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No savings, No loan? Here’s how to get cost-free higher education in an Ivy League college in the US

Taking a loan for higher studies overseas is an option one can take, however, this comes with a multiyear repayment burden which most students would like to avoid. There is a way to avoid taking a loan completely or minimise it to a great extent, especially if a student wants to study in an Ivy League college in the US. These universities are known to offer some of the best aid, scholarships, fellowship and career assistance programmes which could almost make your education free of cost. We tell you how it works with an example of support available at Harvard Business School.

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Why is financial support needed?

Though many students dream about studying in an Ivy league College in the US, however, there are only a handful who make it there. While the student may have accomplished the toughest task, but in most cases, the struggle doesn’t end for an Indian student as these universities are also known to be some of the most expensive colleges in the world. For instance, the total cost of one academic year at Harvard University could breach Rs 1 crore, which becomes prohibitory for many Indian students. Unless some serious financial support is available, many Indian students will fail to arrange the desired funds.

Grants/Aid and Scholarship are different in nature

“Grant is usually a need-based financing available to students based on criteria such as family income. The grant maker is usually a government department, corporation foundation or a trust. Thus, it is not available for all,” says Rajesh Kachave, Chief Business Officer – Education Loans, Avanse Financial Services.

Most of scholarships are merit or condition based and getting a scholarship may need some additional effort from the student. “In case of scholarship, getting it might not be very easy. Be it meeting the set criteria for a certain scholarship or choosing the right category, getting a scholarship from an institution is a strenuous and meticulous process,” says Kachave.

There are many consultants and institutions which offer help to deserving students. “Grants and scholarships are a great way for students to fund their education. In 2022, Prodigy Finance is giving out scholarships worth $50,000 which are being offered to the students via our select few partners. Besides that, there are various grants and scholarships supported by universities, governments. Other than these various private institutions also offer grants in select niche,” Mayank Sharma, Country Head, Prodigy Finance.

Easily accessible financial support

Most developed countries offer a basic support which is easily available to most of the deserving students. “Most applicants A minimum 25-30% (of total cost) scholarship should be considered when planning for education abroad. The amount granted depends on the colleges or universities and the course. Many international universities offer merit-based scholarships in a tie-up with the local government to help international students to get quality education at affordable rates,” says Eela Dubey, CEO and Co-Founder of EduFund.

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With a little more effort, you can get some further financial support. “Partial funding is offered by numerous organizations, public and private alike. However, the amount in most cases covers only 5% to 8% of the total cost of education,” says Ankit Mehra, CEO & Co founder, GyanDhan.

Hurdle in getting bigger financial support

As the quantum of desired financial support increases its availability becomes lesser. Since many Indian students apply for admission in foreign universities, it becomes very difficult to get the necessary financial support. “As millions of academic aspirants are applying for higher education every year, it becomes difficult to receive the desired scholarship or grant for the study abroad course. It is not only tough to get but also, they are limited in number. Thus, the competition is also high,” says Kachave.

Is there a fully funded option to study abroad?

While the availability of fully funded courses is limited, however, many deserving candidates do get the privilege of completing their study abroad without spending any money from savings.

“Many countries offer fully-funded scholarships and financial aid to international students. Consider Germany; it offers free tuition to international students. We also have the US- American universities grant several scholarships based on merit and extracurricular. These scholarships act as relief against the high tuition fees and living costs that international students have to bear in the USA while savings and incomes are stored in their local currencies. In comparison, you have Canada, which is relatively more affordable, and thus the volume of scholarships is lesser,” says Dubey.

However, getting a fully funded education is tough. “Competition is stiff, and the number of fully-funded scholarships is a handful. An equally limited number of organizations and universities abroad cover the entire cost of education. For instance, Commonwealth scholarships are a popular source of funding for Indian students who wish to study in the UK. The scholarship is awarded to nearly 800 students pursuing undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral courses, whereas the number of Indian students studying in the UK exceeded ninety thousand in 2021,” says Mehra.

How to maximise your aid and scholarship

“An excellent way to maximize your chances of winning a scholarship is by applying for multiple scholarships and grants. Students typically search for scholarships after admission confirmation, because of which they miss out on several funding opportunities,” says Mehra.

You need to check whether you meet the eligibility conditions. “Students need to get detailed information about the scholarships/grants that are applicable for them and then plan to apply for the same in advance. A strong profile is important to be eligible for such funds. Along with this, good test scores of entrance examinations such as GRE, GMAT, SAT also increase the chances for students to get scholarships. In-depth research and advice from peers who have received such a fund earlier can assist one to target the right category and might successfully get it if the student meets all the criteria,” says Kachave.

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Why you should take your application very seriously

The timing of application plays a crucial role in maximising your chances of getting support. If you miss any deadlines, you may not get a second chance. “The application process for many scholarships starts alongside the admission cycle, something that students should keep in mind and apply for scholarships accordingly,” says Mehra.

Not missing any deadline for applying for financial support should be your primary goals while seeking admission. “While applying for grants students need to be mindful of the timelines while keeping themselves updated with the eligibility criteria. While applying for grants filing the application carefully becomes critical as the guidelines are strictly taken into consideration in selection criterias for allotment of the grants and scholarships,” says Sharma.

The likelihood of your application to be considered favorably depends upon how well you present your case. “To maximise the chances of scholarship a student must submit an application which is complete in all aspects and gives details of academic achievements, leadership achievements, voluntary work, sports achievements and membership of organisations like MUN and Aiesec,” says Sanjay Laul, Founder & CEO, M Square Media.

How financial aid works at Harvard Business School

The total cost of attendance or the total estimated annual expense of a single MBA student at Harvard Business School (HBS) is $1,12,764 for FY 2022-23. Many deserving students get financial support to cover the maximum part of this fee which includes Need Based Aid, Complimentary Fellowship and assistance from Career Support & Exploration Fund.

Maximum support comes from need-based aid

HBS offers need-based scholarships to both domestic and international students. HBS Scholarships are gifts that do not need to be paid back. The total fund offered as scholarship in FY20 was $43 million. In HBS around 800–900 students or typically around 50% of HBS students receive need-based scholarships. The average scholarship is approximately $40,000 per year, or $80,000 total.

HBS collects income tax information from the previous three years as well as other information about your assets and socioeconomic background. The need based HBS Scholarship formula is the same for all students. As an international student, once you are admitted, you can apply for the need-based financial aid.

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Complimentary Fellowships

Some HBS students receive additional funding through HBS Complementary Fellowships which is a financial support in addition to need-based scholarships. Here is a list of such financial support an Indian student can apply for.

Forward Fellowship – awards $15,000/year to students from lower-income backgrounds who financially support their parents/siblings.
Goldsmith Fellowship – awards $10,000 in the first year to students demonstrating nonprofit leadership
Junior Achievement Fellowship – awards $10,000/year to students with Junior Achievement experience
Kaplan Fellowship – awards $10,000/year to students demonstrating commitment to the life sciences
Summer Venture in Management (SVMP) Fellowship – awards $10,000/year to SVMP alumni
George Leadership Fellowship – awards $10,000 to students in the third year of the Harvard Kennedy School joint degree program
RISE Fellowship – awards $10,000/year to students who have demonstrated commitment to serving Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and other marginalized communities of color in the US

The last mile help from Career Support & Exploration funds

As part of the shared investment, HBS students meet the remaining cost of their MBA using personal savings and/or outside funding. Even when you have to take a loan you will have the option to get assistance in loan repayment after graduating. In addition, HBS has several Career Support & Exploration funds that students may apply for upon graduating from the MBA program. These funds include loan
forgiveness programs as well as fellowships that support your salary after graduation.

Pay only $ 250 out of 483,463 annual fees at Harvard College

While professional courses offer good financial aid, non-professional courses can also be easy on your pocket. For instance, for an undergraduate programme of liberal art at Harvard, if you are an Asian student coming from a family of 4 members with only one child in college and if annual income of your parent is up to $25,000 (Rs 19.5 lakh; $1=Rs 78) and they have assets worth $10,000 (Rs 7.8 lakh) and as a student if your total asset is $5,000, then out of the total annual cost of $83,463, the cost that you will incur for one year education at Harvard College will be around $3750. Out of this you will need to pay only $250 from your pocket and rest will be paid through student term time work. You can use the
calculator to find the financial aid you can get.

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