University in the U.S. is expensive and it can be time-consuming and difficult to find scholarships if you are a non-U.S. citizen (remember, if you are a U.S. permanent resident or a U.S. citizen who lives outside the country, you are eligible for U.S. student scholarships). Scholarship funds for international students are limited and competitive to receive, but it’s worth doing your homework to find out what is available to help make your educational goals reality.

Financial aid awards can range from a small merit award of $1000 per year to full tuition (very limited). Most awards are renewable each year, as long as you meet academic expectations.

Helpful Terms
Need-based financial aid – funds awarded to students based on their family’s ability to pay for their educational costs. Need is determined by financial aid officers who review applications for financial aid. Check to see if the university meets 100% of need or less for international applicants.

Merit-based financial aid – merit scholarships awarded based on established criteria. These can be general academic excellence scholarships, tied to a specific academic subject, or tied to athletics. Some will be available to all applicants, others may be restricted to U.S. citizens.

Scholarships for International Students
Institutional Scholarships and Grants

  • Visit the admissions and financial aid pages of the universities you are researching. Often, they have specific sections on international student financial aid including budget guidelines.
  • If the university offers merit scholarships, check to see if international students are eligible. If you can’t find this information, contact the financial aid or admissions office to find out!

How do you find this information?
Example #1 (need-based financial aid):Franklin & Marshall College – go to the Franklin & Marshall main admissions page and find International Student Admission. Scroll down the page to “Yes, I’m Requesting Financial Aid” and you’ll find an overview, which tells you that F&M offers need-based financial aid for international students and has links for how to apply. They make it clear that if you apply for financial aid, it will be more competitive for you to be admitted, but they will meet 100% of your demonstrated financial need.

Example #2 (need and merit-based aid):University of Richmond – go to the University of Richmond financial aid page for prospective undergraduates and find International Students & Non-US Citizens. This overview explains their need-based aid approach, and also that international applicants are eligible for the University’s merit-based aid programs, with links to what scholarships are available and how to apply.

Example #3 (no financial aid offered to incoming international students):University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign – go to the UIUC undergraduate admissions page and click on the Cost & Aid tab. Scroll down to the bottom to find an overview for international applicants, which lets you know that no need-based aid is available and you must have sufficient funds for your entire period of study. Links to the International Student & Scholar Services page show scholarships for current students in special circumstances.

Other Scholarships and Grants
You may find scholarships and grants through government or private programs in your home country. There are other sources of funding available in the U.S. as well. Although many of those will require U.S. citizenship, there are useful websites you can use to search for scholarships you can apply for, including:

It can also be very helpful to visit EducationUSA for information and to find a local office near you. You should never have to pay to receive information about or apply for scholarships, so remember to stay away from sites that ask for payment!

About the author
Cecilia Yan

Cecilia earned a BA from University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and an MS from Boston University, where she focused her studies on public relations and marketing. Cecilia oversees graduate programs: business development, partnerships, marketing and counselors. She also works with China partnerships. Originally from China, Cecilia is a native Mandarin speaker.

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