study in the USA

A quick internet search for the question, “Where can get I get a scholarship to study in the United States?” will yield thousands of results. Given that your week does not magically have more days to spend searching for scholarships, how does a student weed through the noise and decide where to focus his time and energy?

While it is true that the United States is one of the most expensive countries to obtain a degree, with some effort (and a bit of luck), international students may secure some funding to turn this college dream into a reality. Here are some strategies for organizing a successful scholarship search. Ultimately, you will need to decide up front how much of a factor finances will be in your final decision.

As an international student, you are not eligible for federal financial aid, so don’t waste any time pursuing programs that are specifically for U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Any institutional funding from a college or university, however, is fair game. Institutions have different policies regarding their “own” money and many consider international applicants specific for awards, such as Clark University’s Global Scholars Program, American University’s Emerging Leader Program, and the University of Minnesota’s International Excellence Scholarship. Students are encouraged to think outside the box and consider a range of schools beyond the ones that make the headlines or that are portrayed in the movies. Remember, the U.S. is a large country and colleges come at all price points. Make sure you follow up with the international admissions officer at each college on your list to inquire about scholarship opportunities. At a small handful of select institutions, international students may also be eligible for need-based grants and generally need to complete additional applications to demonstrate financial eligibility for such funding.

The U.S. Government has limited awards for international students who want to study in the USA. The Fulbright Foreign Student Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program awards grants to Master’s and Ph.D. level candidates in all disciplines, except medicine. For students who are further along in their careers, the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program offers funding to those who demonstrate leadership skills and have been actively involved in their home communities.

In addition to checking with each university and the U.S. government, it is also a good idea for students to include private organizations in their search for funds. These scholarships are usually portable and can be used to cover costs at any accredited institution. Students should break down their search by category: gender, intended program of study, country of origin, etc. International Foundations such as the Rotary Foundation Global Study Grants Program, the Wells Mountain Foundation Education Scholarship, and the PEO International Peace Scholarship sponsor students who wish to study in the United States. Looking for scholarships from organizations outside of the college takes time and dedication, so you should start this process as early as possible. We suggest that students carve out some time to create a profile on a scholarship search engine site, such as IEFA or You can search for non-restricted funds under both academic and personal characteristics. Remember, you should never pay anyone for the chance to earn free money for college—these are free scholarship search sites that you can utilize on your own.

If you are currently living outside of the United States you may consider visiting your local EducationUSA advising center. The U.S. Department of State’s EducationUSA program is an educational resource network that consists of over 400 student advising centers throughout the world. Education advisors are available to help students navigate the college finance and admissions processes, and can provide suggestions for researching possible scholarships and funding opportunities. Many countries sponsor bright, talented students for study in the U.S. so that they can return home with a new set of valuable skills and experiences. Students can look for government-funded scholarships through their home country’s embassy, consulate, or ministry/department of education.

There is no single right way to search for a scholarship to study in the USA and like a puzzle, many pieces will fit together to create your funding plan. Students have the best results if they structure their scholarship search to reflect their background, academic talents, personal experiences and future educational goals. Good luck!


Written by Robyn Stewart
Robyn Stewart is a member of College Coach’s team of college finance experts. Prior to joining College Coach, she worked as a former financial aid officer at College of the Holy Cross. Visit our website to learn more about Robyn Stewart.