A lot of students hoping to studying in the US give up on their dream, of the primary reasons among them is lack of funds. Given how higher education in the US is going through the roof, especially for international students, it is better to plan your expenses before you arrive in the country or even before you apply for your visa. Although competitive, being awarded a scholarship can help an international student fund a huge portion of their total tuition fees. Apart from scholarships, getting a part-time job or applying for an education loan may somehow ease your financial burden of studying in the US.
Of the total number of international students that go to the United States for further studies, a great number of them make up for the total expense by getting financial aid/ scholarships offered by the US government or higher education institutions. Almost all US universities offer scholarships based on an applicant's standardised scores or academic background. According to the Fulbright Commission, over 600 US universities grant scholarships worth $20,000 or more to international students. They are usually evaluated based on either financial need, academic merit, or extracurricular contribution.
In addition to these, a number of private organisations and donors in the US also offer a range of scholarships to international students in the US. It is also recommended to look out for scholarships offered by your home country, be it the Central or state government. For example, the Indian government offers the National Overseas Scholarship Scheme (NOS) to eligible students applying for Master's or PhD degrees abroad.
Scholarships available for international students in the US can be divided into need-based, subject-specific, athletic-specific, merit-based, or student-specific scholarships. They can further be categorised into government and non-government scholarships.
Also Read: Top Scholarships to Study Abroad
Although a very few, US government scholarships such as the ones mentioned below are widely popular among students from outside the US:
Fulbright Foreign Student Scholarship: The Fulbright scholarship is offered to students who are aiming to pursue a Master’s or PG degree. The USA government for international students with a strong academic background offers these scholarships.
Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program: A part of the Fulbright program, this scholarship opportunity focuses on attracting skilled and mid-career professionals from a developing country to the United States. One who will be granted this scholarship will be able to study a 10-month non-degree graduate program in the country. An addition to the program is the 20 to 25-week Long-Term English (LTE) language training which helps the student in enhancing his/ her language skills.
Given below are the top non-government US scholarships for international students enrolled at US private or public universities/ colleges:
#YouAreWelcomeHere Scholarship: With the goal of starting a globally recognized scholarship program, the #YouAreWelcomeHere aims at the strengthening message of welcoming foreign students with open hands. Participating colleges and universities, under this program, offer two renewable scholarships that cover at least 50% of the tuition fee of selected international students. To be considered for the same, students must either present a multimedia project or answer a short essay question stating how they would apply their leadership skills on campus.
Abbey Road Summer Scholarships: Abbey Road, founded to provide quality academic summer programs, also offers a Summer Fellowship or Scholarship to those who have a competitive overall GPA in the subject they are applying for along with high extracurricular performance.
Civil Society Leadership Awards: Only for Master’s degree applicants, Civil Society Leadership Awards are fully-funded scholarships granted to students who have an excellent academic and professional background. The program does not discriminate applicants on the basis of race, age, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or disability. An applicant should, however, have earned a Bachelor’s degree and be proficient in English. He/ she should also be able to demonstrate a commitment to his/ her home country.
Preply Annual Essay Scholarship: Winners of this scholarship are chosen by popular vote after they submit an essay based on the given topic for the particular year. Awarded to three applicants every year, each will get up to $3000. Eligible to take part in the scholarship are high school, university or PhD students between the ages of 16 and 35.
Surfshark Privacy and Security Scholarship: Offered by Honor Society to recognise a student’s achievements, the Surfshark Privacy and Security Scholarship is awarded to one impressive student with $2000. The student, of any nationality, should be currently enrolled at a US university.
Tortuga Backpacks Study Abroad Scholarship: This scholarship is awarded biannually to students who are passionate about exploring the world and wish to study in the US. Winner of the scholarship will be awarded a travel backpack and a $1000 that can be used for tuition, travel, room and board, or books.
International Education Financial Aid (IEFA): IEFA is the leading source of international scholarships across the world including the US. Scholarships under this are divided on the basis of various categories including the field of study, the location of the US university and your home country. The scholarship amount can range between INR 1000 and INR 1,00,000.
GyanDhan Postgraduate Scholarship: This is specifically for students who are from India and are looking to pursue higher education in the states. Sponsored by GyanDhan, it is a one-time scholarship awarded to only postgraduate students irrespective of their area of study, based on merit/ academic records/ calibre. The grant aid under the program is INR 1 lakh.
East-West Center Scholarships and Fellowships: Granted by the East-West Center, these scholarships include a variety of short- and long-term programs for international students from the Asia-Pacific region. It is to be noted that it is offered only in collaboration with limited US universities. Since its introduction in 1960, the program has supported more than 8,000 students not only from the region but also from across the world.
Asian Women in Business Scholarship Fund: This is offered to Asian female students with extraordinary leadership and entrepreneurial skills who has a GPA of at least a 3.0 GPA on 4.0 scale in an undergraduate degree. Granted by the non-profit organisation Asian Women in Business, the fund grants a scholarship amount of $2,500.
AAUW International Fellowships: The funding may range anywhere between $18,000 and $30,000. The fellowship is awarded to women who have citizenship in a country other than the US and are enrolled in a full-time program or research in the United States. To be considered for this scholarship, she must have earned a US bachelor’s degree or its equivalent by the application deadline.
Bat and Ball Game Women’s Sports Scholarship: Offering $1,000, the scholarship is awarded to undergraduate female students who are enrolled in either a part-time or full-time programme at US universities. The scholarship is restricted to only those who are studying a programme related to sports or exercise science.
International Women Scholarship (ISW) in USA: It is open for female students who are enrolled in undergraduate, masters and doctoral programs in the US. First preference will be given to those who have been associated with charitable or volunteer work for empowering women. Benefits of the scholarship include health insurance, sponsorship of $10,000 to $32,000 per year, books and literature expenses, etc.
Apart from the above, various universities and colleges in the USA award scholarships to meritorious and financially needy students. Some of the most sought after university-specific scholarships in the US for international students include Cornell University Tata Scholarship, New York University Wagner International Scholarships, University of Minnesota International Scholarships, American University Emerging Global Leader Scholarship, to name a few.
Q. How should I start looking for international student scholarships at US universities?
A. The ideal way to look for scholarships offered by US universities is by checking out their official websites first after you have shortlisted the universities you are looking forward to applying to. To find scholarships offered by external agencies like the US government, other private foundations or organisations, you can either get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out search sites such as Fastweb, Cappex, Scholarships.com, the US government’s Student Aid Centre and more. Some of the free sources of information for international scholarships in the US include the U.S. Department of Labor’s FREE scholarship search tool, foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups, ethnicity-based organisations, etc. In addition, the central government or state governments in every country also offer scholarships to students planning to study abroad. To find study abroad scholarships available in your home country, you can check out their official websites.
Q. How many scholarships in the US can I apply for?
A. You can apply for as many scholarships as you wish, provided you are eligible for them. Although US universities might limit you from applying to multiple scholarships, you can certainly apply for scholarships offered by external agencies. This will increase your chances of being awarded at least one scholarship. And, you might also be awarded more than one scholarship.
Q. Are all US scholarships based on merit?
A. No, all US scholarships are not based on merit. International students in the US can apply not just for merit-based scholarships but also for need-based scholarships, ethnicity-based scholarships, gender-based scholarships, nationality-based scholarships, sports-based scholarships and so on. Some scholarships are also based on your commitment to your community or home country or your active involvement in the community so far. Having said that, it does help if you have a good academic record when you are looking for scholarships for international students in the US. Good grades, test scores or GPA will make you eligible for almost all scholarships.
Q. Are US universities offering COVID-related scholarships to international students?
A. Yes, a lot of US universities have been offering COVID relief scholarships to international students facing hurdles amid lockdowns. In addition, The CARES Act, which establishes and funds the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) requires all US institutions of higher education to use at least 50% of part of their funds to provide emergency financial aid grants to international students affected by disruption of campus operations. Some universities in the US have/had also lowered their international tuition fees in view of the global pandemic along with providing accommodation assistance, etc. Students must, however, contact the university to find out if they are offering COVID scholarships.
Q. Should I fill out a FAFSA to apply for scholarships?
A. Yes, you should certainly fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (known as FAFSA) even if you think it is a waste of time. With one free application, you will be able to find out which among the myriad federal grants you are eligible for. According to Edvisors.com and NerdWallet.com, more than 1 million students who would have been eligible for different grants (which go a long way toward paying a tuition bill) never filled out the FAFSA. As per the U.S. Department of Education's federal student aid website, it takes only around 30 minutes to fill out the FAFSA. So, please go ahead!
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