Aid, Scholarships and Part-Time Work
University can be expensive, and for many students, personal and family funds will just not be enough. However, there are other ways to cover your costs, namely financial aid, scholarships and part-time work. Universities will often help you to find these. These aren't casinos we're talking about, so admission is not about the size of your wallet; it’s about the size of your brain. If you’re academically strong, universities want you, and will therefore provide assistance if necessary.
Ivy League schools are often used as examples of the high cost of higher education in the United States. But though the ‘sticker price’ (i.e. the full fee) can seem astronomical, many run policies of ‘need-blind’ admission for domestic students, which in some cases extends to international students. What this means is that it doesn’t matter how much aid you need: if you’re good enough, you’re in (though you do need to be very, very good).
Yale University is one example of a school where this is the case for international students. “If you get into Yale, we will make sure that cost is not a barrier in your decision to attend,” says Jeff Brenzel, dean of admissions. “We think of this in simple terms — families should pay only what they can afford, depending on their income. Our policies ensure that Yale is affordable for every student we admit, and without the need to borrow for one’s education."
Yale, along with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University and Princeton University, is an extreme case. But even if they aren’t completely need-blind for international students, financial aid packages at many US schools are generous. And now you can find out what aid you’re eligible for straight away, by using the online net-price calculators that universities are now legally required to provide in the US.
University scholarships for international students
Of course, aid is not limited to the US. Helen Eastham, head of the International Student Advisory Service at the University of Birmingham in the UK, emphasizes the university’s commitment to helping its students. “At the University of Birmingham we ensure that fears about finance do not constrain prospective students from considering university, and that excellence is rewarded.”
For this reason, Birmingham offers a number of scholarships to high-calibre students, as well as an array of departmentally and regionally specific awards. Students from the US and Canada are also eligible for loans from the university to cover the cost of education.
The same is the case at Imperial College London, with much of the available funding being country-specific. This includes, but is not limited to Bulgaria, the Philippines and China. The university also operates a hardship fund for students who find themselves in a tight spot (this is only in case of an emergency – don’t expect to turn up and just make withdrawals from this or you’ll be out quicker than you can say “Imperial College London”).
EU students studying in the UK may also take out the same governmental loans that domestic students are entitled to. If you’re from further afield, it’s worth making some enquiries – many domestic governments offer funding and loans for any of their citizens thinking of studying abroad.
Part-time work during university: a good idea?
Part-time work is an option many students consider. At Yale University for example, part of the way in which financial aid is delivered is the provision of a wide range of on-campus jobs, which students can take on to help support themselves. These include working in the marketing and communications department or for the university newspaper – a good way to bolster your CV or résumé if these are fields you’re interested in.
International students in the UK may work up to 20 hours if they are not from the EU, or for as many hours as they like if they are. However, Imperial warns that though part-time work “can provide skills development opportunities in addition to financial benefits”, students need to be careful not to let it negatively affect their academic performance. Basically, feel free to earn some extra pocket money, but don’t bank on a job to sustain your basic needs. Eastham echoes this sentiment, suggesting that perhaps 15 hours (around two full-time shifts) should be the absolute maximum.
But to return to the main point, that part-time dishwashing job might not be necessary: just make sure you do your research. Don’t just look at the basic fee; look at what is available – not just from the university, but from your host country as well as third parties. “It is always advisable to investigate potential sources of funding within your home country,” adds Imperial’s spokesperson. You may well be pleasantly surprised by what is available…
This article was originally published in October 2012 . It was last updated in March 2021