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Scholarships in the USA for International Students

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Scholarships in the USA for International Students

Jun 21, 2022Date Published
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Scholarships in the USA for International Students

Let’s address the elephant in the room - yes, higher education in the USA can get expensive. But before you click away in disappointment, it’s also true that many students often pay less than the sticker price they see for tuition fees on university websites. Diversifying their campuses is an important priority for many US schools. And as a result, there are considerable numbers that offer international student scholarships to incentivise people from all over the world to apply! Let’s take a closer look at scholarships in the USA for international students.

How to Apply for Scholarships in the USA 2022

Scholarships may be a big factor in helping you decide where you want to study. So, searching for the right scholarships already helps you narrow your university options down. The hardest question of all to answer is usually this - where do you even begin your scholarship search? There are nearly 7,000 SEVP-certified higher education providers in the USA where you, as an F-1 student visa holder, may enrol. But remember, US universities see a massive volume of applications every year. And by their very nature, there are far fewer international student scholarships available than there are applicants.

So, if getting a scholarship is a make-or-break factor in your study abroad plans, you need to be meticulous with your research and preparation. The biggest awards a school offers are usually also the most competitive ones. You can improve your chances of scoring a scholarship by diversifying and focusing your search, based on whether you’re looking for:

  • Merit-based scholarships
  • Need-based scholarships
  • Subject-specific scholarships
  • Scholarships by study level
  • Scholarships by country of citizenship

Universities are also not exclusive providers of scholarships. While the US government only offers federal aid to American citizens and eligible non-citizens, you may instead qualify for scholarships from:

  • Your home country’s government
  • Public organisations
  • Private organisations

Let’s take a look at what each of these scholarship categories entails!

Merit-Based Scholarships

Your academic accomplishments are just one aspect of your application that admissions officers at US universities evaluate. An excellent academic track record is of course a great plus and may qualify you for great merit scholarships. Admissions officers are also on the lookout for students who display extraordinary talent in other aspects of their life outside of school. Your accomplishments in athletics, performing arts, entrepreneurship, and so on could be what earn you a merit-based scholarship. Stellar leadership skills also set you apart from other applicants for an award. For example, were you the captain of a sports team? The founder of a club or student organisation? Did you lead your school’s team in competitions, be it for cheerleading, debate, or creative writing?

US universities are on the lookout for future pioneers, inventors, leaders, artists, and creatives. To qualify for a merit scholarship, you need to display your ability and potential in your application. Your personal statement is a great place to showcase your talents and accomplishments!

Here are a couple of examples of merit-based scholarships US universities offer international students!

Awarding InstitutionScholarship
DePauw University
  • Merit Scholarship 
  • USD 24,000 - 40,000
  • Rector Scholarship
  • Fully-funded scholarship 
  • Awarded to the top 5% of high academic achievers among applicants
Longwood University
  • Merit-based Scholarship
  • USD 8,000 - 60,000
  • Honors Scholarship
  • USD 4,000 - 24,000
  • Athletics Scholarships for Division
  • Partially- and fully-funded scholarships
Northwest Missouri State University
  • Northwest International Achievement Scholarship
  • USD 7,078 for the first year (renewable)
  • Northwest Academic Merit Scholarships
  • USD 1,000 - 4,000 (fall/spring)
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Scholarship
  • USD 1,000
  • CS/IS International Graduate Achievement Scholarship
  • USD 500 for the first semester
Lesley University
  • Lesley Merit Scholarship
  • Awarded on the basis of academic excellence and demonstrable potential
  • Graduate Merit Scholarship for Applicants
  • Varying scholarship amounts depending on subject and degree
University of Denver
  • Merit-Based Scholarship
  • USD 10,000 - 31,000 a year for first-year students
  • USD 5,000 - 21,000 a year for transfer students
Music Activity Scholarship
Athletic Activity Grant
University of Rochester
  • Merit-Based Scholarship
  • Between USD 2,000 a year - full tuition coverage. Options include:
    - Dean’s Scholarship
    - Genesee Scholarship
    - Alan and Jane Handler Scholarship
    - International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Scholarship
    - Rush Rhees Scholarship
East Tennessee State University
  • International Students Academic Merit Scholarship
  • Up to USD 12,500 (per year) for undergraduate students
  • Up to USD 5,000 (per year) for Master’s students; up to USD 9,000 (per year) for doctoral students
Western New England University
  • #YouAreWelcomeHere Scholarship
  • USD to 3,000 - 10,000 a year
Grand Valley State UniversityMerit Scholarship
  • International Student Scholarship
  • USD 200 - 3,000
University of Southern Indiana
  • International Merit Scholarship
  • USD 500 to 3,000 a year
  • Global Leader Scholarship
  • Approx. USD 10,656 a year

Applying for Merit-Based Scholarships

Some schools, like the University of Rochester, consider applicants of all nationalities for merit-based scholarships. Others, like Northwest Missouri State University, have specific awards set aside exclusively for international students. Scholarships often also have their own set of requirements. Some require separate applications. For others, the school will automatically consider you for a scholarship when you apply. You might need to meet specific English language proficiency test score requirements. Perhaps you will need to answer a set of questions or an essay. If you’re applying for a merit-based scholarship for a performing arts program, for example, you may need to put together a portfolio. Depending on your academic performance, the scholarship coverage you’re eligible for may vary. When researching scholarships, take extra care to note down the criteria you need to meet to qualify!

Need-Based Scholarships

The US government uses FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid - to select domestic students for need-based financial aid. While the FAFSA does not apply to international students, US universities often have their own systems in place when it comes to scholarships for students with financial needs.

Need-Blind Admission

Many schools are need-blind - meaning your financial background does not play a part in the overall admission decision. Note, though, that need-blind admission doesn’t automatically mean the school will offer financial support if you successfully get in. If you’re unable to financially support yourself and the school isn’t offering aid, you may be unable to enrol. Don’t let this discourage you, though - some schools specifically set aside need-based scholarships for international students. They may cover part of your financial need through scholarships and/or on-campus employment opportunities to help manage your expenses.

Some elite schools - including Yale University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology - provide 100% financial support to successful applicants from all backgrounds. These schools are both need-blind and full-need, meaning they will admit students regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds and commit to covering 100% of the student’s demonstrated financial need. As of the time of writing, there are only six of these universities in the USA.

Need-Aware Admission

Other schools are need-aware - like Columbia University, which evaluates the international student’s ability to finance their Columbia degree as part of the application process. This may sound a bit intimidating, but need-aware schools often use this information to determine how much financial aid to offer successful applicants. It’s very important therefore that you’re transparent and honest about your socioeconomic circumstances when applying.

Take a look at just a few of the need-based scholarships in the USA for international students below!

Awarding InstitutionScholarship
Emory University
  • Financial Aid (need-aware)
  • Requires: Submitting the Financial Certificate form (FIF)/the College Board certification of finances form
Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Need-Based Aid (need-aware)
  • Requires: Additional financial aid form submission with application
Yale University
  • Need-Based Financial Aid (need-blind)
  • Yale University conducts a needs analysis for each student, comparing how the student’s home country’s economy differs from the US economy. Financial aid awards are set according to individual needs
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Need-Based MIT Scholarship (need-blind)
  • Around 60% of undergraduate students receive need-based aid
  • Students need to apply for financial aid by completing the online application through the College Scholarship Service (CSS)
Columbia University
  • Need-Based Financial Aid (need-aware)
  • As a successful applicant, Columbia will cover 100% of your demonstrated financial needs, as determined through your financial aid application
Amherst College
  • Need-Based Financial Aid (need-blind)
  • As a successful applicant, Amherst will cover 100% of your demonstrated financial needs, as determined through your financial aid application
Hamilton College
  • International Financial Aid Program (need-aware)
  • As a successful applicant, Hamilton will cover 100% of your demonstrated financial needs, as determined through your financial aid application
Johns Hopkins University
  • Need-Based Scholarships (need-aware)
  • For undergraduate students
  • As a successful applicant, Johns Hopkins will cover 100% of your demonstrated financial needs, as determined through your financial aid application
Bates College
  • Need-Based Financial Aid (need-aware)
  • As a successful applicant, Bates will cover 100% of your demonstrated financial needs, as determined through your financial aid application
  • Aid is made up of scholarships and on-campus jobs
Dartmouth College
  • Need-Blind Admissions Policy (need-blind)
  • Adapted to include all international applicants as of Class of 2026

Scholarships by Subject

Many universities offer scholarships accessible to students applying to any of their programs. Plenty also have faculty-specific scholarships worth looking into! Faculties within a university may fix specific scholarships for applicants to programs the faculty offers. For example, Johns Hopkins University’s School of Nursing has its own categories of scholarship for nursing students. Meanwhile, the same university’s School of Medicine administers its own set of scholarships for medical students!

Here’s a short list of a few types of subject-specific or faculty-specific scholarships you might run into during your scholarship search:

Type of ScholarshipUniversity NameScholarship Name
Scholarships for Nursing in the USAJohns Hopkins UniversitySchool of Nursing Dean's Scholarship
University of WashingtonSchool of Nursing Scholarships
Scholarships for Medicine in the USAUCLADavid Geffen School of Medicine Merit-Based Scholarships
Johns Hopkins UniversityJohns Hopkins Medicine International Scholarship
Scholarships for Performing Arts in the USAColburn CollegeHerbert Zipper Scholarship
Berklee College of MusicMerit-Based Scholarships
Scholarships for Business in the USASan Francisco State UniversityCollege of Business Scholarships
University of South CarolinaDarla Moore School of Business Fellowship Awards
Scholarships for Law in the USADrake UniversityDrake Law School Scholarships
University of the PacificInternational Programs Fund: Young Lawyers

Remember, this list barely scratches the surface of possible scholarship opportunities out there. We just want to give you a sampler of the possibilities across a range of universities and faculties. So, be sure not to neglect subject- and faculty-specific scholarships during your research!

Scholarships by Study Level

Alongside faculty-specific scholarships, do look into scholarships in the USA for international students by study level too. Schools often dedicate separate scholarship and funding schemes for undergraduate and postgraduate students. For instance, some schools specifically have entry-level scholarships for incoming freshmen students. Graduate-level programs, meanwhile, may have their own categories of fellowships and assistantships for applicants! For example, you might be able to secure a master’s scholarship in the USA by checking your university’s graduate study funding options.


An academic fellowship is a merit-based scholarship for graduate students enrolling in a US school! While you may occasionally run into an undergraduate-level award labelled “fellowship”, this term is generally in use by graduate schools. The conditions and eligibility criteria of fellowships will vary across schools. Some contribute to your overall tuition, others to expenses like your living and travel costs. If you’re a graduate student, look into what internal and external fellowships your university and faculty may be offering! Some fellowships may require you to contribute to teaching or research under your school - a bit like assistantships.


Fellowships are scholarships that help cover your costs as a graduate student. Assistantships, on the other hand, are opportunities to work for your school to offset some of your expenses as a grad student! Assistantships usually contribute to part of your tuition and may also come with an allowance for your living expenses. As a teaching assistant, for example, you’ll work part-time, teaching classes under your faculty. As a research assistant, you’d work part-time assisting members of the faculty with their research. In some cases, you may be working outside the faculty you’re studying under, as a graduate assistant with an administrative or clerical role. Alongside the perk of earning to manage your academic costs, you also benefit from the hands-on, specialised work experience you get while studying!

Here are a few examples of scholarship options by study levels in US schools

University NameUndergraduate-Level ScholarshipsUniversity NameGraduate-Level Scholarships
University of MississippiAcademic Merit ScholarshipMiami UniversityGraduate Assistantships
American University
  • Presidential Scholarship
  • Dean’s Scholarship
  • Leadership Scholarship
  • Frederick Douglass Scholarship
Illinois State UniversityGraduate Assistantships
Chatham University
  • International Student Merit Scholarship
  • Presidential Scholarship
  • Rachel Carson Scholarship
  • Rachel Carson Healthy Planet Award
Georgia CollegeGraduate Assistantships
Auburn University
  • Academic Presidential Scholarship
  • Academic Charter Scholarship
Georgetown UniversityGeorgetown Law Research Fellowship
Fairleigh Dickinson UniversityFDU International ScholarshipIndiana University BloomingtonMaurer School of Law Merit Scholarships (LLM, MCL)
Hamline UniversityHamline International Excellence ScholarshipUniversity of South FloridaUSF Assistantships and Fellowships
Loyola University Chicago
  • Freshman Merit Scholarship
  • Dreamer Scholarship
University of Mississippi
  • Graduate Recruiting Fellowships and Scholarships
  • Dissertation Fellowships
  • Summer Graduate Research Assistantships
Kalamazoo CollegeMerit-Based ScholarshipUniversity of Colorado BoulderElectrical, Computer & Energy Engineering Graduate School & College Fellowships, Research Assistantships, and Student Assistantships
Michigan State University
  • #YouAreWelcomeHere Scholarship
  • International Tuition Grant
  • Global Ambassador Grant
  • Honors College Excellence Scholarship
Rice University
  • Wagoner Foreign Study Scholarship
  • The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), India and Rice Joint Program
St. John’s College
  • St. John’s Fellowship
  • President’s Scholarship
  • Dean’s Scholarship
  • Academic Achievement Scholarship
Worcester Polytechnic InstituteWPI Business School Merit Based Scholarship

Scholarships By Citizenship

Many US schools prioritise promoting diversity among their students. And as you can tell by now, one way they do this is with scholarships open to non-US students. That’s not all though - alongside scholarships applicable to all non-US citizens, some schools offer awards and funding opportunities specifically for students from certain parts of the world. These are great opportunities to look into when searching universities with scholarships you may be eligible for! Let’s look at just a couple of examples to give you an idea of the options you may find as a student from South or Southeast Asia.

Scholarships in the USA for Malaysian Students

  • Iowa Sister States Scholarship - Coe College
  • Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Program - Colorado State University
  • Asia-Pacific Scholarship (LLM) - University of California, Berkeley Law
  • Wartburg College Sister States Scholarship - Wartburg College
  • Freeman Asian Scholarship Program - Wesleyan University

Scholarships in the USA for Sri Lankan Students

  • Asia-Pacific Scholarship (LLM) - University of California, Berkeley Law
  • Khursheed Fatima Scholarship - Northern Arizona University

Scholarships in the USA for Indonesian Students

  • Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Program - Colorado State University
  • Asia-Pacific Scholarship (LLM) - University of California, Berkeley Law
  • Freeman Asian Scholarship Program - Wesleyan University

Scholarships in the USA for Indian Students

  • Asia-Pacific Scholarship (LLM) - University of California, Berkeley Law
  • Khursheed Fatima Scholarship - Northern Arizona University
  • Sister Cities Award - University of Toledo

Scholarships in the USA for Bangladeshi Students

  • Least Developed Countries Scholarship - University of California, Berkeley Law
  • Khursheed Fatima Scholarship - Northern Arizona University

Scholarships in the USA for Pakistani Students

  • Asia-Pacific Scholarship (LLM) - University of California, Berkeley Law
  • Khursheed Fatima Scholarship - Northern Arizona University
  • Sister Cities Award - University of Toledo

External Scholarships

If you’re worried about your chances of securing a scholarship from your dream university, don’t fret. Schools don’t have to be your only funding source. There are lots of scholarship options available from external organisations worth considering! In some cases, university websites will list potential external awards and fellowships students may be eligible for alongside their international funding options. These external awards could be from public bodies or private organisations, international or US-based, offering scholarships based on your:

  • Country of origin
  • Area of study
  • Gender identity
  • Leadership ability
  • and more

Below, we have a few examples to give you an idea of the diverse range of scholarships external organisations may offer to students:

Scholarship NameScholarship ProviderFor:
East-West Center Graduate Degree FellowshipEast-West CenterGraduate students from Asia, the Pacific, and the USA, studying at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
Educational Testing Service (ETS)The Harold Gulliksen Psychometric Research Fellowship Program
  • Graduate students in the dissertation stage of their program in:
    Educational/psychological measurement
    Quantitative methods
Center for Hellenistic Studies (CHS)CHS Fellowships in Hellenistic StudiesPostdoctoral research students investigating topics relating to ancient Greece
International Youth FoundationLaureate Global FellowshipIndividuals between the ages of 18 and 29 who are founders or co-founders of social ventures, with a minimum of one year’s impact
Social Science Research CouncilInternational Dissertation Research FellowshipDoctoral students researching non-US or native American topics within the fields of humanities or humanistic social sciences
MPOWER FinancingWomen in STEM ScholarshipFemale students enrolling in a full-time degree at an MPOWER-supported institute in the USA or Canada, with a valid student visa
GoodRxPharmacy Innovation Scholarship
  • First-year doctoral students in Pharmacy in an ACPE-accredited school of pharmacy, or
  • Students of a pharmacy technician program, or
  • Holders of recent pharmacy technician certification (CPhT) from specified institutes

Note that, like the lists throughout this article, the external funding options above are there to give you an idea of the types of opportunities available. Some scholarship options are broad - others are very specific and set up for groups of individuals who meet very particular criteria. With thousands of funding options out there, it’s near impossible to fit them into a single article. But we hope that the variety you do see here gives you an idea of what to look for and how to begin with your personal scholarship search!

Concluding Thoughts: Scholarships in the USA for International Students

Yes, studying and living in the USA as a non-US citizen can get expensive. Nonetheless, with the range of scholarships available in the USA for international students, you may find you’re able to make the load on your bank account considerably lighter. The key to the whole process is research - look into all your options from all the universities you’re considering. Look at external organisations at home and abroad, searching for scholarships by your study level, nationality, subject, and more. Starting early and making sure you’re fully aware of scholarship requirements and application procedures helps you get an edge over the competition!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to apply for US university scholarships?

The application processes for scholarships in the USA for international students can vary from school to school and even scholarship to scholarship. In some cases, students are automatically in consideration for scholarships when they apply. For others, students need to find separate applications for scholarships. The requirements of different funding options and how to apply for them may also differ within and among schools. To make sure you get your application right and secure the highest chances of scoring funding, take careful note of the eligibility requirements and application instructions for the scholarships you’re considering.

Does the USA offer full scholarships to international students?

Depending on the school, you may find both full and partial scholarships available for international students at US universities.

How can I get a full scholarship in the USA?

Many US schools do offer full scholarships or generous partial scholarships that help you manage the brunt of your academic expenses! The first step in any scholarship search is research. Which university are you hoping to get a scholarship from? Are you looking into merit- or need-based scholarships? If you’re going for a need-based scholarship, is the school need-aware or need-blind? What policies does the school have for students with financial need - will they cover 100% of successful applicants’ demonstrated financial need, for instance?

It helps to diversify your search beyond the broad scholarship categories applicable to all students too. Look into scholarships on offer for each study level, for your faculty, for students meeting different socioeconomic criteria, and so on. At graduate level, you may also qualify for certain assistantships and fellowships to help cover your academic costs.

To secure a full scholarship, you will need to research and fulfil your chosen funding options’ eligibility criteria. This can vary quite a bit from scholarship to scholarship and university to university. It pays - literally and figuratively - to start researching and preparing your applications early!