How To Get An International Scholarship

In this article we are going to talk about what scholarships are, how to find them and how to apply. We will share some tips and tricks to make your application stand out, and we’ll answer some of our most frequently asked questions.

What is a Scholarship?

A scholarship is a type of financial aid, and essentially it is free money. A scholarship could be in the form of some extra funds, a partial scholarship or even a full-ride scholarship that would cover the cost of your degree!

Unfortunately you can’t just spend your funds on whatever you like, though; it’s for your education, and on our site we feature only scholarships for international students.

Because they do not need to be repaid, scholarships are a great option to help fund your international education.

Be prepared - scholarships are not easy to get and you will have to put work in to qualify in some cases, so we are here to give you the best advice we can to help you on your scholarship journey.

Types of Scholarships

First, we are going to explore some different types of scholarships. Your school is a great place to begin your search for a scholarship, followed by private scholarships through a company or organization.

There are need-based and merit-based scholarships. Be sure to identify which type of scholarship you should apply to.

If you do not need the money (meaning that you or your family can afford the costs of your education already) then you won’t qualify for any need-based scholarships, so you should focus on merit-based awards.

Academic scholarships are often based on your GPA (Grade Point Average) or other test scores such as the SAT, ACT or similar which you may have to take to qualify. Requirements will vary within this type of scholarship category and you shouldn’t assume that not having the best GPA will automatically exclude you from getting an academic scholarship, so it’s always good to keep this option open.

If you are highly skilled in a particular sport then you should see if there are any scholarship options available to you through your school or a private organization. Getting an athletic scholarship at your college can be incredibly rewarding because you get paid to play the sport and you might also get the chance to represent your school in competition.

Perhaps you are very passionate about music, art, drama, or another field. Find out if there are any scholarships available specifically for people who share your interest. There is often less competition for this type of scholarship as fewer people will apply.

These are based primarily on your personal situation and related to things such as your level of income. If you can show that you need financial aid in order to pursue your education, then you should look for a scholarship that will grant you money based on this.

If you are studying a particular course, such as medicine or chemistry, you may very well find that there is a scholarship designed especially for this field.

You may find a scholarship based on your home country, or there may be scholarships based on the country that you are going to study in. You should check with your home country’s education department and your destination country’s education department if there are scholarships available.

Finally, we have school-specific scholarships. These are offered based on the school you will be attending. You contact your school directly to inquire about scholarships as you may have to complete an additional application for some, while you might automatically be considered for others.

At some schools there may be a scholarship opportunity based on the fact that you are an international student.

Where To Look

Keeping an eye out for scholarship opportunities is easier said than done, so we’re going to show you a few websites and resources that can help you find all of the different available awards.


First up, it’s our own site! Our scholarship listing allows you to refine your search using various criteria. Registered users can see the contact information and application details for each scholarship. Setting up an account is free and simple.

At Funding Study, you can search by program, sponsor, field of study, location, and more. For example, if you want to study in a particular state, you can click and see all the different programs from graduate and undergraduate scholarships and merit scholarships available in that state.

IEFA is part of our network, along with and You can search grants and scholarships by selecting where and what you’re studying or where you are from.

Hopefully, by now you’ve found your ideal scholarship opportunity! So let’s turn our attention to that all-important application.

The Scholarship Essay

Almost all applications require an essay or some form of written submission. Sometimes the topic is assigned to you, and other times you get to write about anything you choose related to the field. Typically, if an essay is required, it is the most important part of the application.

It is likely that this will be your only opportunity to demonstrate clearly why you feel you deserve the scholarship. It’s important to make this case as compelling as possible. You may be able to see the winners of past scholarships and their essays -so you’ll get an idea for what the judges are really looking for. But be careful not to copy these.

The best thing you can do to ensure that the judges view your essay as a winner is to start planning well in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute. You need to allow plenty of time to put ideas on paper to determine the direction you want your essay to take. Remember - this is an important opportunity in your education!

Next, create an outline. Include everything you want to write about and organize it in a logical order, leading the reader from one topic to the next fluidly. Your essay should clearly demonstrate your strengths and showcase why you deserve the funding for college - don’t forget that this is a competition and you want to stand out from the other applicants.

Resume or CV

You’ll usually need to send in a resume or CV. It’s important to customize your resume for the scholarship you are applying for - don’t send the same one for every scholarship application. Customize the content and make sure you put the most compelling information right at the top of your resume so that it’s the first thing they see.

Be sure to mirror keywords that are included in the scholarship description or qualifications in your resume so that they catch the reader’s eye.

Add any related accomplishments and qualifications that you've carried out such as volunteer work, along with any other awards you have received. Always ask a friend or family member to read your resume before you turn it in to check for any errors, omission or repetition.

It’s a good idea to add a cover letter to your scholarship application, just as you would for a job interview.


To demonstrate that you are academically capable of pursuing higher education, a transcript of your grades is almost always required. The scholarship application will tell you whether an unofficial transcript, which you can usually download from your school’s website, or an official transcript is required. An official transcript is a little harder to get because it is signed, sealed and mailed directly from your school to the scholarship application office. If this is the case, you will need to request your official transcripts in advance to make sure that it arrives at the destination before the due date.

Letters of Recommendation

You may be asked to provide letters of recommendation from someone in your field of study such as a previous professor or teacher who can highlight your qualifications and experience in the field.

Sometimes they are written by a boss or colleague in your job who could elaborate on your character and work ethic.

If a letter isn’t required, you will probably be asked for a list of references. Here, you would list two or three people who the scholarship organization can contact. You should include their name, title and contact information.

Application Fee

In some rare cases there is an application fee to be considered. If you are asked to pay up front, do as much research as you can to ensure that the sponsoring organization is reputable!

Search Tips

When you’re looking for scholarships it’s important to think about what makes you who you are and what sets you apart from everyone else that might be applying for the same scholarship.

Here are a couple of questions to ask yourself to help you do this:

  • What are you interested in?
  • What are your skills?
  • What makes you different?

Search as widely as you can for scholarships related to your answers - you never know what you may find.

Have you received any awards in the past? Perhaps a similar scholarship is available for you to apply for.

There may be scholarships based on your home country, destination or your own government’s scholarships.

What are you studying? Biology or chemistry? Mathematics or Engineering?

What do you enjoy doing and want to carry on while you study?

What university will you be attending? There are lots of universities and colleges that award scholarships based on a student’s academic performance in school, field of study or financial need.

Where to Find an International Scholarship

So now that you have asked yourself all of those questions, the next thing to cover is: where to look for scholarship funding?

Your school

The first place for international students to start is with their college or university.

When you submit your application, you will usually be working with the admissions department. It is usually at this stage that you can ‘opt in’ for different kinds of scholarships. It’s really important to talk to your admissions counselor, if you have one, or the service desk to make sure that you have submitted all the necessary paperwork, and don’t forget about the deadlines.

You will also want to talk to your school’s international student center. This service will be an incredible resource for you! You might be assigned your own international student advisor who will guide you through your application and during your time at the school. Speak to this advisor regularly because they will know all the inside information about campus-specific awards for international students, as they deal with this all the time.

The next place to get in touch with at your university is your department or faculty of study. Whether that’s the school of sciences or the faculty of humanities, talk to them and let them know how passionate you are and where you want your education to take you in the future.

Lots of students attend universities in the US with athletic scholarships. These awards are typically given by the coach responsible for the sport. Whatever your sport is, you may be able to get help with funding your education if there is a scholarship at your school. Make sure you get in touch with the coach to showcase your skills - this might lead to a scholarship! Athletic scholarships are often highly competitive, making them difficult to secure. If you do receive an athletic scholarship you will usually have to fulfil certain obligations related to your sporting and academic life.

Scholarships in Your Home Country

Many governments provide funds to help their students take part in exchange programs or to pursue their education overseas. Look at the information and resources provided by the government of your home country to see if they support international exchange funding.

Host Country Awards

There are host country government awards too. For example, if you are coming to the USA, Education USA provides extra funding opportunities for you.

International Organizations

Some nonprofit organizations, international organizations, and multinational companies invest in international education by providing scholarships or funding to students. These organizations can provide different funding options for you.

Your Scholarship Application

After you find a scholarship that you want to apply for, the next step is to make your application stand out above the competition!

There are some things that are required by the majority of scholarship applications. Not all scholarships require all of these, but here’s our guide to the most common.

Should I follow-up on a scholarship application?

We usually recommend you only follow up if the deadline for announcing the scholarship recipients has passed and there haven’t been any announcements made. Following up before the deadline, when the scholarship committee is busy reviewing the applications, is not likely to benefit your application.

A scholarship requires me to pay to apply. Is this common?

You should be cautious with scholarships that require payment with the application. However, if you have done your research to make sure you trust the institution, there’s usually no problem with scholarships that require payment of a small fee.

If I can’t find a scholarship should I take out a loan?

Loans are a great addition to the funding required for your education if necessary. If you would like any more information on student loans, check out

Find My Student Loan

Select Yes if you are a US Citizen or US Permanent Resident