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Higher Education in the US Part 3

Satish is confident. Now he knows the procedures involved in prosecuting higher studies in the US. He has purchased the ATS GRE CD and is preparing to take the GRE. His only worry is about the financial aid. He consults his professor regarding this nagging problem.

Satish: Professor, please tell me more about financial aid, and the types of aid, if any.

Professor: The US has an extensive array of financial aid programs in the form of grants, scholarships, loans, and other awards for students who want continue their education after high school. This aid helps you pay for higher education. There are two types of aid:
Merit-based financial aid is given to students who have special talents, skills, or who have earned good grades. 
Need-based financial aid is given to students who show that they are in dire need of aid, mainly due to poverty. 

Satish: Professor, then how should I apply, what are the prerequisites? 

Professor: Satish, to obtain financial aid, the applicant should:
be an Indian citizen; 
have a high level of academic/professional achievement; 
demonstrate proficiency in English language. The applicant may be required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL); 
be present in India while submitting the application and for the interview (if required); 
be in good health; and 
not have been in the US during the past three years on a teaching, research, study or professional assignment for a continuous period of three months or more, before the submission of the application. 

Satish: Then what is the application procedure, will you please give me some guidelines?

Professor: The application material can be obtained in person from any of the USEFI (United States Educational Foundation in India) offices or requests may be sent to the USEFI office in your region along with a self-addressed and stamped (Rs.15.00) 10" x 7" envelope. State your academic/professional qualifications, date of birth, present position, and fellowship category in your request letter.

Satish: What if the application is incomplete?

Prof: Well, all incomplete applications, or, applications not forwarded through proper channel will not be considered. A completed application should not be sent as an attachment through e-mail. 

Satish: Is there any selection process involved?

Prof: Yes, there is. Expert committees will sort out the applications. Applicants recommended by the committees will be required to appear for an interview with the USEFI National Selection Committee in New Delhi. In case of certain fellowship categories, applicants may be required to appear for regional level interviews as well. Decisions taken by the committees in connection with the selection process will be final and requests for reconsideration will NOT be entertained.

Satish: What is the cost of education in the US?

Prof: Education is very expensive in the US. The tuition fee alone can be somewhere between $5,000 and $30,000 per year, depending on the type (private or government-funded) and quality of the institution, as well as the type and quality of the program of studies. The cost of living will add another $10,000 to $20,000 per year, depending on the location. 
The on-campus accommodations are not necessarily cheaper than the off-campus accommodations. Moreover, not all colleges offer on-campus accommodations. 

Satish: Is there any scope for me to work and pay my tuition fee?

Prof: Oh yes, students can work on-campus or off-campus through the academic year. However, international students are allowed to work on-campus only. Students can also obtain full-time employment during the summer holidays. International students are given "training visa" for 12 months of full-time employment. They can choose to use this training visa arrangement for summer employment or for employment after graduation. 

Satish: What should I do, then, to apply for the student financial aid from the federal government?

Prof: To apply for student financial aid from the federal government, including the Pell Grant, Perkins Loan, Stafford Loan etc., you will need to submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). There is no charge for submitting this form. The FAFSA is also required by all state and many school student assistance programs. 

Some private colleges and universities will require one or more supplemental forms to obtain information not included on the FAFSA. They may have their own forms or they may ask you to complete the College Board's CSS PROFILE form. 
Before you begin, you should review important information about the deadlines and gather together all the documents you'll need to complete the form. 

Common Errors on Financial Aid Applications 

Making a mistake on the FAFSA can delay the processing of your application, because it takes an additional 2-3 weeks to process a corrected application. 

Most mistakes on the FAFSA could have been avoided by carefully reading the instructions and questions. If you don't understand a question or if you have any trouble filling out the form, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center. The financial aid administrator at your school can also answer your questions. Their only purpose is to help you, so take advantage of their assistance. 
The US Department of Education also gives advice on their Web site. It includes a copy of the instructions that accompany the FAFSA in addition to a few extra words of wisdom. 

Common errors: 

A fundamental mistake students make is to leave a field blank. All income questions must be completed. If the question does not apply to you, write in a 'zero' (0). Do not use dashes or leave the space blank. If you leave an income or asset question unanswered, the federal processor will assume that you forgot to answer the question. 

Use your legal name as it appears on your Social Security card/certificates. Using a nickname or any other name will cause a processing delay. 

Give your Social Security Number (SSN) and date of birth accurately and clearly. Errors in the SSN or date of birth will cause processing delays. 

Read the questions carefully. The words "you" and "your" on the FAFSA always refer to the student, not the parents. 

To the question that asks about bachelor's degrees, answer "no" if have not completed your bachelor's degree by July 1. 

To the question that asks about your interest in different types of aid (e.g., work-study and student loans), answer "yes". Answering "yes" does not obligate you to accept a loan. Answering "no" will not get you more grant aid. 
The question that asks whether you were born before January 1 is very confusing. If your answer to this question does not agree with your date of birth, it will cause processing delays. 

If you are using the online version of the FAFSA, do not check the "Early Analysis" flag if you are actually applying for financial aid. Early analysis is intended for students who will not be attending college next year, but would like to file the FAFSA to get an idea of what their EFC will be for the following year (i.e., high school students and parents who are trying to plan ahead). If you set the early analysis flag, your information will not be sent to the state, which can prevent you from getting state aid. 

Finally, sign the form and also get it signed by everybody who is supposed to sign it. An unsigned form will not be processed. Even though the rest of the form should be completed in black ink, you should sign the form in blue ink. 

Satish: Thanks a lot, Professor, for clearing my doubts and for giving me the required information. 

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