International students struggle to find scholarships

Hannah Libby | Staff Writer

Going to college is one of the most expensive decisions a person will make in their life — and for international students, that decision can be even more costly.

As scholarship season is heating up at Mason High School, many of its students are stopped cold by their immigration status and ability to apply. FAFSA, a government financial aid form, requires a social security number that most immigrants in the citizenship process don’t have. This detachment from traditional college resources leads many immigrant students to rely solely upon their parents during their college days.  

Shweta Swain, a senior who has struggled with her immigration status and financial aid plans, told her struggles with the scholarship process. And how her route for paying for college may vary from what might be “normal.” Merit-based scholarships are open to most students regardless of their citizenship status but only the top few receive these substantial aids.

“I think it’s kind of hard for me to grasp sometimes,” Swain said. “I have to work harder in school to get merit scholarships because I don’t have some of the advantages of being born here.’’

Swain said she has had to stop and think about the effects of how she applies herself every step of the way through the college application and scholarship process. Not only is this exhausting by itself but she also still isn’t guaranteed citizenship. 

“A lot of times the logistics of situations get challenging, especially trying to focus on high school and college at the same time,” Swain said. “And we are kind of stuck in the middle of the [immigration] process and we are unsure if we can even become citizens at all.”

 Swain isn’t the only high school senior in this position right now. Senior Urvi Wagh is struggling with similar issues due to the restrictions on the visa she currently has, the L2 visa, which is based off of her dad’s L1 working visa.

“I tried FAFSA, but you need a different visa than the one I have and we are not yet there in the process,” Wagh said. “It’s frustrating because everything has a fine print, there are so many layers, one moment you feel like you can get aid but then you can’t.”

Many immigrant students talks about how impactful merit scholarships are but some of them also believe that they are much harder to attain as an immigrant. Wagh said she struggles especially with the disconnect of international tuition and in-state tuition and the restrictions that come with that forced decision.  

“It’s like you have to prove yourself to them,” Wagh said. “And because of the lack of scholarships and my status, I have to end up paying even more than the general admission my first year.”

Senior Anwesa Basa is all too familiar with the disheartening struggles of her peers during this process. Basa had lived in the United States most of her life but recently returned to India for fifteen months. She said this return has impacted how she continues with her education.

“I went to Mason from sixth to tenth grade and have lived in America since kindergarten,” Basa said. “And if I had not returned to India recently, I would have gotten in-state tuition, which is really kind of frustrating.”

Basa has maintained a high GPA and she acknowledges her peers have as well but she gets frustrated with the lack of conversation and equality in the way scholarships are given out.  

“It just seems unfair that no one talks about it,” Basa said. “We’ve taken the hardest classes and worked so hard for twelve years only to miss out on something because of where we come from.”

But even though the future processes can often seem confronting to a lot of immigrant students there are ways to decrease the cost. Wagh has figured out a complex way to reduce the cost of her tuition based on what her cousin did which may result in a transfer of visas. 

“It’s technically illegal for me to work right now but my cousin who went to Indiana University was able to work on campus to have a percent of her tuition reduced,” Wagh said. “It’s nice that I might have a chance to earn my own money and help my parents out with tuition.”