Scholarships for students from the Middle East, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia

September 15th, 2006 by IEFA

Today there are 2 scholarships that I’d like to draw attention to, both for students from particular countries, and a quick update on the Saudi scholarships.

First, the Karim Rida Said Foundation provides full and partial scholarships for Master’s degree study in the UK to Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian students. You must have a first degree, be proficient in English, agree to return home, have two years work experience, and meet some other requirements. Application deadlines vary throughout the early part of the year based on the school in England that you will attend. For more information or for an application, go to:

You can also find this scholarship listed on

The Get Foundation provides one or two $5,000 scholarships per year to deserving students from Hong Kong, based on financial need, to pursue undergraduate education at schools in the US. Application deadline is April 15 of each year. For more information or for the application go to:

The Saudi scholarship program, under which the Saudi royal family will pay full scholarships for up to 15,000 Saudi students in the US each year, is in full swing. Of the 10,229 Saudi students registered at schools in the US for this fall, the Saudi embassy reports that over 90% of them are receiving scholarships. President Bush and Saudi King Abdullah launched this program last year, and by next year it is expected that the full 15,000 scholarships will be awarded. Click here to read a CNN story with more information on the impact of these scholarships: CNN story on Saudi scholarships

College Costs On the Rise

September 8th, 2006 by IEFA

After our short series on evaluating school program costs, budgeting and opening a US bank account, I thought this article from the Jacksonville Times-Union online was very interesting and timely.

The point — everyone knows that college tuition has been increasing rapidly, but recently there has been a significant rise in all other college-related costs. An excerpt from the article:

“It’s no secret that college tuition has been on an upward climb for the better part of a decade.

What might be a surprise for college students and their parents, though: the rising cost of everything else, from books to cafeteria food to transportation.

The College Board, in its annual survey of college pricing, is reporting big increases on all those incidentals college students can’t live – or study – without: textbooks, supplies and a room to call their own. It’s a national trend that has touched most every school, from community colleges to four-year universities, both public and private. And while Southern states fared better than, say, the Northeast, books, supplies, transportation and room and board in recent years have all been hit by upticks in price.”

Click here to read the rest of the story:
College Costs On the Rise — Times Union Story

Opening a US Bank Account

September 1st, 2006 by IEFA

Why Open a US Bank Account?

A US bank account will make managing your finances a lot easier, and you should set one up as soon as you arrive. You can deposit your financial aid awards, loans and stipends, all of which are typically paid to you by check, as well as money from home. You can pay all of your bills by check, and with most bank accounts, you can even manage and make all of your bill payments online. In addition, most banks now issue debit cards with a MasterCard or Visa emblem, which means you can use the card to make purchases against your account anywhere that accepts credit cards, including online and in stores. Paying cash or purchasing money orders for payments is inefficient, carrying cash can also be dangerous and paying in cash doesn’t leave much evidence behind to prove your payment in case of a dispute. Certainly a bank account will make budgeting a lot easier.

How Do I Open a Bank Account?

Even though lots of banks now advertise that they allow new customers to open accounts online or by phone, as an international student, plan to open your account in person at a local branch. You do not fit neatly into a category for US banks, and if you need additional services it’s always good to have established a face to face relationship. When you go, make sure you bring your passport and the funds you want to deposit. In addition, you should bring as many of the following documents or ids as you have — although every bank has slightly different requirements, in addition to your passport you will likely need at least one of the following: your school id, your state driver’s license or id, your visa, your I-20, and your I-94. You do not need to have a social security number to open an account. If a bank asks for it, offer up your passport and any of the other id documents mentioned above.

Many schools have relationships with banks where they refer their international students. Ask your international student office or check their website for any guidance to a specific bank. If a bank is used to seeing international students for new accounts, things will go smoother. Here’s a good example of the guidance that an International Student Office can provide to its incoming students, from the University of Wisconsin.

How Do I Choose a Bank and an Account?

Banks offer many different financial services. You may wish to compare the services and costs of several banks before choosing one at which to open an account. If your school has a relationship with a particular bank for all of its international students, you should certainly consider that bank first. You will need a checking account for proper money management (for writing checks, online bill payment, debit cards, etc.), and if you have large amounts of money just sitting in your account, it may make sense to open a savings account as well. Investigate the accounts the bank has available, with an eye towards how much it could cost you to keep the account. Find out whether the bank offers interest on checking accounts, what the interest rate is on savings accounts and whether the account offers overdraft protection. Hopefully you never write a check, accidentally, for more than you have in your account — but if you do, does the bank pay the check and just fine you, or do they refuse payment to the company you wrote the check to (“bounce” the check)? If so, both the company AND the bank will fine you and that adds up quickly!

Ask how long it will take to “clear” a check — that is, how long from the time a check is deposited in your account until the time you are allowed to withdraw the funds. Typically wired funds are available immediately, but the “hold” on checks (local, out-of-state and foreign) varies by state and by bank, and can be several days to a week or even longer.

Most major US banks offer “student checking”, accounts and services designed specifically for students — here’s a small sample:

Wachovia Bank Student Checking
Key Bank Student Checking
Bank of America Student Checking

Initial Money Needs on Arrival

You should evaluate your needs for the first few weeks of school — most schools suggest bringing about $2,000 in readily available funds. You can bring this amount in traveler’s checks, or better yet, bring your foreign bank card, after checking that it will work in US ATMs (automated teller machines), to access an account at home. All other money can be wired to your new US bank account after you arrive. Remember, if you have a scholarship, assistantship or another form of employment, it will typically take a month or more to get your first payment, so make sure you have enough money to live for your first few weeks.

Before you arrive, find out from your bank at home how to wire money to the US, and how much it will cost in fees. After you have set up your new bank account, you can arrange the transfer by providing your home bank with your US bank details. You will need to provide your account number, the US bank’s name and address, and the US bank’s ABA number. Wire transfers typically take between 2-5 days. Ask your home bank for a confirmation once the funds are wired.

Check out our posts on Evaluating School Program Costs and on Creating a Realistic Budget.

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