Financial Aid Opportunities in your Study Abroad Dreams

There are billions and billions of dollars of financial aid available for students pursuing their study abroad dreams. However, this funding varies drastically based on your degree of choice and program of choice. Also, the financial aid opportunities are getting highly competitive each year because of increasing pool of strong applicants and decreasing budgets at many of the universities.

There are number of financial aid opportunities at the universities for International students. A few of them are scholarships where a student has to meet certain requirements and there are a number of opportunities such as teaching, research, lab assistants etc. that are tied to certain work students can do at the university and in return they get a stipend and maybe in-state tuition etc.

Financial Aid for students pursuing undergraduate studies is less than what is available for students applying for M.S and Ph.D. graduate programs, it is still in billions of dollars. The two most common financial aid opportunities for students at the undergraduate courses is either “merit-based” scholarship or “need-based” scholarship. Each and every university has its own set of scholarships available, hence the student needs to do their own research or work with an admission guidance counselor who may have more insights and knowledge about it. For example, may of the top universities in the world such as Harvard, Stanford etc. admit a student based on their achievements and subsequently offer them financial aid if they do not have the required support to meet the program financial needs.  Additionally, undergraduate students can find on-campus jobs as they join the university. Many of these jobs can help them get in-state tuition at the university, a big savings on overall cost. Some of the universities such as Texas Tech, a nationally recognized engineering university in the U.S., offers special scholarship for International students if they are in the top 25% of their class and have a minimum SAT score. This scholarship can be a huge positive impact to the overall budget of a study abroad expense.

Students pursuing graduate aspirations, especially in a technical field, have a lot more financial aid options. Again, just like undergraduate program financial aid options, graduate programs also have a number of research assistant financial aid options. These scholarships are funded by the project grants awarded to a particular or a team of professor. These grants are often funded by a public institution such as federal or state government or by large companies such as IBM, Microsoft, and Google etc. These financial aid decisions are either made by the department or by the professor themselves. Hence, it is very important for a student aspiring to study abroad to research each university’s programs, professors research and engage with them early on in the process. Many of these scholarships are awarded once a student has been at the university for a few months and had the opportunity to meet the professor and engage with them face-to-face. Some of the graduate fields in STEM tend to have a lot more opportunity of financial aid compared to non-STEM fields. These opportunities again vary dramatically from one university to another and are highly dependent on overall funding of the university.

If a student is looking at pursuing a M.B.A. from an international university, they may not have too many options there. Since M.B.A. programs do not have much research associated with them, it is tough for universities to provide aid to M.B.A. students. There are still number of scholarships options available at each university for International students, especially once you get down the list of top ranked M.B.A. schools.

Over the last few years, many Tier-3 and Tier-4 colleges have used partial scholarship grants to attract international students to their programs. Since International students tend to pay higher fees to the colleges, it is an attractive way for the college to have a student join them. Students need to be careful about this and not join any university that is offering them aid. They should take the university’s reputation, educational and research facilities, faculty reputation and placement rates before making any decision.

In summary, if you are a student thinking of study abroad, plan ahead and put your energy in doing your homework. There are a lot of financial aid opportunities available to you, but the process is complex, fragmented and requires you to do your research and take some risks.  Some of the financial aid options are available at the time of your admission but many more of them open up only when you join a program or the university.

About Author Ajay Singh

I graduated from I.I.T India and came to U.S. for higher studies in Engineering 20 years back. After working for a few years in Austin, Texas as a design engineer, I went back for a M.B.A at Harvard Business School. I have worked for number of global companies in senior leadership and management positions. Over the years I have advised number of students on college admission.

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