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10 Scholarship Tips for International Students

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Traveling is expensive, but moving to a new country to continue your education is even more costly. Scholarships make international study possible for students every year. They’re an excellent resource for anyone who wants to see the world while completing their college education, but not many students know how to get started.

Check out these 10 scholarship tips for international students. Whether you’re an American who hopes to live in another country for a year or an international student dreaming of spending time in America, these tips will help you get the financial help you need to make it happen.

1. Remember The Importance of Scholarships

A college degree will expand your career opportunities and give you the credentials you need to land your dream job. You’ll also use that time to explore new things, discover yourself and learn what you want from life. It all comes with a price tag that includes more than just your tuition.

College students also have to pay for boarding, food plans and books. Americans who live in the country or state of their chosen university will pay different fees, but students studying abroad will have to pay more because they don’t live in the U.S. The average student spends $99,417 for their degree in America, but international students may pay even more than that, depending on which university they choose.

Americans going abroad may find that they need some financial support. Various countries handle their educational systems differently. Australian universities charge $4,841 in tuition per semester, while Finland doesn’t require a single dime for your college education. Scholarships could make or break your university experience, so remember why they’re important when the application process gets tedious or challenging.

2. Find Helpful Sources

Every hopeful student should know where to look for scholarships to compare their benefits. International students looking to study in America can first check the financial aid offices at the universities that interest them. Next, they can look for private and government scholarships, which may offer more money for specific study fields. You can find these at banks, loan businesses and government websites at the state and federal levels.

American students can contact their study abroad offices for direct help with scholarships. You might also search the College Board website for available funds or apply for financial grants open to low-income or minority students. You can also check out this list of best scholarship sites for international students. 

If you’re currently a university student, you can learn how to get international scholarships by contacting your financial aid or study abroad offices. They have the training and experience to direct you to useful scholarship sources and make the process easier.

3. Do Your Research

There are different types of scholarships in the U.S. and abroad, so always do your research. Certain types might not apply to you based on where you want to go or what you want to study.

Look up each scholarship and read about available options to discover opportunities like:

  • Financial scholarships: These are given based on your financial standing.
  • U.S. university scholarships: These scholarships are given to international students.
  • Country-based scholarships: Students who live in developing countries receive these scholarships.
  • Merit scholarships: These are given to students who excelled academically, worked in their community or were top athletes in high school.
  • U.S. government-funded scholarships: These scholarships are also given to international students.
  • Part scholarships: These consist of one-time or staggered payments applicable to school fees or other relevant costs.
  • Privately funded scholarships: Donors fund education for international students from marginalized groups or developing countries, plus those who want to study in a specific field.

After choosing which university you want to attend, you’ll learn exactly how much it will cost and which options are best suited for your needs.

4. Apply to as Many Scholarships as Possible

Sometimes applications only take a few minutes to fill out. Others will require days of your time and patience. Don’t focus on only a few specific scholarships. Improve your chances of getting financial aid by applying to as many as possible.

Staggering your applications and rotating the complicated and shorter ones will make the process less frustrating so you don’t wear yourself out early on.

5. Look for Niche Opportunities

It’s always smart to apply for broad scholarships, but it also drops your name into a large pool of candidates. You may have better luck securing money for your international studies by looking for niche opportunities. Some grants and tuition waivers are only available to students with particular interests, experience or educational ambitions.

Mention your past years in the military or family members who work for international companies. Sign up for scholarships with unique qualifications to turn up college funding gold, like the Create a Greeting Card scholarship or the Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest scholarship. Figuring out how to get scholarships to study abroad will likely depend on your skills and interests.

How To Adjust As An International Student

6. Consider Additional Costs

Housing can sometimes be the most expensive part of your college experience. Many students navigate around this issue by living off-campus, but you still have to find a way to pay rent.

While you apply for different kinds of scholarships, figure out your off-campus costs and get financial aid specifically for your housing. Standard rent in America usually costs around 30% of your income, which is a huge chunk of change that might otherwise cover books and meals. Scholarships put toward your rent could save thousands of dollars every month, depending on where you sign a lease. 

7. Create a Spreadsheet

Spreadsheets are a massive help in tracking an expanding list of applications. You may need to refer to a specific essay for a scheduled interview or double-check your recent history to prevent applying to something twice.

After choosing the spreadsheet program you prefer, keep track of critical fields such as:

  • The provider or organization.
  • The scholarship name.
  • The scholarship deadline.
  • The application URL.
  • The scholarship amount.
  • Necessary criteria, like your GPA or age.
  • Any included contact information for yourself or the organization.
  • Any enclosed documentation, like recommendation letters or essays.

It would be best if you also thought about saving general documents into a specific folder. You’ll need your resume and financial records for multiple forms, so speed up the process by keeping them in an easy-to-access digital format.

8. Review Writing Tips

Your writing skills will play a significant role in persuading committees to award you with scholarship money. Make sure your documents are impeccable by reviewing basic writing tips.

You’ll want to format your resume correctly by making it easy to glance over and keeping it all on one page. Before you send any cover letters, read about how to write one, so it’s clear you know what you’re doing. Write about why you’re the best match for the scholarship and maintain a formal tone. No one will want to give you money if they don’t think you take the application process seriously because your cover letter is off-topic, too casual or riddled with errors.

Ask a friend, mentor or teacher to look over your applications before you submit them. They’ll provide constructive feedback and catch spelling or grammar issues you might not see during your final review.

9. Gather Your References

Some scholarships require a list of references. The people you include should always get an early heads up that you’re considering them as a reference. It isn’t polite to expect them to vouch for you when they get surprised by a call asking them to talk about you on the spot.

References should also be people who can speak to your work ethic. Previous teachers, professors or employers are the best people to do this. Family members and friends shouldn’t be references because they’re biased sources who may not have seen you in your workplace or school environment.

10. Get in Touch

There’s always someone waiting to help you. Get in touch with your chosen university’s study abroad or financial aid offices. You can also communicate with the contacts listed for each of your scholarship applications. Ask your questions now so you don’t miss out on a great opportunity later.

Stay True to Yourself

Reading the application rules and including all necessary documents is essential, but that’s not what will carry you across the finish line. Your ambitions and passions will convey why you deserve the scholarships you apply for, so stay true to yourself in every application. With these international scholarship tips, you can work your way to the financial aid you need — and the college experience you dream of.

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Author: Alyssa Abel

Alyssa Abel is a college, career and education writer with a special interest in student mental health, study abroad and learning. Her work appears regularly on education sites like HerCampus, Teaching Channel and CollegeXpress, among others. Follow her on Twitter @alyssaabelblog or read more on her website, Syllabusy.