Which US city's the best for a foreign undergrad?Do I have a chance?

<p>Hi!</p>

<p>I am planning to attend college in the USA; an mechanical/computer science engineering undergrad course. I'd like some advice on the following:</p>

<p>1.Which cities are the most undergrad friendly? i.e. with a good balance between low cost, high education standard/good colleges, friendly people, etc.</p>

<p>2.Which colleges are known for giving foreign-students perks/scholarships more often?</p>

<p>3.Any other random stuff I would need to know before I decide.</p>

<p>Also, this is sort of a hybrid question, since I would also like to know what my chances are of getting into Princeton or UT,Arlington ( I know the latter is more of a safe college in comparison ).
Also, are there any other colleges, I should be considering? I've heard that if you attend a college whose averages are below your stats, then there are better options for financial aid and acceptance. I'm not bent on Ivy league colleges - so if there are any other good colleges you know that fit my criteria or are known for my courses, please help.</p>

<p>About Me:</p>

<p>I'm from India and am presently finishing my junior year. I will be writing the SAT on May 5, 2012. Presently I have a ~3.8/4 GPA.</p>

<p>ECs and Stuff:</p>

<p>I play basketball and handball, for the college team, though, nothing state-level yet. I have been going to karate since 2nd Grade in the USA, and I continued that over here. So now I'm a Black Belt in Okinawa Karate.
I've won tons of school and inter-school Debate, Topical Speaking and Essay Writing competitions. I qualified for the international round of the MARRS spelling bee twice. I was the president of my 'House' at School.
I actively participate on forums like techsupportguy.com and love helping people out - I'm the guy whose number everyone in the class has, for help in studies and tech/computer issues.</p>

<p>Another thing:</p>

<p>I lived in San Jose, California for 7 years, and attended Castlemont Elementary and Rolling Hills Middle, till 6th grade, before moving to India. I was part of the student council and Peace-keepers, then. I was also in GATE. Does this help my admission chances in any way?
What if I attend a college in California? - Though I haven't considered this due to the higher living costs in Cali.</p>

<p>
[quote]
I've heard that if you attend a college whose averages are below your stats, then there are better options for financial aid and acceptance.

[/quote]

Maybe, but with a few caveats:</p>

<ul>
<li>Public universities are unlikely to give much financial aid to foreigners, regardless of your qualifications. Private colleges are much more likely to offer you financial aid.</li>
<li>You will get the most need-based financial aid at the tippy top private colleges. Only for merit-based aid does it make sense to "apply down."</li>
<li>If your stats are so much above a college's average that they must assume that you are unlikely to enroll if accepted, they might reject you for statistical purposes. (It's bad for their admission and yield rates to admit a lot of students who will most certainly not enroll. Lower admission rates are better for rankings and perceived desirability = prestige.)</li>
</ul>

<p>
[quote]
I lived in San Jose, California for 7 years, and attended Castlemont Elementary and Rolling Hills Middle, till 6th grade, before moving to India. I was part of the student council and Peace-keepers, then. I was also in GATE. Does this help my admission chances in any way?

[/quote]

Not directly, no. But you probably did derive several tangible benefits from the experience. For example, you'll probably find the TOEFL and SATs easier than most international students. You might have learned to appreciate organized extra-curricular activities, which might have motivated you to get more involved in India than your average Indian classmate. You also probably won't experience the same kind of culture shock that many international students have to go through once you arrive at college.</p>

<p>
[quote]
What if I attend a college in California? - Though I haven't considered this due to the higher living costs in Cali.

[/quote]

If your family is generally eligible to establish a domicile in California (e.g. if you are US citizens or permanent residents, but not if you'll need a student visa) and your parents have maintained ties in California (continued to pay CA state taxes, have belongings in the state, etc), you might still qualify for in-state tuition rates at California public universities.</p>

<p>No, I'm not a citizen, as we left soon after getting a Greencard. Also, we haven't maintained any ties. :( BUT, other than towards fees, will it help in securing admission?</p>

<p>Any ideas on my other questions? What about my chances; any ECs I need to brush up on or do?</p>

<p>Also, how do need-based scholarships work?</p>

<p>Thanks, :)</p>

<p>Do you still have permanent resident status?</p>

<p>A green card would change your situation completely: you'd be eligible for a much wider array of need-based and merit-based financial aid. Permanent residents can also apply for financial aid from the federal government. </p>

<p>
[quote]
Also, how do need-based scholarships work?

[/quote]

The amount of aid you get is essentially governed by need, not your academic merit (assuming you are meritous enough to be admitted in the first place). You file documentation about your family's financial resources. (FAFSA + CSS Profile for domestic applicants, CSS or ISFAI for internationals.) A college will look at these documents and will determine how much you can afford to pay, and will give you aid to cover all or some of the rest. That's how financial aid works at Princeton, for example. </p>

<p>Below Harvard, Princeton and MIT, there's a group of (mostly private) selective universities that are need-blind<a href="applying%20for%20financial%20aid%20won't%20affect%20your%20chances%20of%20admission">/b</a> and **promise to meet the full demonstrated need of all domestic applicants (including permanent residents) but NOT international applicants.</p>

<p>Most colleges, if they have need-based aid for internationals at all, have a **need-sensitive<a href="or%20need-aware">/b</a> admissions policy for their international applicants: the total financial aid pool for foreigners is limited, and they will only admit applicants whose need they can meet. This makes sense because foreigners who cannot prove sufficient resources to pay for college are ineligible for a student visa. In this case, need-based financial aid is also partially merit-based because you have to be good enough to qualify for aid in the first place; but the amount of aid you get still depends on your financial resources.</p>

<p>Hi!</p>

<p>No, I'm an Indian citizen and since we didn't keep up any USA visits, the greencard has also expired. But, can the fact that I had one be of any help?</p>

<p>Also, do you know of any colleges that meet my criteria in Texas(other than UTA) or New Jersey(other than Princeton that is). I have relatives(mom's brothers) who live there, so I thought that might be a plus point for my residence there. Can this help in any other way?</p>

<p>Also, what are the type of ECs I need to get into Princeton , which is of course harder than UTA?</p>

<p>
[quote]
I have relatives(mom's brothers) who live there, so I thought that might be a plus point for my residence there.

[/quote]

What do you mean by 'plus point for your residence'? I just want to make sure that you know that foreign students never become state residents for tuition purposes; you'll always be an out-of-state student. (Some states let out-of-state students pay in-state rates for other reasons. Texas universities, I believe, may offer in-state tuition rates to certain scholarship recipients, for example.) Of course having relatives nearby might be nice for other reasons. </p>

<p>If you have family in NJ, you might also consider universities in Pennsylvania or New York. Philadelphia is right across the state border and a fairly cheap city to live in, at least by East Coast standards. Philadelphia has Penn (an Ivy with need-based aid for international students), Drexel (famous for its co-op programs but maybe out of reach financially), Villanova (they enroll several dozen international students on full tuition, room and board merit scholarships) and Temple (comparatively cheap at sticker price for a private university and located in a cheap neighborhood). </p>

<p>
[quote]
No, I'm an Indian citizen and since we didn't keep up any USA visits, the greencard has also expired. But, can the fact that I had one be of any help?

[/quote]

No.</p>

<p>
[quote]
Also, what are the type of ECs I need to get into Princeton , which is of course harder than UTA?

[/quote]

I am not qualified to answer this.</p>

<p>
[quote]
No, I'm an Indian citizen and since we didn't keep up any USA visits, the greencard has also expired. But, can the fact that I had one be of any help?

[/quote]

Not for admissions purposes, no.</p>

<p>No one can tell you what ECs you "need." People have all kinds of ECs, from sports, music, and academic competitions to volunteering and working part-time. Schools like to see ECs because they are an indication of students' personalities and interests outside the classroom. ECs are a way of seeing how a student balances the rigor of school with the time constraints of outside activities. It also helps admission officers "build a class" of incoming students - trying to come up with a balanced and interesting mix of students accomplished in many different areas.</p>

<p>Hi!</p>

<p>Thanks for all your replies b@r!um and katliamom. :)</p>

<p>
[quote]
If you have family in NJ, you might also consider universities in Pennsylvania or New York. Philadelphia is right across the state border and a fairly cheap city to live in, at least by East Coast standards. Philadelphia has Penn (an Ivy with need-based aid for international students), Drexel (famous for its co-op programs but maybe out of reach financially), Villanova .....

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Thanks! I'm looking into those now. I have family in New Brunswick,NJ and Dallas,TX.</p>

<p>Also, what do you think about Swarthmore?</p>

<p>And, would I have an advantage over other Indian applicants because of me having lived in the USA? Of course, adjustment-wise I sure I'll be able to manage quite well; but admission-wise?</p>

<p>Also, after I take SAT in May, what should do immediately after, i.e the routine :
College Application(college-wise first or common app first), FAFSA, SAT 2, TOEFL(though some varsities don't ask for it, should I still take/submit it?)), etc..</p>

<p>Thanks!</p>

<p>
[quote]
Also, what do you think about Swarthmore?

[/quote]

Swarthmore is one of the best liberal arts colleges out there. However, it may not be a good place to study engineering; their engineering program is just too small. </p>

<p>
[quote]
Also, after I take SAT in May, what should do immediately after, i.e the routine :
College Application(college-wise first or common app first), FAFSA, SAT 2, TOEFL(though some varsities don't ask for it, should I still take/submit it?)), etc..

[/quote]

If you feel ready to take SAT 2s in June, go ahead and take them before the summer. I would also encourage you to take the TOEFL. It certainly won't hurt and some colleges may require it. </p>

<p>Common App opens for new applications sometime in August. That's the earliest that you could start working on the actual applications. You cannot file the FAFSA (free application for federal financial aid) because you are not a US citizen or eligible non-citizen (permanent resident, refugee, etc). You would only use forms to apply for institutional aid: the CSS Profile or the International Student Financial Aid Application.</p>

<p>Once you have ballpark figures of your family finances, you could run them through an EFC calculator to get a feeling for how much need-based aid you might qualify for. Pay attention to the "institutional methodology" in particular. EFC</a> Calculator: How Much Money for College Will You Be Expected to Contribute?</p>

<p>Hi!</p>

<p>
[quote]
You cannot file the FAFSA (free application for federal financial aid) because you are not a US citizen or eligible non-citizen (permanent resident, refugee, etc).

[/quote]
</p>

<p>So, even if I have a SSN, i can't apply? I read that some colleges require international students to apply for FAFSA, even though it'll be rejected, so they can get that information when considering their institutions aid amount. Also, some other colleges say that a filled out FAFSA should be submitted to them, not the fed. office.</p>

<p>What is the difficulty level of the SAT II , compared to the SAT I?</p>

<p>Also, since you list your location as Silicon Valley, what do you think of 'Cal Poly San Luis Obispo'? It's supposed to be the best(or one of) Mech. and Comp.Sci. colleges, and it seems to have fees that are way lower than Princeton and such. Though, I heard they don't offer FA to international students, their base Out-Of-State fees are 25k~ , while Princeton is 50k~(but with need-based FA).</p>

<p>Thanks. :)</p>

<p>It's quite debatable whether Cal Poly is better in computer science than Stanford, Berkeley or MIT -- but it IS a respected school.</p>

<p>
[quote]
So, even if I have a SSN, i can't apply?

[/quote]

Nope. One of the very first questions asks how you are eligible to file the FAFSA (US citizen, permanent resident, refugee, etc). You can't continue if you don't select one, and if you knowingly select a false response, you'd be committing a crime (punishable with a fine of $20,000 and/or imprisonment). </p>

<p>A college could technically ask you to complete the FAFSA on paper and give it to them directly, but I have only heard of a single instance of this actually being done. There are two other financial aid forms made specifically for international students, and it normally makes much more sense to ask internationals to complete those instead. </p>

<p>If you see that a college requires FAFSA for scholarship consideration, you should ask them if international students are eligible at all. Oftentimes the answer is no. When the answer is yes, they will probably work with you to let you submit documentation of your financial need that does not require you to commit a crime in the process.</p>

<p>Hi!</p>

<p>katliamom - But, I still can't go wrong, right?</p>

<p>b@r!um - Oh. OK, understood. So, for the institutions aid, I have to fill out a totally diff. form, and it ( most of the time ) doesn't require citizenship. Also, about the international form you're talking about; is it federal or institution-wise?</p>

<p>Also, can you recommend any good colleges in Texas?; living costs there are relatively lower than elsewhere, right?</p>

<p>Thanks!</p>

<p>I don't understand your "I still can't go wrong" question. If you're asking if Cal Poly is a good school, the answer is yes. </p>

<p>Living costs in Texas are lower, yes. But tuition will remain a problem - University of Texas, Austin costs over $32,000 per year in tuition (plus living expenses, insurance, books, etc.) </p>

<p>If you have high stats/grades, you could try your luck at Rice University, it's a private school (tuition, room and board over $40,000/year) so they might be more generous with financial aid</p>

<p>Hi!</p>

<p>Sorry,yeah, that is what I meant.</p>

<p>Oh, but how's the aid given out by UT Austin and Arlington, each?</p>

<p>What about Rice Uni? Does it have a well-known engineering program? How's the international students aid?</p>

<p>Google is your friend! This is information easily accessible with just a few strokes of your keyboard. </p>

<p>Rice is a very good university, and because it's private, likely to have a lot more money to offer international students. University of Texas (Austin is the main branch) is a public school, therefore unable to offer much, if anything, to international students.</p>

<p>You can get international financial aid statistics on Collegeboard's college profiles, under the "International Students" tab. For example, here is UT</a> Arlington's page.</p>

<p>What Collegeboard does not tell you is what the aid was awarded for or how it was distributed. It might be academic scholarships for entering international students, or maybe out-of-state tuition waivers for undocumented students who graduated from a Texas high school or athletic scholarships or maybe departmental scholarships for returning students. </p>

<p>Oftentimes you can find hints on the college website. If the international aid budget on Collegeboard seems to disagree with the information provided on the website, you could email the admissions office and ask. For example, I was confused that Robert Morris University reported ~100 international students on full tuition scholarships, even though their admissions page claimed that they did not have any aid at all for international students. Found out that all of the scholarship recipients were recruited athletes.</p>

<p>Hi!</p>

<p>Katliamom - One of my cousins is doing his mech. engineering degree at Arlington, and he's paying, after scholarships and living costs, ~13k a year. I think the max my family can afford is 20k yearly. Do you know any other private universities with good engineering programs in that range?</p>

<p>Barium- I talked to my dad, and he said he paid taxes for 2 years after we came to India, since he still had some stocks. He sold them all then, but he said that it's possible to buy stocks again since he still has a stock portfolio/account in Cali. If he were to buy stocks and pay taxes, would this be what you referred to in your first posts as keeping ties and making me eligible for instate fees? Sound like a long shot, I know. :)
Btw can you recommend any other good engineering private colleges in the sub-20k$ range?</p>

<p>^ It doesn't matter since foreign students are not eligible to establish state residence in California regardless of the circumstances.</p>