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University scholarships are granted selectively to international students based on various criteria, such as academic excellence, exceptional talent in the performing arts, athletic excellence, community involvement, references from instructors or employers, or financial need. International student scholarships are very competitive. The vast majority (more than two-thirds) of students rely on their own personal funds and money from their families to finance their education. The main types of university scholarships for international students studying in the US include:

Home country scholarships - Students may find funding opportunities in their home countries. Some countries offer their students scholarships or financial assistance to study abroad. Scholarships may be available through the local government, corporate sources, foundations or organizations.

International entrance scholarships - Entrance scholarships are one-time endowments, granted to students upon entry to the school. They can be partial or full (covering part of the tuition fee or the entire tuition fee). In some cases, international students are automatically considered for these scholarships when they apply to the school; other times, entrance scholarships are competitive and require application by a specific deadline. Eligibility and application requirements vary by institution, so students will have to look into details at their specific schools of choice.

International student athletic scholarships - Some US universities provide opportunities for athletically gifted international students to play for the school's team as a means of paying for their education. These scholarships are highly competitive.

International academic scholarships (partial or full) - Academic scholarships are amounts of money allocated to students based on merit (usually academic achievement). Full scholarships are rare, and they are reserved for the top international students who have outstanding academic records, high SAT and TOEFL scores, and exceptional performance in other areas such as leadership and community service. The total number of full scholarships available to international students in the US is 1,000, offered by 100 colleges. This means that 20 top students from all over the world compete for each scholarship.

"Need-Blind" admission - Under this policy, universities and colleges will admit students of high academic aptitude, regardless of their ability to pay. Students who otherwise meet admission standards but who cannot afford the cost are awarded scholarships and other institutional aid to make up the difference. There are now at least eight American schools that offer need-blind admissions to international students:

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Massachusetts)
2. Harvard University (Massachusetts )
3. Princeton University (New Jersey)
4. Yale University (Connecticut)
5. Williams College (Massachusetts)
6. Middlebury College (Vermont)
7. Dartmouth College (New Hampshire)
8. Amherst College (Massachusetts)

External Organizations Scholarship and award programs for international students are also administered by both governmental and non-governmental organizations. Some examples are:

  • Ambassadorial Scholarship awarded through the Rotary Club

  • ASEAN Student Assistance Awards Program (ASAAP) and the Korean Student Assistance Awards Program (KSAAP) administered by NAFSA

  • You may also want to consult specific ethnic newspapers and/or cultural associations in the US. Some sources of financial aid are publicized only in such foreign language newspapers.

    Financial Aid
    The basic distinction between "scholarships" and "financial aid" is that scholarships are usually merit-based (they are granted based on academic talent, sports talent, performing arts talent, etc.), while financial aid is need-based (determined by students' financial needs, as documented by family income and other factors). Financial aid may include such assistance as bursaries, which are non-repayable monetary grants allocated to students based on financial need. Or financial aid may take the form of student loans: funds made available to students, which they must repay after completion of their programs. International students should note that US loan programs require you to have a US citizen co-sign any loans (to act as a guarantor). Loans are generally available for international students through the International Education Finance Corporation (IEFC).
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