No matter how many meticulous plans have been made, many parents and students fret over getting their finances straight to cover tuition fees for a top-notch undergraduate or master’s program. With rising academic costs, competitive courses and a high cost of living, it’s necessary to plan ahead and cover all your bases while investing in your child’s education.
While the prospect of dealing with thousands of dollars may feel intimidating at first, it’s possible to come up with a practical plan that will help offset costs and make the dream program a lot more accessible. Here’s what you should keep in mind while planning for your child’s university education:
Keep an eye on fellowships and scholarships
Most institutions, including the Ivy League universities, have a plethora of funding options available to students, including need-based aid, merit-based scholarships, grants for students from different backgrounds, subject-specific funding and scholarships for minorities and women.
When zeroing down on the right program and university, remember to check the financial aid section on the university website and shortlist as per your requirements. When in doubt, always reach out to the admissions department and ask about funding options that are available to students planning to enrol in the next academic session. Certain programs such as New York University’s (NYU) medical program aim to be free for all students, requiring them to cover room and board.
Most institutions, including the Ivy League universities, have a plethora of funding options available.
There are also tuition discounts, fellowships and special concessions on offer. For example, at the University of Liverpool, international students who apply to non-clinical programs are eligible to receive a tuition fee discount in the next year as long as they obtain a first class average.
At NYU, the journalism program offers international students a chance to compete for the World Journalist Fellowship that covers tuition fees for two semesters coupled with a stipend.
Remember that playing to your child’s strengths is never a bad idea. Consider this: at the American University of Sharjah, gifted students are awarded the Athletic Scholarships that gives them access to professional coaching as well as free tuition, health insurance and accommodation. Look for funding opportunities that are tailored to your kid’s talents such as sports scholarships, funding based on leadership potential, extracurricular activities, social work and more. For example, major Canadian universities such as University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, McGill University, University of British Columbia and McMaster University offer entrance scholarships for new students with vastly different skill sets.
Explore external scholarships
Lots of organizations and companies offer prestigious external scholarships to help ease the financial strain. Well-known options worth signing up for include Fulbright (United States), Chevening (United Kingdom), Erasmus (Europe), Eiffel Excellence Scholarship Program (France) and DAAD (Germany) scholarships. It’s also useful to keep track of funding options available for minorities (if applicable) and check portals such as EduPass, Scholly and funding pages on university websites that link you to external sources for financial aid. For minority applications, look for the group that’s most suitable for your child. For example, The Gates Scholarship is applicable for students from certain backgrounds including African-American, American Indian, Hispanic American and more. The British Council scholarships cater to Indian students who wish to pursue a course in the U.K. and the Saïd Foundation scholarships cater to students from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria among others.
Be careful to apply only to trustworthy sources and reputed organizations and never share your bank account details or credit card information anywhere.
For Emirati students
Emirati students can explore several funding options including financial support from the Ministry of Education, the Al Ghurair Foundation for Education and the Presidential Scholarship Program to pursue their higher degrees.
Additionally, there are scholarships available for selected programs at several UAE universities including RIT Dubai, the British University in Dubai, the Canadian University of Dubai, Khalifa University, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Scholars Program at Higher Colleges of Technology, the United Arab Emirates University and Zayed University.
Other scholarships include the Entaliq Scholarship Programme from Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, ICT’s Betha Scholarship Programme and more. The key is to find the right fit based on your child’s requirements and apply accordingly. Remember to keep the deadlines in mind as you prepare your child’s applications.
The options are endless
Students can also apply for teaching assistantships and other part-time jobs to support their living expenses. While they’ll still have to pay tuition fees, this will cut down on the total expenditure and help save money. Several part-time jobs may be available, on campus as well off it, based on the student’s location and visa status. For example, in the U.S., international students can work up to 20 hours per week on campus during the school year (the number goes up to 40 hours during breaks). However, have your child check with the university’s international students office to make sure they have the proper paperwork and permit required to work on or off campus.
Remember to keep the deadlines in mind as you prepare your child’s applications.
It’s a good idea to do your research on financial aid during the application process and after your child receives the acceptance letter.
Keep all options open — it’s possible to receive scholarships based on academic performance in the first semester too! For example, IMT Business School Dubai, provides a merit-based scholarship that relies on a student’s academic potential and performance.
It’s also worth making a list of internship options that are available for students to allow them to get relevant work experience during school breaks and helps them earn an income. For example, Credit Suisse has competitive summer internships for finance aspirants. Co-op programs such as the ones at Concordia University, Montreal let students make money while gaining work experience as a part of the course.
While looking for funding options, it’s essential to keep several possibilities in mind instead of limiting yourself to a few ideas. Do your research well, discuss as a family to see what works best for you, ask around for recommendations in your network and never hesitate to reach out to the university for help. With a little bit of patience and hard work, you can find the right option for financial aid that suits your family.