Do Universities Offer Financial Aid to International Students?

by | Apr 14, 2022 | Finance

If you’re considering studying abroad, you might be wondering “Do universities offer financial aid to international students?”

For ambitious African students intending to study abroad, financing their international education is one of the biggest challenges. With low average household incomes, many African students cannot dream of pursuing higher education abroad without the help of scholarships, grants, and loans.  

You’ll be delighted to learn that universities abroad do offer financial aid to international students.

Let’s take a look at different kinds of financial aid offered by universities to international students. To help you find the financial aid that meets your needs, we have also included leads to different kinds of financial aid for international students.

Merit-Based Scholarships

Merit-based scholarships are typically awarded by universities on the basis of high achievement in a specific area be it academic, artistic, or athletic. Merit scholarships may also be awarded due to affiliations with certain groups.

Merit-based scholarships can be awarded by universities, large corporations, professional organizations, and or governments.

While some merit-based scholarships also consider financial need, the rewarding talent is usually the main criteria. At times, such scholarships are also awarded to help boost diversity or promote the enrollment of underrepresented groups. For instance, some universities may provide merit-based scholarships to women in STEM majors, with the goal of improving diversity in those majors.

Let’s take a look at different kinds of merit-based scholarships universities offer to international students:

  • Academic Merit-Based Scholarships: A majority of merit-based scholarships reward academic achievement. Such scholarships usually require applicants to have a minimum GPA or set test scores. Common tests include the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT).
  • Athletic Merit-Based Scholarships: Universities abroad are always looking for students with high athletic promise. If you’re an athlete, find out if the college you’re interested in offers athletic scholarships. A lot of athletic scholarships are also available through private organizations. 
  • Artistic Merit-Based Scholarships: There are many scholarships that reward artistic talent. If you’re an artist, musician, writer, or a poet, search for universities that offer scholarships in your field. Typically, these scholarships will require you to have a portfolio—make sure you have enough artistic work produced to compile an impressive portfolio.

How to Find and Apply for Merit-Based Scholarships

There are plenty of merit-based scholarships you may qualify for out there. To find one that suits your needs, devote time and effort to find them.

Here are links to some of the best merit-based scholarships for international students in the US:

To boost your chances of landing a merit-based scholarship, apply for all scholarships for which you meet the minimum requirements. Since merit-based scholarships are very competitive, don’t waste your time applying if you don’t meet the minimum test scores—that will be an exercise in futility. 

Since most merit-based scholarships require an essay, portfolio, and letter of recommendation, it’s best to prepare them well before the application deadline.

Some universities award merit-based scholarships to deserving students (who are already enrolled) on an annual basis. Such scholarships usually don’t have application requirements—they are automatically provided alongside the rest of your financial aid package.

Once you snag a merit-based scholarship, make sure to maintain the standards needed to keep the scholarship.

Need-Based University Scholarships

As the name implies, need-based scholarships are provided for students who cannot afford to pay for tuition. Students qualify for need-based scholarship on the basis of family income—they may require you to provide evidence of financial need.

That said, many need-based scholarships for international students also consider an applicant’s grades and test scores. With that in mind, African students with great academic achievements and financial need are eligible for many need-based financial aid offered by universities to international students.

Every university has a financial aid department—from which you can find out what kind of financial aid you’re eligible for and how to apply. Typically, the amount of financial aid you can receive depends on factors such as:

  • Your family’s financial situation
  • The cost of tuition
  • Your year in school
  • Your enrollment status

Usually, need-based university scholarships are provided for only one academic year. Eligible students may re-apply for their need-based scholarship every year.

How to Find and Apply for Need-Based University Scholarships

As we’ve mentioned, the first place to look for need-based scholarships for international students is the college’s financial aid department. Other sources of need-based scholarships include private companies, the government, and Pell grants.

Here is a list of several American Universities that offer need-based scholarships to international students:


Need-Blind Financial Aid

If you are worried that you won’t qualify for need-based scholarships due to your family income, consider going for need-blind scholarships.

With need-blind scholarships, institutions have official policies against considering an applicant’s financial resources when deciding to offer them admission or financial aid. This policy may be extended to all students—including international students.

Some universities that offer need-blind admission also have “full-need” pledges. That means that the institution promises to provide sufficient financial aid to enable all accepted students to attend. In most cases, “full-need” pledges only cover US nationals. However, some colleges also extend the same financial assistance to international students.

Presently, only five US universities offer need-blind admission and full-need financial aid to international students:

The universities above also happen to be among the most prestigious in the US, and the world. To gain admittance at these Ivy League schools, you must be a high achiever in academics and other areas.

University Grants for International Students

Scholarships aren’t the only kind of financial aid you can get from universities abroad as an international student. You can also apply for grants. Although plenty of people use the terms “scholarship” and “grant” interchangeably, the two aren’t the same.

While scholarships are often merit-based (candidates are judged based on their academics, community service, or other achievement), grants are available to anyone who satisfies a given criteria. In most cases, grants are project-based.

Grants may either be renewable each year or offered on a one-time basis. Read the information provided to find out if your grant is renewable. Even so, the fact that a grant is renewable isn’t a guarantee that it will be renewed for you.

Grants are usually offered in the following areas:

  • Subject-based grants
  •  Hardship-based grants
  • Grants based on your country of origin
  •  Grants provided by charities and official bodies

How to Find and Apply for College Grants

The easiest way to find grants is by requesting your school’s financial aid department for information, if you’re already enrolled. You can also find the information by searching on the official website—often in the “Financial Aid” section.

Some universities offer student research positions, which are also a form of grant. Basically, students conduct research for the university and they’re paid an amount to help cover their educational costs.

To boost your chances of getting grants, read the application guidelines and eligibility requirements carefully. Applying for grants you’re not eligible for is a waste of time—you’re unlikely to get a grant if you don’t meet the minimum requirements.

Make sure to provide all the necessary information and documentation for your application to be considered. Do your best to complete and submit your application a few days before the deadline. Be prepared for a follow up interview if you’re shortlisted for the grant.

While application procedures vary, always expect to have to fill out the following:

  • An online application form
  • Details on why you need the money
  • Explanation regarding what the grant will be spent on
  • What makes you stand out as an applicant

Here are links to several grants for international students

Scholarships for Special Groups

Some university scholarships are offered to boost diversity and empower special groups of people. For instance, such scholarships may be offered to:

  • Students with disability
  • LGBTQ individuals
  • Older students
  • Women
  • People from a marginalized ethnic background

If you are a member of such groups, search online to find the right scholarship for you. Just like with any other scholarship, read the requirements to make sure that you’re eligible.

Here are links to scholarships for some special groups that international students are eligible for:

Now that you know the kind of financial aid universities offer to international students and where to begin your search, the ball is in your court. 

By searching online and requesting relevant information from your school’s financial aid department, you’re sure to find the financial aid you require to pursue your studies abroad. 

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