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Best Scholarships for International Students
Are you a student from outside of the United States who wants to study in the US? If so, you are in good company! Each year, well over one million international students study in the United States. One of the most common questions that we get from these students at Scholarships360 is “where can I find scholarships?”. This can sometimes be tricky because many American scholarships are only for students in the US. However, we’re here to help. Keep on reading to find the best scholarships for international students!
Jump ahead to…
- Tips for improving your scholarship chances
- Scholarship mistakes to avoid
- Private scholarships for international students
- Scholarship search tool for international students
- Upcoming scholarships for international students
- Other sources of scholarships for international students
- College-specific scholarships for international students
- Asking your school about scholarships
- Frequently asked questions
Improving your scholarship chances: A few tips
Before we get into the scholarships themselves, we’ll go over a few best practices when it comes to scholarship applications. Ideally, these will make your application process as smooth as possible and increase your chances of winning some! Thus, without further ado, here they are:
1. Create a spreadsheet
More likely than not, you’re planning on applying to more than one scholarship. Whether it’s just a few, dozens, or far more, doing so is a good idea. Putting your “eggs” (i.e. applications) in multiple baskets will improve your chances of winning one (or hopefully, more than one!). However, applying to so many scholarships can sometimes make it hard to keep up with your requirements and deadlines for all of them. After choosing or finding a preferred spreadsheet program, use it to keep track of the following info for each scholarship you’re interested in:
- The name of the scholarship
- The provider/organization
- The application URL/link
- The deadline
- The account you’ve created to apply to the scholarship
- Eligibility criteria (e.g. GPA, age, standardized test scores, etc.)
- Important contact information (for yourself or the organization)
- Enclosed documentation (e.g. essays, recommendation letters)
Keeping track of all this in one document will make any necessary information easily accessible. Further, storing all important documents (like essays, recommendation letters, or résumés) in one folder will be useful when it comes time to attach them to applications.
2. Demonstrate strong writing skills
Strong writing skills can also enhance your scholarship applications. For one, “good” writing shows scholarship committees that you’re ready for college- or graduate-level coursework. Perhaps more importantly, though, persuasive writing will make it easier for you to communicate why you, of all the applicants, are a fit for a scholarship.
On that note, if you need some help with any of the writing components of your essay, be sure to check out these helpful resources:
- How to write an essay about yourself
- Writing a scholarship cover letter: All you need to know
- How to write a scholarship resume
3. Obtain high standardized test scores (SAT/ACT, TOEFL, GRE, etc.)
Before we get into this, we should make something clear: not all scholarships directed towards international students require standardized test scores. However, it is not uncommon for fully-funded scholarships to expect applicants to have relatively high scores on English Proficiency exams (like the TOEFL or IELTS).
Additional scores may be required depending on your level of schooling and the specific scholarship. Prospective undergraduates may be expected to submit their SAT/ACT scores. GRE results may be expected of graduate students. Across the board, though, stellar grades and recommendations will likely be required of all applicants.
On that note, let’s get into references! Why are they important, and why do you need them?
4. Gather references
Simply, references are people whose names and contact information you give to an organization. These are typically given when applying to jobs, but can also be used for other applications – like those for scholarships! What exactly are references used for, though?
Great question! Organizations use references to hear firsthand about their applicants’ work ethic, positive traits, and other capabilities. Thus, if any of your scholarships require a list of references, it’s best to write down former teachers, professors, or employers who you’ve had positive experiences with. Relatives and friends, on the other hand, should not be listed as references as they may be considered biased sources.
Before listing anyone as a reference, we would also recommend letting them know beforehand. This way, you can (1) make sure they’re comfortable with it and (2) ensure that they’ll be ready if they get a call to speak on your behalf.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Last, but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help! If you need help completing any parts of your applications, reach out to the contacts listed on each of your scholarship applications. They should be able to answer any of your questions and guide you in the right direction.
Scholarship mistakes to avoid
Just like there are plenty of ways that one can improve their chances of winning a scholarship, there are also plenty of things that may hurt one’s chances. Here are a few things you should avoid doing when it comes to applying to scholarships:
1. Not writing your own essay
Although you may sometimes feel inspired by essays you see on the internet, or even your own past submitted essays, it’s always best to come up with completely original material when submitting an essay for an application.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, scholarship committees are very familiar with the range of what students typically write in scholarship essays. Thus, they will likely be able to tell whether an essay truly depicts your potential and abilities, or not.
It is thus best to completely write your essay yourself, inspired by the thoughts from your own mind and the passions of your heart. Afterwards, however, we would definitely recommend having a trusted person (ideally a grammar-whiz) review and proofread your essay for any mistakes. Don’t forget to spellcheck!
2. Waiting until the last minute to apply
This may very well seem a little obvious to many readers, but we would highly recommend against waiting until the last minute to apply for scholarships. Doing so may make you rush your applications and result in you submitting sub-par essays and other materials. Thus, we would recommend starting the application a few months before the deadline. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to (1) write beautiful essays, (2) collect and submit all necessary materials, and (3) gather necessary references.
3. Applying to few scholarships
No matter how confident you feel in any of your scholarship applications, it never hurts to apply to multiple (or many). In fact, one of the biggest mistakes students make when applying to scholarships is not applying to enough (trust me).
Your chances of winning a scholarship are never harmed by the fact that you applied to another. Thus, we would highly, highly recommend that students save themselves from the mistake of applying to just a few. Applying to more scholarships increases your chances of winning one, so make sure to do just that!
Private scholarships for international students
It’s finally time to review the scholarships themselves! One great option for international students are private scholarships, typically offered by local, statewide, and even nationwide organizations. As these are plentiful and the criteria are unique to each organization, students are bound to find some they’re eligible for. So, keep on reading!
- Eligibility: Students of Cypriot descent pursuing a business or related field of study in the U.S. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0.
- Amount: $2,500
- Deadline: April 30 (every year)
- Eligibility: To be eligible for this scholarship, students must be enrolling as a full-time student at a Christian university or college for the first time
- Amount: $2,500
- Deadline: May 31st (every year)
- Eligibility: Women pursuing full-time graduate or postdoctoral study in the U.S. who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents
- Amount: $18,000 – $30,000
- Opens: August 1; Deadline: November 15
- Eligibility: Outstanding students from a select number of Middle Eastern, Asian, and African nations who plan on pursuing postgraduate studies in the U.S.
- Amount: Scholarships awarded on a 50% loan, 50% grant basis to cover students’ tuition and living expenses
- Deadline: March 2022 (specific date varies by country)
- Eligibility: Students from Scandinavia who wish to partake in graduate or postgraduate study and/or research programs in the United States
- Amount: Varies
- Deadline: April 1, 2022
- Eligibility: International and DACA students in the US and Canada
- Amount: $10,000
- Deadline: July 15, 2022
- Eligibility: Students from Latin America and the Caribbean who are in pursuit of a Master’s degree, doctoral degree, and/or graduate research leading to a university degree
- Amount: Varies
- Deadline: Varies by scholarship
- Eligibility: Students from all over the world who are interested in studying and conducting research in the United States. To find out whether this program is available in your home country, be sure to check out this handy country search. Specific criteria vary by country.
- Amount: Varies by country. Generally, winners will receive tuition and fee waivers for two courses/semester + enrichment activities + health benefits
- Deadline: Varies
- If this sounds interesting, be sure to check out “How to win a Fulbright scholarship!”
- KF offers a wide variety of scholarships and grants to Poles and Americans of Polish descent, as well as a number of exchange programs between Poland and the U.S.
- Amount: Varies by scholarship
- Deadline: Varies by scholarship
- Eligibility: The ISF offers scholarships to students of Iranian descent (both U.S. citizens and non-citizens) who are pursuing undergraduate or graduate study in the United States
- Amount: Varies by program
- Deadline: Varies by program
- Eligibility: Russian citizens pursuing full-time postgraduate study in the areas of science, engineering, medicine, education, or management at leading foreign universities
- Amount: Tuition + travel expenses + medical insurance + accommodations + food expenses + textbooks for the entire duration of one’s studies
Scholarship search tool
Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool custom-matches students to vetted scholarship opportunities which automatically update and reflect the student’s demographics, interests, location, and more. International students can use our search tool to receive a constant stream of newly-updated scholarship opportunities tailored to their interests and background as a student.
The tool is completely free and sign-up only takes a couple of minutes. Once you’ve signed up, expired scholarships will automatically be removed and new ones will appear as they open. Give it a shot today!
Upcoming scholarships for international students
- Eligibility: Immigrants and the children of immigrants who are pursuing full-time graduate degrees in the U.S. Applicants must have U.S. citizenship, a green card, refugee status, or have graduated from high school and college in the U.S. and be under 30 years of age.
- Amount: $90,000
- Opens: April 2022; Deadline: TBA
- Eligibility: Women who are at least 25 years old and are nationals of a country on the MMEG country eligibility list. Applicants must be already enrolled as full-time students in a U.S. or Canadian university and must maintain full-time status the following academic term. Applicants may not have U.S./Canadian citizenship or residency.
- Amount: Up to $15,000
- Opens: September 15 (every year); Deadline: January 15 (every year)
- Eligibility: French students who enroll in an American university with the intent to obtain a degree or conduct research
- Amount: ~$20,000
- Deadline: TBA (varies by university)
- Eligibility: Individuals of Korean descent (both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens) who plan on enrolling as full time students in a U.S. university during the scholarship application year. Applicants may only apply to the region where their university is located.
- Amount: $500 – $5,000
- Deadline: TBA
- Eligibility: Individuals of Spanish or Portuguese nationality who wish to pursue postgraduate study in North America, European Higher Education Area, or the Asia-Pacific region
- Amount: 59.000 €/year
- Deadline: TBA
Other sources of private scholarships
If none of these seem to apply to you, there are still other places you can look for private scholarships! Some of these include:
- High school teachers, guidance counselors, and librarians: Ask if there are any school-sponsored scholarships available
- Your parents/guardians’ employers: Ask if there are any scholarship opportunities provided by their employer(s). If they aren’t sure, you can call their human resources department for more information.
- Your employer: Ask if your company offers any scholarships to graduating high schoolers
- Or check out these corporate scholarships!
- Your place of worship: Ask the staff if any scholarship opportunities are available. If not, you can ask if private fundraiser events are allowed instead.
- International scholarship search engines, like these:
Hopefully, you’ll be able to find something. If not, however, it’s always a great option to check what schools offer generous financial aid to international students.
Without further ado, let’s check out some of the college-specific merit scholarships available to international students!
College-specific merit scholarships for international students
Another great place to look for scholarships? Your own university! If you are looking to receive some really generous merit aid you should check out these colleges and universities that offer such scholarships for international students:
American University (Washington, D.C.)
- The American University Emerging Global Leader Scholarship awards one international student who will require a visa to study in the U.S.
- The EGS Scholarship covers full tuition, room, and board! (For up to four years, as long as satisfactory academic performance is maintained)
Boston University (Boston, MA)
- BU automatically considers its international freshman applicants for the Presidential and Trustee scholarships
Brandeis University (Waltham, MA)
- The Wien International Scholarship Program (WISP) is available to international students who have made impressive contributions both inside and outside the classroom
Clark University (Worcester, MA)
- Clark University offers a variety of Clark merit scholarships to international students
Elon University (Elon, NC)
- The International Scholar Award is awarded to non-U.S. citizens students with outstanding academic and extracurricular achievements
- $3,000/year (renewable annually)
George Washington University (Washington, D.C.)
- GW offers the Presidential Academic Scholarship, the International Baccalaureate Scholarship, the You are Welcome Here Scholarship, and more to international students
- Amount varies by scholarship
Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
- Harvard offers a wide variety of scholarships to international graduate students from countries all around the world
Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA)
- International undergraduate students are automatically considered for freshman academic scholarships
- Graduate international students are eligible for university grants, scholarships, and teaching/research assistantships
Macalester College (St. Paul, MN)
- The Charles J. Turck Presidential Honor Scholarship is awarded to a portion of international students who demonstrate the potential to excel academically
- Between $12,500 and $15,000 per year
Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR)
- OSU offers a variety of scholarships targeted to international undergraduate and graduate students
- International students may also be eligible for scholarships based on their major or college
University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL)
- International freshman applicants are automatically considered for a number of generous, merit-based scholarships
University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, AR)
- The University of Arkansas offers nearly 100 different scholarships to international students
University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
- UChicago offers a variety of merit scholarships for international students
University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA)
- International Distinction in Education Award (IDEA) is open to incoming first-year international students who will graduate from a high school outside the U.S.
- Between $500 and $10,000 per year
- Domestic non-resident scholarships are available for international students who will graduate from a U.S. high school
University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Las Vegas, NV)
- UNLV offers the International student scholarship to current undergrads with a minimum 2.75 GPA
- $500 per academic semester
University of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
- International first-year applicants are automatically considered for merit scholarships worth up to $27,000 per year
- International transfer applicants are automatically considered for scholarships worth up to $16,000 per year
University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
- USC offers a number of merit scholarships to international students
University of Wisconsin-Madison (Madison, WI)
- UW-Madison offers a variety of generous, merit-based scholarships to international students
- Most have a deadline of February 1
Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN)
- Vanderbilt University allows its international freshman applicants to apply to all of its merit-based scholarships
Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC)
- International students are eligible for most Wake-Forest merit-scholarship programs
Can’t find your school? Ask them!
If you cannot find your prospective university on this list, do not worry just yet! This list only covers a few of the many, many schools throughout the U.S. that offer merit aid to international students. We would thus recommend reaching out to the school’s financial aid office and asking if any scholarship or aid opportunities are available to international students.
We hope that they’ll be able to give you the helpful information (and scholarships) you need! If not, we would recommend scrolling back up and looking through some of the many “private scholarship” options. Alternatively, you may be interested in seeing some of our scholarships sorted by major or background.
With this, we’ll send you off. We hope you have an amazing experience abroad, and are able to find the financial aid you need. Good luck and bon voyage!
Don’t miss: Top colleges that accept CLEP
Frequently asked questions
Are international students eligible for federal student aid?
Unfortunately, most international or foreign students are not eligible for federal student aid. On the bright side, however, you may be eligible for institutional aid! To find out whether you are, we would recommend checking with your university’s financial aid office regarding eligibility requirements. Further, if financial aid is a very important factor in your college search, experts have recommended straying away from colleges that do not offer institutional aid to international students.
What is work study? Are international students eligible?
Simply, work study is a program allowing college students with demonstrated financial need to get part-time jobs (typically at their university) to help pay for college and other expenses. As one’s work-study status is generally determined by one’s federal student aid, international students who are not eligible for federal student aid will not be eligible for work study either. Don’t let this get you down, though! Institutional aid and private scholarships are a great alternative option to help pay for college costs.
Do I have to repay the financial aid award?
Great question! If you do happen to receive financial aid, whether you’ll be required to pay it back is largely dependent on what type of aid you received. While grants and scholarships do not need to be repaid, loans do. To find out the specific differences between scholarships, grants, and student loans, we would highly recommend checking out “Differences between scholarships and student loans.”