How to Find Scholarships for International Students

A guide to seeking out scholarship opportunities specifically geared towards international students.

Main image courtesy of the American Council on Education.

Being an international student and traveling to a new area of the world can be a daunting task, but paying for that education can be an even more challenging task. With the help of financial aid and by applying to a variety of scholarships, paying for higher education can become just a little bit easier.

Student working at desk
Make sure to check out your university’s scholarship programs for international students as your first step in looking for scholarship opportunities. Many times, universities provide great programs for their international students, but it’s important to do the research in order to know how to reach out.

Types of Scholarships to Consider Applying for

The different kinds of scholarships you can apply for and the amount of aide they can provide

Before applying to a slew of scholarships to help fund your education, it’s important to do a little research on the types of scholarships that you might qualify for. Knowing the different kinds of scholarships that are out there for international students can help to save time, effort, and maybe increase your chances at receiving more aid in the long-run.

When applying to any sort of scholarship, including the ones listed on this guide, it’s essential to be able to tell the different kinds apart. Here’s a brief breakdown of the different kinds of scholarship opportunities:

  • Financial/Need-based Scholarships

These types of scholarships are provided to international students who demonstrate financial need. Financial need is typically determined by reported household income, tax forms, or from a description of your specific financial circumstances.

  • U.S. University Scholarships

These scholarships are given to international students who are planning on or have been accepted to a program in America. These scholarships can vary based on the university or state you plan on attending school.

  • Country-based Scholarships

This scholarship type is intended for students living in developing countries and are planning on or are enrolled in a university abroad. These can also refer generally to scholarships that are specific to students from one country or those who are studying in a certain country.

  • Merit Scholarships

Merit scholarships are not specific to international students and can be provided to any student, specifically intended for those who perform well in academics, service to the community, athletics, or some other activity. Many scholarships are at least partially based on merit, so it’s important to keep this type of scholarship in mind as you search for ones that might fit your description.

  • Part Scholarships

This type of scholarship is one that can be received as a one-time sum of funds, and it can be used towards tuition and other academic fees. These typestype of scholarships will most likely not cover the entire cost of a higher education program, but they can make a significant dent in the cost.

  • Privately Funded Scholarships

Privately funded scholarships are simply those that are funded by specific donors in order to help international students of a certain background. This specific background can refer to the country they are from, the area they are pursuing a degree in, or other characteristics.

With these various types of scholarships in mind, the hunt for education funds may be a little easier to navigate.

Student sitting on ground working on laptop
There are scholarships for students of every sort of background -- it can be advantageous to find and apply to opportunities that uniquely match your characteristics and background.

Scholarships Resources for International Students

Places to supplement your search towards funding your education

It can be overwhelming when searching for reputable scholarships online that match your criteria and have awards in the amount you’re searching for, but there are multiple sites out there that have a good chance of helping you find the scholarship of your dreams if you put in a little time and effort scrolling through them. For our full guide on exploring the world of scholarships and some of the better resources out there, check out our extensive guide on scholarships.

To summarize that guide, some great places to start your search for free money are through College Board, Niche, and Fastweb. These sites make it easy to search for exactly the type of scholarship you’re looking for, and they filter out scholarships based on your eligibility and merit. From these websites and more, here are some of the best scholarships specifically aimed towards international students:

The Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship:

Intended for Master’s and Ph.D. students, this scholarship provides for the full cost of university for students from developing countries that exhibit full financial need. The scholarship funds their recipients by providing 50% of the cost in the form of grants and the other 50% in the form of loans. The program is only accepting applicants who are from one of the 13 countries listed on the website under eligibility requirements, with some exceptions. Other criteria that the program considers is the applicants’ academic record, future career plans, and work experience.

The American Association of University Women:

This scholarship is designated for women who are current students in the U.S. but are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Applicants must have already received their bachelors and are planning on or currently working towards a higher degree like a master’s, Ph.D, or postdoctoral. In selecting recipients, the program considers each applicant’s academic achievement and commitment towards supporting women. The award amount depends on the type of degree the applicant is pursuing, but the one-time awards range from $18,000 to $30,000.


Created for Mexican students studying abroad, this scholarship chooses its recipients based on merit. The award provides funding for its recipients tuition and living costs. The scholarship is open to students studying any type of subject, but it is restricted to those pursuing a postgraduate degree. There are a variety of universities around the world that this program can be used towards, including schools in the United Kingdom and Australia, but be sure to check out the scholarship’s website for a more extensive list of qualifying schools.

Foreign Fulbright Student Program:

More so a program than a scholarship, the Fulbright allows its recipients to study and conduct research in the U.S. Scholarship application requirements and eligibility vary by country, but over 4,000 students are recipients of the program each year. The program accepts applicants from over 70 countries, and it is certainly worthwhile to explore the different programs offered and requirements for your country of origin.

MPOWER Women in STEM Scholarship:

This scholarship is intended for international or DACA female students who are pursuing a degree in a STEM field at a university in the U.S. or Canada. Applicants must be full-time students, and selection is based on the quality of application essays, academic record, and experience as a role model for women and girls in STEM. The scholarship has an award of $3,000 as the grand prize for one recipient, and two honorable mention prizes in the award of $1,000 and $500.

Ashinaga Africa Initiative:

This is a scholarship created for African students who are interested or are enrolled in an American university. The initiative is first and foremost intended to support students who have lost one or both of their parents, and all applicants must be able to show documentation of this. The program accepts about one student per country to their program, and a list of the countries that qualify for the program are listed on the website. Applicants must show a strong high school academic record and plan to return home to Africa after their studies abroad.

DAAD Study Scholarship:

This scholarship was created for students in their last year of an undergraduate program in a U.S. or Canadian university, and it awards its recipients a full master’s program or part of a postgraduate program in a German university. Foreign students are welcome to apply if they received or plan to receive their undergraduate degree at a U.S. or Canadian university. The application requires a resume, letter of admission to a German university, and an essay that lays out applicants’ study plans at that university.

Student writing on board
Never stop applying to scholarships -- regardless of your progression through your degree. Applying each year to different scholarships can help to increase your odds at earning money towards your education.

Funding your education as an international student can be a stressful task, but with the help of some of the scholarships and the other resources we’ve listed, you’ll be well on your way to taking control of financing your education. So before you pack up your bags and embark on your academic journey abroad, consider applying to a handful of scholarships to make the journey easier.

Allaina Wagner
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