Match me - Intl student from India in need of advice (lib arts interests)

Who told you this?

There’s the portion of this that is looking at super elite colleges that are need blind, meet full financial need, and hopefully have no loans. (FYI: Loans aren’t generally recommended for any students, but particularly for liberal arts students as their salaries are generally not nearly as high as those in business or the STEM fields, thus making it harder/longer to repay them.)

There’s the other end, though, that is overlooking this applicant’s tremendously strong stats and the automatic scholarships that she would qualify for. For instance, at University of Alabama her SAT scores would qualify her for the Presidential Scholarship of $28,000 per year and brings tuition, room & board to $17k. That’s still above the budget here, but I know there have to be other colleges where a 1530 is going to get automatic free tuition (CC, help please!).

This link appears to have one list, and I would verify on each college’s website whether these apply for international students as well, and to make sure this is current (as it appears that the Alabama scholarship, for international students at least, is not full tuition anymore, but a large chunk of it).

P.S. And some of these are tuition, room & board which would allow her family’s budget to cover books and transportation.

It was refreshing to read your post. Your profile stands out nicely against the thousands of desis who apply annually to US colleges. Your writing style and personality comes across. In addition your interests are quite unlike your fellow countrymen – liberal arts is somewhat of an afterthought in India. If I were an admissions officer, I’d certainly be interested in you.

But your chances of getting enough financial aid are slim, as outlined above. International financial aid is pretty crappy for many US colleges. But I think you have a decent chance. Definitely give it a try. Here are a few comments/questions:

Why didn’t you study ICSE? Isn’t that better for Indian students who desire humanities?

Your grade 11 marks could hold you back – unless you do something to change course. Most US colleges will be looking for the top ranked students from India. Your class rank will play an important part, especially for scholarships.

Reading between the lines, it appears that you might be LGBQT. No need to confirm/deny, but that will certainly make you stand out. Especially if you can tie it to a personal story of adversity. Essays play a huge role in college admissions. Most of the Indian applicants to US colleges appear robotic and have the same dry applications.

Your best chance of admission in the US is to apply to a college that offers binding early decision (ED). There are also colleges that offer a second round ED (ED2). By applying to these colleges you are committing yourself. So take a careful look. Binding ED is better than early action (EA).

Make sure you run the financial aid numbers before committing to an ED school. The online calculators are often not correct for internationals. So you might have to contact each schools financial aid office for an accurate estimate.

Your profile seems to fit well with liberal arts womens colleges. I see Vassar is already on your list. But also look at Barnard, Wellesley, Smith and the rest of the 7 sisters.


Also - I’d hesitate to call yourself mixed race. Race is a complex social construct and has nothing to do with national identity or DNA.

People with ancestors from the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) are all considered to be similar in terms of race by US college admissions standards. Dravidians are lumped in with all other indians including aryans. But if one of your parents is black (ancestors from Africa) or white then you might have a good argument.

Because race is such a loaded topic, I would avoid mentioning this in your application.


@sgopal2, you make several good points and I agree with most of them including:


with the clarification to OP that it’s really the personal story that can make a difference, not the mere fact of being LGBTQ.

But, I am curious to know your basis for:

I don’t think such generalizations are helpful.

Here is my opinion.

International students who want to study in this country, and need significant financial aid to do so, need to cast a very wide net when applying to colleges. This is the same as for any lower income student who needs significant aid.

  1. First, make sure you absolutely know what your family can contribute to your college costs annually….without taking family loans and without doing things like liquidating savings and selling homes.

  2. Apply broadly to colleges. Yes, you can apply to the schools that guarantee to meet full need for all and are need blind for admissions. But they have some very low acceptance rates for international students.

So also apply to other colleges that meet full need for international students even IF they are need aware…because if accepted…your need as calculated by these colleges will be met.

Even colleges with “limited financial aid for international students” will provide significant aid to some.

Apply to colleges where you might garner significant merit aid. At some colleges, international students are able to apply for some great full ride awards should they qualify.

  1. Apply to more than one college in your home country. These are likely to be the most affordable as well as the best chance for acceptance.

  2. Look at colleges in the EU.

  3. International students here are not eligible for U.S. federally funded loans. And getting a private loan here would require a qualified co-signer who is a citizen here and who also resides here. Lending institutions want to be able to collect if a loan is defaulted on.

As with any student, try for no loans for undergrad school.

  1. Remember that after you graduate from college here, you will probably have to go back to your home country…so be prepared to do that.

@aunt_bea @Mwfan1921 did I miss anything?


Those are all good reasons and I’m happy to see you’ve thought this through :+1:t3:

You have received lots of good advice here, so that should give you a good start in your college search. I hope things work out well for you (i.e. you get admitted and get financial aid - because college loans will be a huge burden no matter where you borrow from), but in case not: your alternate option would be to complete your undergraduate studies in India and then apply for a Masters or PhD in the US. There is merit based aid (in terms of assistantships) available to graduate students (including internationals) and if you’re a strong candidate it’s much easier to get these assistantships vs getting need based financial aid for undergraduate studies. Something to keep in mind.

Best wishes!

“scholarships are an option, but i’m wondering what the right time to apply would be?”

The best scholarships come from the universities. Outside scholarships are typically small in amounts and may only be for one year. They are extremely competitive for those small amounts and can be found on a number of websites by googling.

loans in my country don’t have the same reputation as loans in the US do, but i’m not sure why it would be wiser to not take loans if i’m going into liberal arts.

As an international student, you are not eligible for US loans. You would have to find a US citizen, with great credit, to cosign a loan for you and willing to pay your bill if you cannot pay it.

What are the job prospects in India for Liberal Arts? In the US, Liberal Arts student graduates are plentiful, but the return on their undergrad expenses may not have the same return on the investment they might have expected. The “wise” thing, for most college students, is to reduce or not incur debt.

I just want to reiterate, as an international student, you are expected to return to your country after graduation. The colleges and universities will educate you. You are a “guest” of the US government. The Immigration Service expects you to return to your country.

There are no safeties in your country?

You cannot presume that your safeties are in the US.
Safeties are schools that will accept you, are affordable and are a place that you would be happy to attend. So far, you don’t know with absolute certainty if you will be accepted to an affordable US university. The US schools cannot be considered your safeties.

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@thumper1 nobody on this website, just sites i’d been looking at online. i searched it up again and it looks like it’s a myth, though.

of course, i don’t plan on settling in the US, if that’s what you meant?

@AustenNut and yes, i did want some good college recommendations that would somehow work with the budget i have and fit my interests, thank you for bringing it up! this link’ll be useful.

@sgopal2 i didn’t study ICSE because there were very few ISC schools available in my region. i’d actually done ISC for a month at a school, just after my GCSEs, but the quality of teaching wasn’t very good. i applied to a CBSE school for the new term. i do much prefer the ISC syllabus to CBSE, especially in terms of the English, but options were limited.
i haven’t done my grade 11 final exam yet. do school held midterms count in terms of ranks? i hope COVID doesn’t make the syllabus do the same thing they did last year, where they did incorporate that. right now, my best bet is to just get my final exam grades as high as possible.
do EDs make that much difference in admission? i was afraid i’d get locked into paying a large amount, and when i discussed it with my family they weren’t comfortable with it for the same reason. it should be fine if i have an idea of how much of my need would be met if i obtain admission, so what you’re recommending does sound very workable, thank you.
I’ll avoid mentioning race as you suggested.

@DadOfJerseyGirl thank you for the advice. yes, doing my undergrad here and doing my postgrad abroad later is something i’ll consider.

@aunt_bea there are safeties in my country, for example quite a few local colleges even in my state which are decent enough, cost modest amounts and would probably accept me with little issue.
the more prestigious colleges in my country that i’m aiming for don’t consider extracurricular activities like my sports and would instead require me to sit for entrance exams, which are known for being insanely selective (even more so than some US colleges because of the sheer amount of applicants that apply).


Undergraduate degrees in Germany are mostly in German. I don’t hink they have such in English but do your research.

Undergraduate degrees in UK are 20-30k GBP per year for tuition for overseas students plus at least 12k GBP for living expenses. You can look all this up online on the school website. There is little to none merit aid for internationals. Don’t know if you qualify for a rebate for being from the Commonwealth. The British do love their former colonies. The bachelor, however, is only 3 years.

Your best bet for an affordable education in English may be the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries.

I don’t have much experience with financial aid in US as we don’t qualify for any. It is my impression, though, that the private US colleges are very canny and will extract every single penny your family can afford, and then some. They do not throw money around. My son attends one of the HYPSM universities. They make you pay for every single thing including internet access and printing. For an international family from a country with a lower standard of living, the cost is almost always prohibitively high. Even if they cover all your tuition.

You sound like a very intelligent girl. Good luck with your college applications!

Sorry for not being clear. What I meant by that is that there is a very common pattern among applicants from India to US colleges. They typically major in CS or Engineering, have high scores in mathematics, but less so in verbal. Writing skills are mediocre. Typically males from one of the big Indian cities (Mumbai, Delhi, Calcutta). Parents are engineers or work in IT, and push the student towards STEM majors.

These are broad generalizations of course. Not everyone is like this. But the OP shatters each and every one of these stereotypes. Thats why I think she will catch the attention of admissions officers.

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Each high school handles rank differently. I’m not sure if your mid-terms count towards final rank. But just get it as high as possible. Your end of year Grade 11 marks will be the most important. Relative to your class rank.

The relative benefit of early application varies by institution of course. From the recent Harvard litigation, we learned that a SCEA application to Harvard boosts chances by about 30% compared to a RD applicant (all other factors held equal). Now for schools with binding ED, the rates are even higher. At Duke, the ED admission rates are between 20-25% vs 8-12% in RD. This is a near doubling. At other ED schools the effect is similar.

As you mention, this is a big decision. So make sure you run the estimated financial aid calculator before you make a decision. The online estimator is often not accurate for internationals so check with the financial aid office. But if the estimated costs are within what your parents can afford, you would be crazy not to ED to your top choice.

You can back out of an ED obligation, but only for financial reasons. This isn’t ideal so you should carefully check the numbers ahead of time.

Also forgot to mention that the financial aid pile of money is highest at the start of each admissions season. So there is more flexibility for admitting a high need international during the early round. There is an over-abundance of high need applicants during the RD round, and this makes for very difficult decisions.

If I’m a college financial aid/admissions director and I had only $50K USD to spend. I’d rather spend that on two students who need $25K each vs a single student who needs $50k. Its not the most fair system, but thats how it works.

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Kenyon College has a very strong swimming team and is a great liberal arts college. They have quite a few international students, but I’m not sure how much aid they give. Located in rural Ohio, but a beautiful campus and a tight knit community (and Columbus is only an hour away). They don’t have an application fee or a supplemental essay, so you can give it a shot and see.

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For need aware schools….for need blind schools, admissions does not know your level of financial need.

Thumper1: even at need blind schools, this can play a role. Reason is that financial aid budgets are static – the total money pile is fixed each year. Miraculously the financial aid budget metrics are hit yearly. If admissions decisions were based solely on need then why don’t the budgets fluctuate from one year to the next? The answer is that while on an individual level the admissions decisions are blinded from need, in aggregate they are taken into consideration.

Christoph Guttentag at Duke explained this well in several articles written in the Duke Chronicle. He calls it ‘sculpting’. After all students are placed into the admit/deny/waitlist piles, Guttentag goes through the class and fine tunes it. I’m sure they apply modeling techniques to help improve yield, balance genders, countries, etc. But among these things they probably fine tune the FA budgets to hit their targets. So undoubtedly many high need students are shaved off. This was documented in the lawsuit filed last week in the WSJ.

At some need blind schools, the head of admissions and financial aid are the same person: Columbia, Bowdoin, UChicago are notable examples. So the use of the term ‘need blind’ needs to be used loosely IMHO.

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We are getting a little off topic.

I seriously doubt that the director of admissions/aid is looking at all the applications for financial need at these schools. But that is my opinion.

I will say…I DO think it is advisable to apply earlier rather than later for all students. Not necessarily ED…but EA or rolling admissions…or just getting those applications submitted.

And this applies to this student too.

But that person isn’t reviewing the individual admissions files and FA applications. The person making the admissions decision isn’t worried that the FA isn’t going to work out. Admissions makes a decision and then FA makes a decision, but they are separate and they aren’t going to turn down Student X because there isn’t enough money over on the FA side.

Now the FA side can adjust the definition of ‘need’ based on the pool if the school doesn’t promise to meet all need, can add loans, can not take students off the wait list with need, etc.

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I’m not so sure its that simple. The admissions decision and financial award are intricately linked. While I agree that at an individual level this can remain blind, but at a macro the institution needs to hit a hard metric. They can’t be spending more in FA than the budget allows.

I’ll see if I can find the Duke Chronicle article which explains in more detail. But my reading of it is that FA can play a huge role during the ‘sculpting’ phase. Also see the lawsuits that were filed last week regarding financial aid. They all suggest the same thing – that need blind is not truly what people think its means.


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