Terms of International Scholar Awards

Please use the dropdowns below to review the International Scholar Award terms and frequently asked questions. Items are explained in the order they appear in your financial aid award letter.

Estimated Cost of Attendance


These are estimated expenses that will not appear on your bill from Cornell. Your actual expenses may be higher or lower, depending on your coursework and major.


The dining plan amount is based on the “Unlimited” dining plan. The actual cost that will appear on your bill will depend on the actual dining choice you make. If you choose a less expensive meal plan, you will pay less on your bill.


The fees amount represents the student activity fee for the college or school to which you have been admitted. These are expenses that will appear on your bill from Cornell. Half of the activity fee is billed each semester.

Health Costs

International students are required to purchase the University’s health insurance plan. Students are billed each semester for the Student Health Plan and the Health Fee.


The housing amount is based on the standard double room rate for a dormitory. The actual costs that appear on your bill will depend on the housing choices you make. If you choose a more expensive single room, or if you elect to reside in the Townhouse Community, you and your family will have to cover that higher cost on your own.


These expenses include a number of costs we know you will incur even though they are not billed by Cornell: laundry expenses, entertainment, telephone costs, etc. Your actual costs may be higher or lower, depending on the choices you make.


This is a fee that is charged by the United States Department of Homeland Security in order to obtain your F-1 student visa. You must pay this fee at the time you apply for your student visa. We have included the SEVIS fee amount in your cost of attendance budget so that it is accounted for a part of your overall expenses.

Transition Allowance (only if included in your budget)

To help you transition into your new life at Cornell, you are provided with funding to help pay for personal items such as sheets, blankets for your bedroom, or the purchase of additional clothing for the climate in Ithaca. Due to the limited funding available, this allowance is provided only to those with the lowest family contribution levels.


This allowance provides a small amount of funding to help subsidize your travel to Ithaca, New York, for the start of the academic year in August, and back home at the conclusion of the academic year in May. You are expected to use your own resources to purchase your ticket for the round-trip airfare. Depending on your actual cost and the rest of the components in your cost of attendance, you may find that you have a sufficient amount of funds built into your financial aid award to receive a reimbursement for the full amount.


Details of the Financial Aid Award

Family Contribution

This is the amount that we have determined that your family can contribute towards the cost of your attendance at Cornell. This typically is used for expenditures that are not directly billed to your bursar account, but depending upon the amount of your family contribution, you may have to use a portion of the family contribution to pay your bursar bill. We assume that you will use half of this amount each semester.

Estimated Financial Need

This is the amount we have determined you need in financial assistance.

Financial Aid Awarded

Cornell grant: The grant amount includes any Cornell University-administered grant, which does not have to be paid back. This amount may also include any other scholarships you have been awarded.

Employment Earnings: Students are expected to contribute to their educational costs through on-campus work. Your earnings can be used to pay for other miscellaneous expenses that are not billed to your bursar account. Please note that your earnings expectation is different from the “Federal Work-Study” program that is used by some American students. Cornell does not place students in jobs. There are many jobs available, and you are free to apply to the positions that best suit you. Your earnings will be paid directly to you (not your Cornell bill) as a paycheck once every two weeks based on the number of hours you work and your rate of pay.

Foreign Student Loan: If you have received a foreign student loan, it will need to be paid back after you graduate from Cornell. Payment will be deferred and no interest will accrue as long as you remain a full-time registered student, either undergraduate or pursuing an advanced degree. This loan is awarded from Cornell University, so you do not need to contact an outside lender. You will receive more information during the summer with detailed instructions on how to accept this loan.

Tax Withholding

The Internal Revenue Service classifies grant aid in excess of tuition and mandatory fees as taxable income and requires Cornell to withhold 14% in taxes if you are a non-resident alien and not eligible for exemption from taxes under a tax treaty. You can find more information regarding your tax treaty status through the Foreign National Information System (FNIS).

If this tax withholding presents a financial hardship for you when it appears on your bursar account, you may contact the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment to request a loan. These university loans are interest-free until six months after graduation.

You may receive part of your tax withholding back when tax returns are filed for the calendar year, so you may be able to repay part of this loan at that time. For more information on tax filing, please visit the Office of Global Learning’s International Services website.

Documentation of Financial Support for Receiving an I-20

If you are receiving full financial aid from Cornell, you do not need to submit documentation of financial support. If you have a balance of expenses to be met from your own resources and/or a family contribution, you must send us documentation of that amount by submitting the Declaration of Finances form, which you will receive in April.


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I cover my summer expenses?

Financial aid awards are made for the academic year only (August through May, excluding winter and summer session). Students are expected to work during the summer to cover their own living expenses or return home. More information regarding employment in the United States will be available after you arrive on campus.

Is my financial aid guaranteed until I graduate?

Because all financial aid is based on need, we require that you submit a new financial aid application updating your family’s financial situation each year. Financial need will be determined using your family’s prior tax year information, and your need will be met by a combination of grant aid, on-campus employment, and student loans, if packaged, as long as your family’s situation does not change dramatically. Your graduation date is determined upon registration with the University, taking into consideration advanced standing credits and the requirements for graduation.

As long as you have financial need, we are committed to providing you with financial aid to meet your expenses for the number of semesters required for a student to complete an undergraduate degree. With the exception of the five-year program in architecture, which requires ten semesters of full-time enrollment, we will provide up to eight semesters of funding. Funding for additional semesters, double majors, or dual degrees is not available.

Please note that you must maintain satisfactory academic progress to continue receiving financial aid. This involves maintaining a minimum grade point average (around a 2.0 for most colleges at Cornell) and successfully completing a certain number of credits each semester (approximately 12).

Is financial aid available if I want to take classes over the summer or winter?

Financial aid is only available to be used during the academic year (August through May, excluding summer and winter session).

You may still take classes during the summer or winter, but financial aid will not be provided. Students will need to make arrangements to fund summer or winter enrollment at their own expense.

Can I pay my bill in monthly installments?

The Cornell Installment Plan (CIP), also known as the Full-Service Payment Plan, administered by Cashnet, enables students and their families to make monthly installments to cover each semester’s tuition and expenses.

You must self-enroll each academic year. Enrollment must be completed electronically by visiting the Cornell Bursar's Cornell Installment Plan page.


Further Information

Remember to notify us in writing whether you will accept our offer of admission and aid by the date given in your award letter, in addition to finalizing your enrollment online. Also, please register for the PREPARE program if you plan to attend. 

Should you have questions about your award or other financial concerns once you are here, please contact the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment.