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Let’s face it – tuition costs in the US have been skyrocketing. For international students, universities can cost up to tens of thousands of dollars per year, often making the decision to apply a difficult one.

But fret not! Scholarships – merit and need-based – are available. To maximize your chances of getting one, here are our tips:

1. Keep up your grades

Most universities in America will award scholarships to international students, but competition is steep and you must demonstrate merit. Generally, getting As will help. If your school has a ranking system, being in the top 30% will make you a strong applicant. Take part in competitions such as Math or Science Olympiads to showcase your strengths.

2. Build a strong extra/co-curricular record

All scholarship recipients have good grades – set yourself apart with your non-academic profile! This can come in different forms: founder or president of a club, treasurer, or even just an active member. Passionate about physics but can’t find a Physics Club in your school? Start one with friends! Interested in painting outside of the classroom? Create a portfolio online by documenting your artwork through a shareable link. Volunteering also counts! Right now, helping those affected by COVID may be a great way to become a desirable candidate.

Once you’ve built a strong profile, start researching the scholarships or financial awards that are available for international students in the U.S. The following are several categories that you could look into:

1. Financial aid

Financial aid is awarded in two ways: “merit-based” and “need-based.” To demonstrate “need” for non-merit scholarships, you will be required to submit documents like the CSS Profile, which will help universities understand your family’s financial situation. 

2. University-specific scholarships

Several universities in the U.S. have a separate page on their websites for the specific scholarships they offer. For instance, there are fully funded opportunities for 11 exceptional Asian students to study at Wesleyan University under the Wesleyan Freeman Asian Scholarship program. American University offers scholarships for international students who showcase leadership potential, while Brandeis offers a scholarship for students “with an interest in student community contribution” through the Brandeis University Wien International Scholarship Program.

3. Non-governmental scholarships

There are also various NGOs that award scholarships to international students applying to the US. For example, #YOUAREWELCOMEHERE awards talented, high achieving students scholarships through a globally recognized program to develop future world leaders. Similarly, Mobility International funds students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. EducationUSA also offers “Opportunity Funds” for academically inclined students who come from low-income households.

4. Work study options

If you are already enrolled full-time in a university but finding that a little extra income might be helpful, you are legally allowed to work up to 20 hours per week. Once the summer holidays start, you can work full-time under your U.S. student visa if you are eligible under the “severe economic hardship” clause.

Need help? Speak to us!

If you require more specific help with understanding scholarship options, please feel free to contact us or simply fill in the following form to schedule a complimentary US college consultation with our admissions experts.


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Rafaya S

Author Rafaya S

Rafaya graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2010 and double-majored in Journalism & Sociology/Anthropology. After graduating, Rafaya lived and worked in NYC and Washington, DC, working as an editorial assistant at Asia Society, one of the world’s largest think tanks. In Pakistan, she worked with EducationUSA for over four years, helping prospective undergraduate and graduate students on their applications to universities in the U.S. Growing up in Pakistan, Singapore, and Indonesia, Rafaya attended UWCSEA in Singapore and graduated from Jakarta International School. She has experience with IGCSE, A Levels, IB, and U.S.

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