Meeting the enormous expense of an education in the U.S. often requires
significant student dedication to obtain adequate funding. Typically,
students and their families pay a higher proportion of education costs.
According to the Institute of International Education (IIE) Open Doors
2005 statistics, almost 67 percent of the international students
in the United States financed their education through personal and family
sources in 2003-2004. Home country governments, current employment, U.S.
or foreign private sponsors, U.S. government, international organisations,
and American colleges and universities funded the remaining 33 percent.
Of that, 23 percent received funds from American colleges and universities.
Table IIE below presents more detailed information on International Students
by Primary Source of Funds for academic year 2003/2004
Primary Source of Funds
2003/04 International Students
2003/04 % of Total
| Personal & Family
| U.S. College and University
| Home Government/University
| U.S. Private Sponsor
| Foreign Private Sponsor
| Current Employment
| Other Sources
| U.S. Government
| International Organisation
Financial aid is limited and difficult to find. In most cases, foreign
students are in competition with American students for financial aid funds.
Therefore foreign students are encouraged to explore all opportunities
for funding in their own country before applying for US-based aid.
Financial assistance from colleges is awarded at the beginning of the
academic year and is rarely available for students entering mid-year in
January or at other times.
Opportunities for financial aid as well as types of financial aid are
delineated below according to undergraduate and graduate students' status.
Funds available in the U.S. for undergraduate study are limited and can
be mostly obtained from private colleges and universities. The amount
of possible funding may range from $500 to full funding up to $30,000-$40,000
per year in some schools, although rarely covering more than tuition expenses.
Very often financial assistance is based on schools desire to diversify
their student body. If a school has no students from Russia, or has students
from Moscow but not Siberia, they may be willing to fund such a student
to increase diversity. (Saying "we have students from 50 countries"
sounds more impressive than "we have students from 10 countries.")
Despite encouraging figures on full funding mentioned above, one needs
to remember that it is given by a limited number of schools (mostly by
top U.S. colleges) and that competition for it is very tough. Also keep
in mind that more aid is available for freshman students than for those
transferring in from other institutions.
Who Should Apply?
Students who have a greater chance of obtaining financial assistance usually
have the following:
• Evidence of high academic achievement
• High standardized test scores (SAT, TOEFL)
• Demonstrable financial need but enough private funding to
at least cover part of the cost. Only the most exceptional students might
expect to get full support.
• A unique talent or skill, demonstration of leadership qualities,
or a record of meaningful involvement in extracurricular activities
• Individualized letters of recommendation enumerating the students'
Types of Financial Aid
The aid is usually provided by a US college or university. How substantial
the financial support will be depends on the kind of aid that is available.
Frequently it will be a combination of the types listed below:
• Merit Based Scholarship -- Based on academic qualifications
irrespective of need. The student has no work or repayment obligations.
• Need Based Scholarship -- Aid is based on financial need but
usually in conjunction with academic achievement. The student has no work
or repayment obligations.
• Athletic Scholarship -- Generally based on athletic ability
of the applicant but not completely irrespective of academic performance.
• Part-time Campus Employment -- The student is able to earn
money by working on campus for a certain number of hours per week. Some
schools require all students to take on-campus jobs thereby reducing the
overall cost of education at that university.
• Co-operative Programs -- These programs allow students to
alternate periods of full-time study with full-time work. The work generally
begins at the end of the sophomore year and adds one year to a 4-year
• University Loans -- Students receive loans, that are expected
to be repaid after graduation. (Russian students are eligible for som
eof them in case their American co-signer).
• Advanced Standing -- If a student qualifies, s/he can apply
for advanced placement at the institution s/he wants to study at. This
does not constitute financial aid in the true sense of the word but is
a means of cutting down on costs of the program by reducing its duration.
Although competition is very intense, more financial aid is available
for graduate study and research than for undergraduate study. Aid may
come from either public or private universities or private foundations
and organizations. There tends to be greater support available for students
in the hard and natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics. Limited
funding is also available in the humanities and social sciences. Almost
no funding is offered in the fields of business, law, and medicine.
Who Should Apply?
Students will have a greater chance of obtaining financial assistance
if they have:
• Evidence of high level of academic achievement
• High standardized test scores (TOEFL,GRE, GMAT)
• Demonstrable financial needs but private funding to cover
some of the cost. Financial need is not as crucial for some awards at
the graduate level
• A field of study or have teaching experience in a subject
offered at the undergraduate level (increased opportunities exist for
• A field of specialization or research interest, which parallels
those of the university's department and faculty or the private funding
source (increases opportunities for research assistantships and grants)
Types of Financial Aid
Sources of funds can come from US universities, private foundations, US
government agencies, civic organizations, private companies, etc.
• Scholarships -- Based on academic merit. Generally require
no repayment obligations. They usually cover full or partial tuition.
• Fellowships -- Based on academic merit and generally have
no teaching or research obligations. Fellowships usually cover tuition
plus cash stipend.
• Grants -- Generally based on financial need and merit with
no work or research obligations.
• Teaching Assistantships -- Awards are based on academic qualifications.
They usually require a student to work 15 to 20 hours per week in such
areas as lecturing, grading papers, supervising laboratory classes, etc.
Students are usually paid a salary or stipend. Additional tuition waivers
are sometimes included. "TA’s” are customarily offered
to advanced students.
• Research Assistantships -- Awards are based on academic qualifications
and research interests. The student assists a faculty member to conduct
research and is usually paid a salary or stipend. Many assistantships
include tuition waivers.
• Administrative Assistantships -- Awards are based on need
and academic qualifications. They usually require 10 to 20 hours of work
per week, generally in the administrative offices of the university. The
work may provide a tuition waiver or a salary.
• Miscellaneous -- Aid from foundations, government agencies,
private organizations, etc. The amount or type of financial assistance
varies with each grant. It may or may not require students to perform
a service, do research, or to work on a certain study project.
Source: Information obtained from Open Doors Report on International
Educational Exchange 2005, NAFSA web site.
General Information & Search Engines:
EducationUSA is a resource for financial aid, tips on reducing educational costs, types on sources of financial assistance, etc.
The International Scholarship Search is a financial aid, college scholarship and international scholarship resource for students wishing to study abroad. It has a listing of grants, scholarships, loan programs, and other information to assist college and university students.
The Council of International Schools (CIS) has a summary table of financial aid for international students from CIS member colleges/universities.
International Education Financial Aid (IEFA) scholarship search is a resource for financial aid, college scholarship and grant information for international students wishing to study abroad.
InternationalStudent.com has a database of schools that offer financial aid to international students. Schools are organized by states.
FinancialAidOfficer.com offers a premium search service. Students can recieve search results tailored to their specific needs, hobbies, interests, and academic background.
This guide contains up-to-date information about many topics of interest to international students, including financial aid issues. "The Sources of Financial Aid" section is of particular interest.
The Cornell University Graduate School Fellowship Notebook is a database of fellowships, the majority of which are from non-Cornell sources.
This web-site contains databases of financial aid sources along with descriptions of colleges and universities.
Education Guide on studyng in the US including financial aspects.
This site is dedicated to different sources of financial aid both for graduate and undergraduate students.
It is a good source to search scholarships, colleges and internships in different fields of study.
The site is devoted to Graduate Internship Programs as an opportunity to earn money for international masters students. It gives a detailed explanation of the difference between Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT).
Find information about college costs, scholarships, financial aid applications, education loans, and college financing.
International Student Loan Center provides loans and financial aid to college students around the world.
The International Education Finance Corporation (IEFC) is the main provider of international student loan programs for students who wish to study in foreign countries.
GradLoans.com is part of the extra space Student Loan Network, an online guide to graduate school student loans and financial aid.
This site has the updated information on U.S. government-sponsored programs.
The "Program Announcements" section has information on both U.S. government-sponsored programs and scholarships from various universities.
This site has an information on Ford Foundation International Fellowship program providing opportunities for graduate study all over the world in humanities and social sciences.
The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) sponsors fellowship and grant programs on a wide range of topics and across many different career stages. Most support goes to predissertation, dissertation, and postdoctoral fellowships. Some programs support summer institutes and advanced research grants. Although most programs target the social sciences, many are also open to applicants from the humanities, the natural sciences, and relevant professional and practitioner communities.
The East West Center offers a wide variety of both short- and long-term programs for individuals. Academic scholarships and fellowships as well as educational exchange and professional development programs are available.
Programs of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice are designed to facilitate peacemaking and peacebuilding with justice.
The U.S. Civilian Research & Development Foundation (CRDF) is a nonprofit organization that promotes international scientific and technical collaboration.
The John E. Fogarty International Center offers training and research in the health siences.
The H. J. Heinz Company Foundation Fellowship Program is designed for emerging leaders from developing countries who demonstrate potential as future leaders in the government, non-profit, or private sectors. The aim is to give them one year of practical, professional, and non-degree educational experience through the Center for International Studies of University of Pittsburgh.
The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Incorporated, is a privatly operating foundation that supports basic research in all branches of anthropology.
Grants for Journalists:
The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma offers Ochberg Fellowships to mid-career journalists who want to apply knowledge of emotional trauma to improving coverage of violent events.
The International Journalists' Network is the source for journalism training opportunities and media directories.
The Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship provides the opportunity for a woman journalist working in the print, broadcast or Internet media to spend an academic year in a tailored program that combines access to MIT's Center for International Studies and other Boston-area universities and two media companies, The Boston Globe and The New York Times.
Grants for Medical School Faculty:
The Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER) is a non-profit foundation of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG®). FAIMER is committed to programs, research activities, and information resources that advance international medical education. It offers 2 fellowships for those involved in medical education.
Grants for Women:
The American Association of University Women Educational Foundation is the largest source of funding exclusively for graduate women in the world.
The Philanthropic and Educational Organization for Women International Peace Scholarship Fund offers grants for women from all countries to pursue full-time graduate studies in the United States.
Check the PEO "Projects" section for information on scholarships for international women to pursue graduate study in the US and Canada.
Postdoctoral and Senior Awards:
The National Academies administers postdoctoral and senior research awards.