Dear Mentor:

For financial aid, what is meant by sponsorship?

My doubt is regarding the financial aid system in the States for graduate studies. For international students: Do I have to apply separately for that? If so, is there any separate form for that? I hear that a student has got 70% sponsorship and someone says that he has got 90% sponsorship. What is that? How do I apply for sponsorship? Is it automatically done by the college authorities to which I am applying? Every guide to financial aid is very much confusing. From where do I get detailed information? How much do I really need to spend? Is this directly linked to the GRE scores?

Getting Financial Aid, Dubai, UAE

Dear Getting Financial Aid:

You can obtain general information about Financial Aid in the US in the iMahal Education Section. It explains the types of financial aid available to international students, such as: research assistantships, teaching assistantships, and scholarships. Keep in mind that such assistance is available primarily at the graduate (Master's and PhD) level. Financial assistance for international students at the undergraduate level is virtually non-existent.

The primary source for financial assistance is your prospective college or university. The school would consider you for financial assistance if you so desire. You should indicate your desire to be considered for financial aid at the time of applying for admission. Generally, the application form for admission contains this item; it asks you if you want to be considered for financial assistance. Each college has its own financial aid process. You must get this information directly from the prospective school.

The school is not your sponsor; it is an education institution that issues necessary documentation for obtaining an international student visa. This documentation is issued when you are admitted, and it has nothing to do with the offer of financial assistance or your own financial means. Should a department in the school offer you financial support, it would provide such documentation. You do not need a sponsorship from anyone for studies in the US. What you do need is evidence of adequate funds to pursue your program of studies. The US immigration authorities want to ensure that you will be able to sustain yourself financially during your stay in the US. Any combination of personal resources and financial assistance can be used to meet this requirement. A sponsorship, typically from a close relative who is willing and able to support your studies, can also be used to demonstrate a source of finances.

We are not sure what others mean by a certain percentage of sponsorship. It perhaps means the percentage of total expected expenses that the financial support offered by the school would meet.

Financial support formula for each school is unique: no school discloses how it determines the level of financial assistance it offers to a candidate. But the general approach is fairly straightforward. The assistance for international students is based on merit and potential for success. Past academic performance and GRE scores are critical factors.

The cost of education (tuition, housing, food, books) in the US is very high - it ranges from $15,000 to $45,000 for each school year. Factors that determine the cost are: whether the school is private or public, its prestige and reputation, and its location. The website for each school provides information on the expected annual costs. The iMahal College Finder is a great tool to identify colleges that match your performance and financial needs.

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