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Financing Education

Grants and scholarships for international students in the United States.


The United States has become the education hub for the whole world. More often than not, the main question that prospective students ask is, “How do I study in the United States?” rather than “Why study in the United States?” The good news is that there are many ways students can lower the study costs—even up to a full free ride in rare instances—if they start exploring the options early and know where to look.

What do you need to know?
Financial aid for international students in the United States is available, but is limited. So, start your planning as early as possible to assess how much financial support you require. Meet with an EducationUSA Adviser to discuss the possibilities and refer to the Financial Aid Tables available at EducationUSA centers.

U.S. educational institutions consider a candidate’s complete profile to identify students for funding. You can maximize your chances of receiving financial aid if you:

  •  Demonstrate a high level of academic achievement.
  •  Achieve high scores on standardized tests.
  •  Have leadership qualities.
  •  Demonstrate commitment to extracurricular activities.
  •  Show commitment and motivation to work in the intended field of study.
  •  Have effective letters of recommendation and personal statements.
  •  Have prior research or teaching experience. This is more important for graduate applicants.


Where can you find the funding?
Financial aid for undergraduate students is mainly available at private institutions. Start by evaluating how much funding you and your family are able to provide for your education. 

There are different sources of funding for graduate students. You may be offered a fellowship or teaching assistantship, or research assistantship. Usually, funding is renewed every year if you maintain specified academic standards. Make sure you understand the responsibilities involved and the level of funding before accepting a grant award.

The number and amount of grant awards varies among universities and departments by subject area and, often, depends on the availability of grants for research in the department. As a general rule, Ph.D. students and research-focused master’s degree students get priority for funding. Other kinds of scholarships like athletic and women’s scholarships are also available, mainly for undergraduate applicants.

In addition, you can apply to external sources of funding. A list is available at EducationUSA@USIEF. Some of these are:

  •  J.N. Tata Endowment
  •  Sir Ratan Tata Trust
  •  Aga Khan Foundation
  •  KC Mahindra Education Trust
  •  ITC
  •  Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation
  •  Rotary Foundation
  •  P.E.O. International


How to apply?
Undergraduate students can apply for financial aid by filling out specific forms like the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE or International Student Financial Aid Application (ISFAA). For graduate students, the process is integrated into the admissions application. Once you submit your application, you may contact the faculty whose research groups you would like to join. Graduate students should note that the procedure for granting fellowships and assistantships is generally very competitive, based on academic merit, research background and teaching abilities. Teaching assistantships are awarded by the study departments, while research assistantships are awarded by professors involved in the research.

The key to getting university funding is starting your research early and being flexible in shortlisting the universities at which you will be competing for funding opportunities.

With the right amount of planning and research, U.S. higher education can be within your reach.


Aastha Virk Singh is an EducationUSA adviser at the United States-India Educational Foundation.