Scholarships are the ideal way to pay for college, because you never have to use your own money. This means that when you’re creating a budget for yourself, you can include more money for sweatshirts with your school’s name on them and worry less about covering tuition. Unfortunately, undergraduate and graduate scholarships for international students in the USA may be a bit limited, but the benefits of winning one definitely outweigh the lack of options. But beware: If a scholarship has an application fee, don’t apply. If you have to pay money to get financial assistance, it’s probably a scam.
Types of scholarship programs
Scholarships tend to be offered based on several main categories:
- Need-based: Typically includes income limit and may require supporting documentation
- Merit: Based on your grade point average, class rank, etc.
- Membership in an underrepresented or specific group: Offered to women, minorities, certain nationalities or immigration statuses, graduate students with special skills, etc.
- School-based eligibility: Limited to those accepted at or enrolled in a certain school
- Major/degree-based eligibility: For students accepted or enrolled in a particular major or degree program (e.g. nursing, Russian literature, master’s degree in engineering)
Researching potential scholarships seems overwhelming, but there are numerous approaches to finding the perfect scholarship so you can complete your higher education in the USA without financial stress:
- Look on your school’s website
- Contact your school’s international student center, financial aid office, and admissions office
- Negotiate: If you’ve been accepted to more than one school, let your top-choice school know you’ve got other options – and that financial aid is a key factor in your decision
- Check out government-run merit scholarships in your home country
- Connect with other people from your home country who’ve studied in the USA
- Use scholarship search engines or databases:
- The College Board supports 7 million students each year as they prepare for college and also oversees the SAT college admission test. Their website offers scholarship and other financial aid and internship information from more than 2,200 programs.
- International Student specifically provides a scholarship search for international students. Its comprehensive and searchable database of grants, scholarships, loan programs, and other information ensures that students from around the world have as many resources as possible to find ways to pay for college and get an international education.
- Fastweb provides access to 1.5 million scholarships worth $3.4 billion. Students create a profile and are able to keep track of their applications on the website, including those for international student scholarships.
- MPOWER Financing offers a wide variety of scholarships for international and DACA students. In addition to its Global Citizen Scholarship Program, which has the broadest eligibility criteria and is offered throughout the year, MPOWER often has more niche scholarships available, such as scholarships for students in particular degree programs (e.g., nursing, women in STEM) or for students from particular regions (e.g. Latin America, India). If you’re thinking of checking these out, sign up for scholarship alerts.
Once you’ve done your research and found several scholarships that you’re interested in, make sure to read and re-read the eligibility requirements so you don’t waste time applying for something that’s not available to you. Scholarships are awarded based on criteria determined by the institution or person offering them, and are often judged by people who take that list seriously. So prioritize which scholarships you’re more likely to get and focus on those, since you have better odds of winning the scholarship if it has very specific eligibility requirements that you meet. Remember that to apply for scholarships it’s about both quality and quantity – decide how much time you have to dedicate to your applications and then submit the maximum number possible without sacrificing quality.