Student Resources

International Student Scholarship Guide

Did you know that the United States has the world’s largest international student population? There are almost more than 1.1 million international students enrolled in U.S. higher-education institutions. Every year, students from all over the world come here to broaden their education and find better opportunities.

If you’re an international student currently studying or looking to pursue studies on a US campus, finding ways to fund your degree is not easy. As the cost of tuition continues to increase, affording to study abroad can pose a challenge, now more than ever. More than half of the international student population finance their own degrees through personal or family resources with very limited financial aid.

If things weren’t hard enough before, COVID has made it much more challenging to find resources to help international students enroll, transfer aboard, and find funding.

So What Does This Mean For You?

You’re probably wondering what this means for you and how it directly impacts you. While your options may be limited, it’s best to know what those options are.

After reading this, it may seem like the odds are against your favor but there are options you can explore to give yourself the best chance at receiving support and funding. The process may be laborious and tedious as you run into several deadends, but you can use your time wisely by knowing all your options and choosing the right avenues to go down.

Institutional Aid

While being an international student limits your ability to qualify for federal and state aid, institutional aid is still on the table.

Financial Packages/Incentives

Some public and private universities offer financial programs and incentives for students to attend their institution, including grants for international students. However, most institutional aid available for international students is typically served for graduate level students in the form of assistantships or fellowships. It is generally uncommon for US institutions to offer aid specifically for undergraduate international students and if there are, they are limited and highly competitive.

Merit-Based Aid

Additionally, merit-based aid is granted in the form of scholarships on the basis of special skills, abilities, or talents. Be sure to check if your university is offering scholarships based on TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores, academic records and other talents including musical, athletic, and artistic. Merit-based aid is typically one of the most competitive types of aid. In order to even be considered, you must demonstrate exceptional skills and abilities in the field.

Need-Based Aid

If you don’t qualify for the previous two options, need-based aid is solely based on financial need and awarded in the form of scholarships. This form of aid is limited to students who can verify financial need at a predetermined level. As long as you can demonstrate this, you are eligible for this type of aid.

If you don’t fall into any of these categories, we still strongly recommend and encourage you to consult with your university to take advantage of any special funding opportunities they may offer.


It doesn’t come as a surprise to find that many students in the United States take out loans to attend school. However, qualifying for loans as an international student is much more complicated and restrictive.

While it’s rare, there are international loans available for individuals who meet specific criteria. In most cases, a cosigner is often required to be held responsible for payment to the loaning institution if for any reason you are unable to pay back the loan.

There are a variety of organizations that provide private loan options to international applicants. Some loan providers offer targeted loans specific to students from certain regions or counties and who meet their criteria.

However, if you know a thing or two about loans, they’re helpful in the short-run but costly in the long-run. Interest rates on loans will leave you in more debt than you could imagine as it accumulates over the years so they may do more harm than good.

International Student Scholarship Opportunities

There are thousands of scholarships available for undergraduate and graduate students in the U.S., however a majority of them are limited to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. But don’t lose hope, there are indeed scholarships for international students and scholarships for foreign students.

Partial scholarships are more common than full scholarships for international students. When it comes to finding full scholarships for international students in USA, the chances are very low. However finding and sourcing multiple awards is an option if you’re looking for full coverage.

Believe it or not, scholarship awards are the recommended source of funding for any student. There are a fair number of private, corporate, non-profit, and government scholarship funds that grant international student scholarship awards.

The Truth About Finding Scholarships

If you’re looking for international scholarships, you’re probably on a search engine looking up various, long-tail phrases.

Stop wasting your time using this method because the chances of you running into more deadends and traps than something of use is very high. You’ll come across individual scholarships, but more often than not you’ll land on some scholarship database.

Most scholarship databases charge a hefty fee to students, but there are some that are free to use. In general, most types of database services will provide you with listings of scholarships. The problem with this is that there are hundreds of dishonest scholarship offers.

A majority of scholarships listed in these databases are faulty and used to take advantage of students by taking their data for other purposes. Whatever you do, do not share any banking account information, send money or offer credit card numbers to any scholarship listing/source that promises you a scholarship in return. If you’re having any doubts about the truthfulness of any scholarship source and questioning their legitimacy based on transparency, consult with the admissions office at the university you are applying to or avoid the scholarship completely. Additionally, you can visit the U.S. Department of Education and EduPASS for more tips and resources to help protect students from dishonest scholarships.

So you’re probably wondering with all the cons and possible fraud in applying to international scholarships in the USA, now what?

The Best Program for Finding The Right International Student Scholarship For You

After reading this, you might feel discouraged about your scholarships, but we’re here to tell you that not all scholarships databases and sites are untrustworthy. There are good scholarship sites out there, committed to helping international students and others, such as

Scholarful is one of the only scholarship database platforms that take pride in their commitment to students. As part of their core principles, they vowed that they would under no circumstances sell student data. Scholarful also facilitates a rigorous approval process for scholarship providers to limit/eliminate dishonest scholarship listings in their database.

This service was designed by students, for students to make finding, applying and managing your scholarships easier than ever with hundreds of scholarship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate level students. While the platform offers specific scholarships exclusive for international students, many of their listed scholarships are open to international students as well.

Getting Started

You can get started by heading over to, registering and completing your student profile. You’ll be able to upload your transcript, letters of recommendation, essays, and other requirements to complete your application.

Scholarful then takes your student’s profile and cross-matches it to their database of thousands of scholarship providers to find the best scholarships for you based on eligibility. This means you’ll only see international student scholarship opportunities that are the right fit for you, making your scholarship search much easier.

But that’s not all, you can easily apply to all your scholarships using the “1-click apply” feature to apply to them in seconds. However, some scholarships may require more information which you can also apply to by submitting additional requirements.

The platform aims to help make finding undergraduate scholarships for international students in the US more accessible and easier. So if you haven’t started applying yet, you should — you don’t want to miss out on any scholarship opportunities.