually costs less than half. You must meet residency qualifications. 

Financial Aid for Non-US Citizens

There may be some scholarships and other aid you can get. 

  • Check with your country’s government to see what they offer.
  • E mail the college you plan to attend and ask whether they offer any  aid for international students 
  • Check out the  Education USA Financial Aid
  •   Many colleges provide institutional financial aid to international students. If it is the college’s own money, they get to choose who they  give it to. If it is federal/state tax money then in almost all cases it will be  restricted to US citizens.
  • Some colleges will automatically give merit based aid based on IB  grades (check each  college’s website as this varies considerably).

CSS Profile This form is similar to FAFSA (for US Citizens) and collects information about your family’s income, assets, and expenses. This helps  individual colleges ascertain if you qualify for their financial aid.

CSS Profile form Financial Aid 

Many colleges provide institutional financial aid to international students. 

A great place to start: 

Financial Aid Calculator on College’s own website… 

Most international students fund themselves with a mixture of grants/ loans from their own government, money from their parents, scholarships or loans from individual universities. 

Look at the price differences from one state to another, and between private universities and publicly funded universities. Shop around, you can save a lot of money.

Action Ideas

Things to do that will make a real difference

Talk to your parents and find out how much they can afford to pay for your university education.

Start searching for courses/ universities… now!

Register for any extra test you might have to take e.g. SAT/ACT for the USA.

Make a spreadsheet of courses you are interested in. You should include tuition costs and housing costs as well as the academic entry requirements and application deadlines.

Make an appointment to see your counsellor.

Never underestimate how much time this will take – start early… very early!

Financial Aid in Canada

Non-Canadian Citizens
There is not much financial aid available to international students aside from the entrance awards and scholarship programs like ILOT by individual universities in Canada.  

e.g. Here is a link for UBC  international scholars’s program- UBC International Students Financial Aid

Canadian Citizens
For Canadian citizens, and permanent residents, there are grants and financial assistance available, and they are asked to apply through the province where your parents last lived.

The Canadian government has a comprehensive page for grants and loans for Canadians and permanent residents- Financial Aid in Canada for Canadians 

Citizens of France and Belgium!
You pay Canadian tuition fees at universities in the province of Quebec irrespective of whether you study in English or French. (Quebec is a French speaking province of Canada).

Financial Aid in the UK

The UK government offers hundreds of scholarships, bursaries and additional financial support to students from several countries. You can visit the UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs) website  to find out if you are eligible for a scholarship. 

Many institutions also offer their own financial assistance, and you can check their websites for more information.

Financial Aid in the Australia

Unfortunately there is not much aid available to international students.

Most international students fund themselves was a mixture of grants and loans from their own government, money from their parents, scholarships or loans from individual universities. 

Fulbright – US Citizens study in Australia

Financial Aid in the Netherlands

Many Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences offer scholarships to international students. These come in different forms and sizes, from university-wide to programme-specific funding. You can find out more about your options by looking up your programme or directly contacting the institution. Study in Netherlands: Finances

Quick Tips

Some insider tips that make a real difference

Tip 1:

Think about US State Universities

They are substantially cheaper and may even compare favorably was some of the European countries e.g. UK

So you think a college/university education in the USA is too expensive? Take another look… 

University of Arkansas Little Rock 

International Students: Tuition USD 15,000 Living expenses USD 9,000.  Source: University of Arkansas- costs  

And this before any financial aid…

Tip 2:

Consider US Community Colleges

‘Overall, community colleges are less costly than four-year universities in the U.S., Parham says. According to the nonprofit College Board, the average tuition and fees for community college for 2018-2019 was $3,660, compared with $26,290 for a four-year university for out-of-state students.’ Source: US News – Community Colleges. 

Tip 3:

Consider combining them both!

Consider doing Years 1 and  2 of your degree at a Community College and then Years 3 and 4 at a state university. The total cost of your degree will be considerably less.

Compare Tuition costs by state:
‘In state v Out of state’, ‘Private v Public’

Wigsbury Frequently asked questions

Quick answers to the important questions

I would love to study in the United States, but my parents think it’s too expensive. What advice can you give me?

At first glance many of the US universities appear to be expensive, however this impression can be misleading. Firstly, the price quoted on the website very often includes housing -please check carefully as it differs from one university to another. Secondly there is financial aid available as detailed in this module. Thirdly, State universities tend to be cheaper than the private universities. Fourthly, you can study for the first two years of your bachelor’s degree at a community college and then transfer to a local State University for the final two years. This will be substantially cheaper.

Will I be able to work in the United States?

This depends on what type of Visa you on. You need to check on the US government website as the conditions attached to your Visa, you can also contact your university and ask them.


Is it possible to study for free in the United States?

In exceptional circumstances, a university or college may offer you financial aid that covers 100% of your tuition fees and housing costs. This is known as,’ a free ride’. It is, regrettably, very rare.

I would like to study on a joint program where I do two years at a European University and two years in the United States. Will I have to pay us tuition fees for those two years if I’m registered student at a European University?

Good question. The answer varies from University to university. There are some programs where you continue to pay the tuition fee rates of your home-based university. This will normally be cheaper if your home base University is in Europe.

I am an American citizen and I’m looking for a cheaper alternative to studying in the United States, any suggestions?

Assuming you want to study in English there are lots of possibilities open for you.

Not only will you save money, but you will also have a life enriching experience visiting new places, meeting new people, travelling and maybe even learning the language of your host country. This is a great way to make lifelong friends.  I would suggest that you start looking at universities in Europe. European countries mostly differentiate between EU citizens and non-EU citizens.  Even as a non-EU citizen you’ll be able to find some attractive opportunities. I suggest you shop around a little, but just as a starting point two of the biggest providers of English taught courses are the Netherlands (approximately €10,000 a year for tuition) and Germany which is free. There are of course many other opportunities.

If you’re thinking of heading to Asia, checkout universities in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore etc. And then, of course, there is Australia and New Zealand.

If you prefer studying in an English speaking country, then check out the UK it will cost you between 10 and £20,000 a year. But remember in Europe a business degree is only three years, so this will save you money as well.