USA Scholarships for International Students
Many international students need money to help pay for college in the United States. Unfortunately, financial aid funds from U.S. colleges and private scholarships is extremely limited for international students.
U.S. Visa Requirements
International students must demonstrate that they have enough money to pay for their U.S. college education before they will be granted a U.S. visa. In particular, a F-1 visa requires the student to have enough money to pay for their first year of college in the U.S. and a J-1 or M-1 visa requires the student to have enough money to pay for their entire stay in the U.S.
Even though a F-1 visa requires the student to have just one year’s funds available, that doesn’t mean an international student will be able to get the rest of the money after arriving in the U.S. International students in the U.S. on an F-1 visa are not allowed to work, except through the college. Even when an international student is allowed to work in the U.S., they may be limited to part-time employment in on-campus jobs related to the student’s field of study.
Before an international student can apply for an F-1 visa, they must receive a Form I-20 from the college or university. This form, also known as the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status-For Academic and Language Students, confirms that the international student has been admitted to the college or university.
Before a college will issue an I-20 form, they will want to see proof that the student has sufficient funds to cover the costs. They will want to see documentation of a sufficient bank account balance for several consecutive months. (Previously, they would accept just documentation of a current bank account balance. But, some students were pooling money to demonstrate sufficient funds, then arriving without sufficient funds.)
Financial Aid from U.S. Colleges and Universities
Only about 150 U.S. colleges and universities provide institutional financial aid for international students. Some of these are colleges that provide need-blind admission to international students and meet the full demonstrated financial need of all of their students, domestic and international. Some provide a limited number of grants that do not meet full financial need.
According to Open Doors data from the Institute for International Education (IIE), about a fifth (19%) of international students receive scholarships and grants from U.S. colleges and universities. In contrast, two-thirds (65%) rely primarily on money from friends and family.
Student Loans for International Students
U.S. Federal student loans, such as the Federal Stafford Loan and Federal PLUS Loan, are not available to international students. Most U.S. lenders do not offer private student loans to international students, but some do. These U.S. lenders require international students to have a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident as cosigner.
- Lenders that offer private student loans to international students include Ascent Student Loans, MPOWER Financing and Prodigy Finance
- The Organization of American States (OAS) provides interest-free loans to students from Latin America and the Caribbean through the Leo S. Rowe Pan American Fund.
Sources of Scholarships
Scholarships for international study are offered by the government of the student’s home country, international organizations and private organizations.
International and private organizations with scholarship funds include
- Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund
- Organization of American States
- SelfScore Scholarship for International Students
- Soros Foundation
- United Nations
- World Health Organization (WHO)
There are also sources of funding for graduate students, such as
- Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship Programme
- American Association of University Women International Fellowships
- East-West Center Scholarships and Fellowships
- Fulbright Scholarship. For more information, please contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country, or the U.S. Department of State’s EducationUSA program.
- Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program
- Japan-United States Friendship Commission
- Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program
- MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program
- Rotary Foundation Peace Fellowships
- U.S. Department of State
- U.S. Agency for International Development (AID)
- Young African Leaders Initiative Mandela Washington Fellowship
Some of this money is restricted to students from specific countries.
There are several free scholarship matching services that may help international students find scholarships for which they are eligible. These include:
- Funding for U.S. Study Online (provided by IIE)
- InternationalStudent.com Scholarship Search
- IEFA International Scholarship Search
There’s also a helpful brochure published by OAS, Financial Guide for Higher Education in the Americas.