Students who choose to study abroad make the decision of a lifetime. But the unforgettable experience of studying abroad also comes with a big price tag.
Consider applying for the many study abroad scholarships and grants designed for international students to help make your study abroad experience more affordable.
Below, see a breakdown of common scholarship terminology and advice for avoiding scams and submitting applications. You’ll also discover the best scholarships and grants out there.
Grants vs. Scholarships vs. Loans
You have undoubtedly encountered the terms “grant,” “scholarship,” and “loan” in your search for finding financial aid for study abroad. This blog post focuses on grants and scholarships, but a complete understanding of each of these terms will help you understand the types of financial aid that are out there.
It will also help you understand why a grant or scholarship may be your best option when it comes to securing international student financial aid.
What are Grants?
Grants are typically given out to students based on financial need. They do not require repayment. Student.Grants.org says the majority of student grants fall between $500 and $2000.
Most grants are awarded to recipients based on income, but they are sometimes given out based on academic achievement. Other types of grants are awarded based on interests and other needs.
What are Scholarships?
Scholarships are often based on a merit system and awarded to students who performed well academically, competed well in sports, or showed talent in an extracurricular activity.
Other scholarships are based on an applicant’s community involvement, abilities, ethnicity, race, or gender. Scholarships are a financial award, like grants, so they are NOT required to be paid back.
What are Loans?
One of the biggest differences between grants, scholarships, and loans is that the money involved in a loan is considered “borrowed” and must be paid back by a future date.
Loans differ from one another in terms of interest and when repayment must begin. According to a 2017 report by New America, the average student loan interest rate is 5.8%.
What Is Interest on a Student Loan?
Student loan borrowers must pay an additional fee known as interest on the money they borrow to pay for school. This fee is a percentage of the total amount borrowed set by the lender and must be payed in addition to the total amount of the loan.
Interest on loans begins to accrue as soon as the loan is disbursed. For some student loans distributed by the federal government – subsidized loans – the interest is paid by the Education Department while the borrower is enrolled in college at least half time.
There are two major types of loans: federally funded loans and private loans.
International students are usually not qualified for federal loans and must rely on loans provided by private banks and other lending institutions.
Types of Scholarships and Grants
Qualifications for study abroad funding are variant. It may be helpful to know what types of international scholarships and grants are available as you enter the financial aid process.
Here are some of the various categories of scholarships and grants:
- Income Based: A majority of the grants and scholarships given to students are based on income or family income. Income-based grants are usually awarded by a government entity.
- Academic Merit: Some grants are awarded based on academic merit and achievements. They are typically given based on class rankings and grade point average.
- Artistic/Musical Skills: Students who are artistic or musically talented may be able to secure an artistic grant that can provide support as they study abroad at an art institute.
- Academic Interests: Scholarships and grants can specifically target students interested in studying a particular subject, like math or science.
- Extracurricular Interests: These grants and scholarships are tailored to students with an interest in sports, culture, volunteering, or other activities not directly related to income or educational merit.
- Student Specific: Some grants and scholarships are qualifiable based on factors such as gender, race, religion, family, and medical history. Minority scholarships are the most common in this category.
- Destination Based: Governments may award scholarships to students who choose to study abroad in their country.
How to Avoid Scholarship and Grant Scams
Be aware of any scholarship promotions that ask for credit card or bank account information from the beginning.
Additionally, pledges that claim you’ve been chosen by a “national foundation” or have become a finalist in a contest for which you never applied can be signs of a scam.
According to the Federal Trade Commission on Scholarship and Financial Aid Scams, you should be cautious of these common phrases often used by scammers:
- “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”
- “You can’t get this information anywhere else.”
- “I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.”
- “We’ll do all the work. You just pay the processing fee.”
- “The scholarship will cost you money.”
Put an honest effort into the application process to help further your chance of receiving a grant or scholarship. Below are a few guidelines to follow during your application process.
- Update your resume to include your most relevant jobs, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work.
- Ask for references as far in advance as you can.
- Read ALL information and guidelines regarding each scholarship or grant.
- Take your time filling out applications to ensure your best possible chance of receiving the scholarship or grant.
- Keep a record of all application deadlines.
What You’ll Need in Order to Apply
Many scholarships and grants require you to submit supporting documents with your application. Ensure you have the following common supporting documents in order before applying.
- Transcripts – Read your scholarship application carefully to know what transcripts you need to include (e.g. high school, undergraduate, etc.).
- Essay – GoAbroad.com features a blog post with tips for writing the best study abroad scholarship essay.
- Portfolio – You may need to provide a portfolio of work when applying to art, music, science, architecture, or community service-related scholarships. U.S. News provides a list of tips for how to create a portfolio for art scholarships.
- Visa – Planning to study in the U.S. on an F-1 visa? Read “Everything You Need to Know About Getting an F-1 Visa” before applying.
- Acceptance Letter from a School or Program
Did you know you may need international student health insurance to meet the requirements of your school, program, or visa? Learn whether you need insurance for your study abroad adventure and discover your options.
Where to Find Scholarships and Grants
There are four key places you can seek out scholarship and grant opportunities. These are great places to begin your search and help to bolster your list of options for financial aid.
- Contact Your New School. One of the best ways to learn about available scholarships is to contact the school that you will attend. It’s possible your new school offers scholarships specifically to international students consisting of a short application process, or you may become eligible simply by applying to the program.
- Contact Your Current School. Your current school is just as likely as your new school to provide financial aid. Talk to some of the students at your school who have studied abroad about financial aid. Find scholarships just by visiting your school’s study abroad office.
- Contact Your Program. Students who’ve been accepted into a program offered by an organization can seek financial aid from their specific program.
- Utilize Scholarship Search Engines. Many websites provide search engines that allow students to search for scholarship opportunities and even filter by country and degree type. A few websites include StudyAbroad.com, CollegeBoard.org, and GoAbroad.com.
Scholarships and Grants for Students Studying Abroad in the U.S.
Explore these scholarships and grants if you’re an international student preparing to study in the USA.
- Fulbright Foreign Student Program – For graduate students from around the world studying in the U.S.
- Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program – For young and mid-career professionals from specific countries interested in one year of non-degree graduate-level study in the U.S.
- #YouAreWelcomeHere Scholarship – For students at a participating college or university who demonstrate interest and initiative in promoting intercultural learning
- Preply Scholarship – For students between the ages of 16 and 35
- Cappex American Scholarships – For high school or college students
- American Association of University Women (AAUW) International Fellowship – For non-American women wanting to earn their master’s or doctorate in the U.S.
- Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship – For students from specific developing countries who have no other source of financial help for their graduate studies
- Civil Society Leadership Awards – For master’s students from specific countries who are dedicated to building social change
- Conacyt Scholarships – For Mexican students pursuing post-graduate studies abroad
- ColFuturo Scholarship Credit Program – For Colombian students pursuing post-graduate studies abroad
- The Joint Japan / World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program – Comprehensive financial coverage for students from developing countries who’ve provided support to their home country’s development and who are applying for a development-related master’s program
- MPOWER Financing Scholarships – For international and DACA students
- P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship – For women from other countries earning their graduate degree in the U.S.
Save even more money by attending one of the most affordable U.S. colleges for international students.
Scholarships and Grants for Students Studying Abroad (Almost) Anywhere
- Rotary Peace Fellowship Scholarship – For students pursuing a master’s degree at participating universities
- Swedish Institute Scholarships – For students pursuing a master’s degree in Sweden
- Eiffel Scholarship Program of Excellence – For foreign students in masters or PhD programs in France studying economics, engineering, law, or political science
- Chevening Scholarships – For foreign students pursuing a master’s program in the UK
- IES Abroad Scholarships – One application for various scholarship options open to U.S. citizens
- Fulbright Scholarship Program – For U.S. citizens seeking graduate degrees or other higher education
- CIEE Study Abroad Scholarships and Grants – Need-based, merit-based, and program-based scholarships for U.S. citizens
- The Foundation for Global Scholars Scholarship – For U.S. citizens enrolled in an undergraduate program aspiring to create change in their local communities and on a global scale
Create a list of scholarships for which you meet the qualifications as soon as you are accepted into a study abroad program. Then start applying. Don’t dismiss the opportunity to study abroad just because of the price tag.
There are many foundations who understand the advantages of studying abroad and want to help students from all socioeconomic backgrounds experience the opportunity.