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How likely are you to receive these types of aid as an international student?


This blog is all about the different types of scholarships or aid that can help international students pay for school. International students can qualify for quite a few different types of aid to help pay for school. But how likely are they to get these different types of aid? I feel like this is a key piece of information often missing for international students…

Of course the answer in short, is that it depends. It depends on the institution – big or small, public or private, two year or four year, large international support system on campus or not. It also depends on the student – excellent academics, lots of service, where your home country is, how much your parents can afford to pay, and whether or not you’re an athlete (but not just any athlete, more often than not you need to be an elite athlete).


Merit scholarships are WAY (way way way) more popular than sports scholarships
The percentage of students receiving sports scholarships in the USA is less than 1% (including Americans)
Schools that offer international specific scholarships care more about international students, period.
Name recognition is great, but so is a school with lots of support, concrete help finding a job after school, and staff on campus who care about who you are, where you’re from, and what you need


Read on to see why I have these opinions…but first…

Other blogs you might like:


Financial Aid
Understanding Scholarships

My advice to students is always that decisions are two-part for university studies. Students have to select the schools they want to apply for admissions to, and the schools have to select the students that best fit their needs for the upcoming year. As important as the student application is, it’s just as important what the school is searching for, and that’s a critical piece of information that students don’t usually have, and sometimes counselors don’t even have.

Learn how to pay for university in the USA


Types of scholarships that can help pay for university studies in the USA:


Merit scholarships are the most popular type of aid. Merit scholarships are usually granted automatically when a student applies to university. They can be given by public or private universities.
Public university merit scholarships are often small, ranging from $1,000-$5,000 per year, if offered at all, off the total cost of attendance (remember that public school costs are often ranging between $25,000-$40,000 USD total including accommodations)
Private university merit scholarships can be substantial, ranging from $10,000-$35,000+ depending on the university (remember that private school costs are much higher, typically ranging from $45,000-$80,000 USD)


Athletic scholarships are usually offered to athletes in the USA who have trained at a high level and have participated in club or academy sports outside of school sports.
I often tell students that athletic scholarships are most likely for international students that are playing on a national team level or very high academy level in their home country. It also depends on how important that sport is in their home country. Futbol/soccer is the world’s sport after all! Students might be a top golfer in their home country, but it may not be at a competitive level to the USA. Same with basketball, tennis, swimming, etc. – it depends how the level in your country compares to the level in the USA
Read on for how I initially advise athletes to go about learning more about sports scholarship opportunities in the USA…


I’m always preaching to my students to look at universities that offer international student scholarships. If a university cares about supporting international students, they will often offer special scholarships to this population. I think private schools tend to offer more in the way of special scholarships, but even large universities will post special opportunities for new international students to get aid.
Tip – look early! These types of special scholarships are often first found (and applied), first given
Tip – look for #youarewelcomehere scholarships or scholarships that apply only to students on an F1 visa or with citizenship outside of the USA
Tip – international scholarships usually require a separate application or essay submission in addition to your application for admissions to the university


Universities can offer scholarships for all sorts of “special” programs – these could be academic programs (business majors, engineering, or STEM fields) or they could be for special programs (service programs, student ambassador programs, etc).
Tip – this is why the school search process and finding the right fit is so important. If you are super into community service and can find a school that will give you nearly full financial aid to study there, it’s a win win for you and the university!


The short of it- financial aid for international students is TINY. It’s bare bones at best, and students need to understand that some universities are just not going to offer aid. Period.
Some universities that are not likely to give you merit scholarships (because they don’t need to because they get SO many applications each year) are NYU, UCLA, University of Florida, Penn State, Ohio State University, and Georgetown.
To fully understand financial aid, you have to understand the difference between “need blind” and “need aware” (review this blog for more details)
There is a consulting firm called BigJ Education Consulting, that publishes an annual spreadsheet on international financial aid. For reference, they compile information for only 10% of universities in the USA.
Out of about 5,000 institutions, they can only find data for less than 500 universities on how they provide international student financial aid