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8 scholarships for international students

Compare free aid for studying in the US.

International students don’t have many financial aid options for studying in the US. This is especially true for student loans, which can be expensive — if you can even qualify at all. Outside scholarships might be able to help you foot the bill — and some might fund your degree even before you have a visa. However, most options are only available to graduate and doctoral students.

1. Mpower Global Citizen Scholarship

  • Award: $3,000 or $5,000
  • Eligible programs: All degree programs
  • Deadline: November 15th

International student loan provider Mpower also offers scholarships exclusively for international students and DACA recipients. One scholar will receive $5,000 while four regional runners-up will get $3,000 each. The only main requirement is that you attend a school that Mpower works with — it’s meant to be broad so more students have the opportunity to participate. Scholars are chosen based on the essay you submit with your application, as well as your potential to make a positive impact as a scientist, entrepreneur, leader or change-maker.

2. Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship Program

  • Award: Tuition, fees and living expenses
  • Eligible programs: Graduate and doctoral programs
  • Deadline: March 31st

This is actually a half-scholarship, half-loan program that funds the full tuition of international scholars pursuing master’s and doctoral programs, though master’s students get preference. The foundation selects students based on financial need, academic records, the reputation of the program you’re accepted to and the relevance of your studies to Aga Khan’s focus: development.

The loan portion of this program comes with a 5% annual service charge, which students must repay over five years. Repayments don’t begin until six months after you graduate. And all students must have a cosigner.

3. Fulbright Foreign Student Program

  • Award: Cost of attendance (COA) for up to two years
  • Eligible programs: Graduate and professional degrees or research at a US university
  • Deadline: Varies by country

This merit-based scholarship sponsored by the US State Department covers up to two years of graduate-level study. It’s meant to promote cultural exchange and is available to all academic disciplines. While it’s highly competitive, eligibility requirements vary depending on your nationality.

This might not be the best choice if you want to stay in the US after your studies, though. Depending on the type of visa you receive, you might be required to return home for a few years after finishing your program.

4. CG Trader Scholarship

  • Award: $500 or $2,000
  • Eligible programs: Undergraduate and graduate programs
  • Deadline: December 2nd

This scholarship is an essay contest meant for students studying design and technology. One student will win $2,000 to go toward their COA, while two runners-up will receive $500 each. You can apply by filling out an online form and uploading your essay on the CG Trader website by the December 2nd deadline.

5. OAS Scholarships

  • Award: Up to $10,000 per year for up to two years
  • Eligible programs: Undergraduate and graduate programs — excluding studying Medical Sciences or a new language
  • Deadline: October 15th

The Organization of American States (OAS) offers a wide range of scholarships and grants to students from member countries. You can use this to fund the second part of your undergraduate degree and a full master’s — high school seniors will need to look elsewhere.

Aside from completing an online application, you’ll need to submit several documents including copies of your transcripts and your highest-earned diploma. You can reach out to the OAS national liaison office in your country with any questions.

6. AAUW International Fellowship

  • Award: $18,000 for a master’s or first professional degree, $20,000 for a PhD or $30,000 for postdoctoral work
  • Eligible programs: Graduate, doctoral and postdoctoral programs
  • Deadline: November 15th

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) has been offering fellowships to female international students since 1917. It covers up to two years of graduate or postgraduate work for women who intend to start their professional careers in their home countries.

The AAUW considers factors such as your history of community or civic service in your home country, your commitment to advance women and girls and the feasibility of your plan of study. Preference is given to women from underrepresented areas of their home countries or those who’ve attended schools that aren’t top-level universities.

7. PEO International Peace Scholarship

  • Award: Up to $12,500
  • Eligible programs: Graduate and doctoral programs at any school, as well as undergraduate programs at Cottey College
  • Deadline: Eligibility forms are due by December 15th

The Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) has been offering its International Peace Scholarship to female graduate students from around the world since 1949. This need-based program won’t cover your whole degree — it’s meant to cover part of your COA along with other financial aid. It could be a good option for students just starting a graduate program, since you don’t need to be enrolled to qualify. It’s also open to international undergraduate students pursuing a degree at Cottey College.

8. Open Society Foundation Civil Society Scholar Awards

  • Award: Up to $15,000
  • Eligible programs: Doctoral programs
  • Deadlines: March 29th

This merit-based grant is meant to help fund doctoral studies and professional research abroad. You might want to give it a closer look if you’re studying a discipline in the humanities — especially subjects related to development and sustainability. It can be a great resource for students who need funding to conduct fieldwork, visit libraries or collaborate with international peers. The downside? You can only qualify for this grant once.

Free scholarship connection services

Don’t qualify for any of these? Want more options? You might want to check out these online databases that include scholarship opportunities for international students:

  • Cappex. A scholarship database that allows you to filter your search by eligibility requirements, minimum award amounts and deadlines to quickly narrow down your results.
  • Funding for US Study Online. This database specializes in scholarship programs for international students. You can filter your search by program name, area of study and your region or country of origin.
  • GotChosen Scholarships. A social media site where students can share tips and learn about scholarship opportunities.
  • FastWeb. This connection service can help you find all types of financial aid, including scholarships and part-time jobs.
  • International Education Financial Aid (IEFA). This database has a comprehensive collection of scholarships and other financial aid options available to international students.
  • International Scholarships. A database that lets you both search and get alerts for scholarships you might be eligible for.

Types of scholarships and grants available to international students

From government funding to fellowships and grants, there are a few different types of free financial aid available to international students.

  • Institutional scholarships and grants. Funding directly through your school that you don’t have to apply for. You find out how much institutional aid you receive when you get your financial aid award letter. This might not be available to international students at some schools.
  • US government financial aid. Funding from the US government, such as the Fulbright Scholarship.
  • Scholarships from your home country. Financial aid from your home country designed specifically to study in the US. Scholarships include the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program for Brazilian citizens and the King Abdullah Scholarship Program for Saudi citizens.
  • Merit-based scholarships. Academic funding based on academic achievement. Typically you need a high GPA, strong test scores and a solid academic or career plan to qualify.
  • Need-based grants. Need-based funding, usually based on your family’s income and the number of siblings you have in college.
  • Fellowships. Funding for graduate and doctoral degrees, typically offered through a school’s academic department or outside organization.
  • Country-based scholarships. Scholarships that are only available to residents of certain countries, typically in the developing world.

5 tips for applying for international student scholarships

Keep these pointers in mind when searching for and applying to scholarships as an international student:

  • Apply ahead of the deadline. This helps ensure you’re considered for each scholarship you apply to — and leaves room for something to go wrong.
  • Make sure you meet all criteria. International student scholarships can sometimes have complicated eligibility requirements. Reach out to someone in the scholarship fund to make sure you actually qualify before filling out the application.
  • Use databases. Databases and connection services can help you quickly find and apply to multiple scholarships you might not have otherwise known about.
  • Talk to other international students. Facebook groups and the international student office at your school can be great resources for finding out what’s worth applying for — and what isn’t.
  • Don’t discount smaller scholarships. Scholarship programs that offer larger awards are usually much more competitive. You might have better chances of finding free aid by applying to a few smaller scholarships instead.

A note about deadlines

It’s important for all students to pay attention to deadlines. But as an international student, you might want to make sure you get your scholarship applications in as early as possible. That’s partly because many financial aid programs are on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s also because you need to be able to prove you have the funds to pay for school in order to get a student visa.

Bottom line

Your financial aid options as an international student studying in the US might be limited. But there are several scholarships, grants and fellowships that only offer funding for international students — especially for graduate, doctoral and postgraduate programs.

You can learn more about your other options with our guide to student loans for international students.

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