International Student Scholarships

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If you’re an international student considering coming to the United States to complete your education, be it as an undergraduate or graduate student, one of the major barriers to entry will be financing your education.

While the United States government offers many scholarships and grants for US citizens to go to college, there are vastly fewer for international students. However, your own country may have programs that are suitable; as with all things dealing with an education, the first step (after getting admission to a college in the US) is to start at home and see what’s available. While you’re at it, contact the financial aid office at your new school and see what resources they can provide.

Now, those are the generalities, much like you’ve been told by every college admissions officer since finishing secondary school. Let’s talk the realities.

First of all, there’s an easier time getting into a US university as a graduate student, particularly in the engineering and sciences field, because those programs have funded research grants, which remove one of the major barriers to entry. Check your department website to find about the research grants and the Professors who are associated with those grants. Contact professors directly to see if you qualify for research assistantship programs. Also, your department might have teaching assistantships.

Many departments require you to fill out a formal application for Teaching Assistantships. Some Universities offer teaching assistant workshops. These are extremely important. You will need to attend these workshops which would typically last for a week and get a certificated. Check with your University if they have any such workshops. Usually they begin a week before the classes are open in a semester.

International Student Scholarships

Of course, research assistantships and teaching assistantships are extremely competitive, but they are the best forms of financial assistance. Rather than competing against all of the international students for a minute number of international scholarships, you’re competing against a much smaller pool of qualified applicants for that program. Often, they cover full tuition waiver and a monthly stipend.

Some Universities offer graduate assistantships. A graduate assistant is a graduate student working in another department. For e.g.: If you are a graduate student in Computer Sciences and you get a job in Biological Science department to create a website, you might qualify for a graduate assistantship. The department you work for will pay for your tuition. So it is extremely important, that you check with all departments to see if they offer any graduate assistantships.

You can find some very useful information at the web site of International Education Financial Aid

Grant Opportunities

Grants are the college funding sources with the greatest competition. You’re going up against tens of thousands of applicants. Even so, there are reasons to apply for all of them – the worst that can happen is a rejection letter.

The first place to look for grants is the Fulbright foundation which is the premier organization for grants for international students.

Another place to look is the Soros Foundation Network which offers similar programs. It’s not as prestigious, but it’s well funded.

Depending on where you’re from, there may be additional grants available. For example, the American Councils for International Education provides grants for students from the former Soviet Union, and also for students from Africa and the Middle East.

Nearly every government on the planet has some sort of international assistance program for students; unfortunately, attempting more than the most general overview of them is both beyond the scope of this article, and very likely to be incorrect for your circumstances. However, in generalities: Look for professional associations for sponsorship grants, for example, the Indian Association of Chemical Engineers often sponsors international students. Look for government ministries of education, and look for government agencies that regulate the profession you hope to enter – they often have candidate placement services that can connect you with a sponsor.

Scholarship Opportunities

Most of these scholarships require membership in a given organization; the most commonly awarded scholarships are given by organizations dedicated to fostering international relations. All of them require excellent exam scores and good grades; it is not uncommon for an international student to be required to meet much higher standards than an American student in the same degree program.

The likeliest organizations to grant scholarships are those that promote international relations, or have need of qualified professionals in specific fields, such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent both of which offer scholarships for international students going into nursing and medical programs.

Likewise, Rotary International offers a series of scholarships in engineering and business programs to international students. The King Faisal Foundation offers an international student scholarship program for any international Muslim student attending a US university. Similar scholarships are available for Catholic students from Portugal and Spain, and many local bishoprics have scholarship funds for international students.

There are also scholarships available through international non government organizations dedicated to relief, though getting them is more difficult than you’d expect.

Loan Opportunities

Loans are in some ways the least and most desirable form of financial assistance. They are the least desirable form of financial aid, because they have to be paid back; they’re the most desirable form because they represent cash that goes beyond tuition and books stipend. The joke that the difference between a graduate student and a large pizza is how many people they can feed is, unfortunately, very apt.

Interestingly enough, it’s somewhat easier to get a student loan in America as an international student than it is as an American student, in part because of American fair lending laws, which apply even to non-citizens. If your home country has international banking relationships with an American partner bank, getting a loan (after you’ve been accepted) is amazingly straightforward.

One organization dedicated to providing student loans to international students is International Student Loans . It requires an American co-signer. After you’ve established a bank account in America, getting an education loan is doable from an American bank, often without a co-signer.