In US institutions, there are two major categories of financial aid — need and merit-based. The first is awarded on the basis of a student&’s financial need — needier students applying to a given college usually receive more aid than affluent self-funding ones.

On the other hand, a merit-based scholarship is essentially a tuition discount that a college offers to encourage a student to attend. Most often, merit awards are independent of need and can be awarded to any student a college would really like to attend using whatever criteria it wishes to apply. Merit-based scholarships are granted on the basis of special skills, talents or abilities. A university may have scholarships based on Toefl scores, academic record and artistic, musical or athletic ability. Merit-based scholarships are usually very competitive — to be considered, one needs to demonstrate exceptional ability in the area required. Some colleges award both need and merit-based aid but a small number, including many of the most selective, provide only need-based aid.

Scholarships can cover a significant portion of college costs, but all too often students don’t take the time to apply for them. They are dissuaded from checking them out because they’ve been misled by some common myths.

The first misconception about scholarships is that one needs to be a class topper to earn them. It is true that some are open only to students with exceptional academic records but there are so many more for those with particular interests or hobbies. Some are open to everyone and have no requirements at all.

Another prevalent misconception is that scholarship applications take too long. Some awards require one to write an essay, create a five-minute video, submit recommendation letters and fill out a lengthy application. However, not every scholarship has extensive application requirements that take days to complete. There are plenty of awards, which require one to just enter relevant information for a chance to win. That said those aren’t the only ones you should apply for as typically, the easier an application is, the more competitive the award will be.

No matter where one lives or which institution they decide to attend, a college&’s financial aid office (and its website) should be one&’s next stop after applying for a course. Most colleges have scholarship programmes specifically for international students.

Most grants, scholarships, and loans, however, are specifically targeted towards US citizens. That can certainly be discouraging but it&’s true. However, that does not make getting financial assistance impossible — it&’s definitely hard and one needs to do a lot of research but it&’s doable.

Some colleges offer a lot of financial aid for students while others only have a limited amount to offer. Similarly, some scholarships are offered to students of specific countries or regions and others to students majoring in a particular area. It varies greatly from one college to another, so it really is in one&’s best interest to do a lot of research. One must check online sources, look for information in the admissions section of a college&’s website, and call and email as needed.

A lot of colleges offer need-blind and full-need admission to international students. That means a college admits students regardless of their ability to pay, and for those students that cannot afford the price tag, it will award scholarships and grants to cover the difference. Such schools are Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Dartmouth College, and Amherst College.

However, they are not the only ones that provide financial assistance to international students. According to US News, 345 colleges across the country offered aid to at least 50 undergraduate international students for the 2012-2013 academic year. University of Chicago, Williams College, Yale University, Skidmore College, Harvard University, Amherst College, Wesleyan University, Stanford University, Trinity College, and Dartmouth College are the ones that offered the most financial aid to international undergraduate students during the aforementioned time period. However, it&’s important to note that the University of Chicago only offered assistance to 57 undergraduate international students, which was less than 11per cent of the total number. These are all things to take into consideration while looking at colleges and universities.

As with eligibility, there is no set rule on how to apply for scholarships. While some just require one to complete an application form, others may call for a specially written piece of work or for a student to be pursuing studies in a certain field.

Students seeking need-based financial aid from a college may be able to use the College Board&’s form called International Student Application for Financial Aid but may also need to complete a college-specific form. Mostly, international applicants are required to fill the CSS Profile and submit supporting financial documents. It is advised to check with each college for its own policy.

When applying to a college or accepting an offer of admission; all international students need to provide proof that they have the financial resources to attend the college. One commonly used form is the Certification of Finances.

If one wants to be considered only for merit scholarships, they do not have to submit any additional forms. One is automatically considered for a scholarship based on merit.

Most colleges that offer merit scholarships have application deadlines as early as 1 November. Generally, the scholarship consideration is reviewed along with the overall application submitted by a student. The deadline for submitting the CSS Profile is from 1 January to 1 February.

Here are some university-specific US scholarships for international students:

American University, Emerging Global Leader Scholarship — undergraduate scholarships to study in the US at the American University in Washington DC for international students exhibiting leadership potential.

Brandeis University, Wien International Scholarship Programme — funding opportunity for top students with a special interest in student community contribution.

Clark University, Global Scholars Programme — scholarships of no less than $10,000 and a guaranteed $2,500 taxable stipend for a paid internship are available for first-year international applicants.

Emory University, Needs-Based Scholarship Programme — funding opportunities for international students at Emory University. Students must demonstrate financial need.

Harvard University Scholarships — Harvard offers a good range of international scholarships for students from across the globe. However, competition is fierce.

Illinois State University International Awards — Illinois State offers tuition waivers, merit awards and graduate assistantships to incoming international students.

Iowa State University International Merit Scholarships — merit-based scholarship programme for high-achieving international students.

Michigan State University International Scholarships — international students can avail various grants and scholarships.

New York University, Wagner International Scholarships — scholarships to study at the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, NYU.

The Art Institutes Scholarship Programme — competitions and scholarships for international students to study at various Arts Institutes in universities across the US.

The New School Competition — The New School offers the chance to win international scholarships for bachelor&’s programmes in liberal arts subjects at its campus in New York.

n University of Arkansas, International Scholarships — funding opportunities for international students of varying backgrounds and nationalities.

University of Minnesota International Excellence Scholarships — two scholarships of differing amounts allocated to international full-time students.

University of Oregon International Scholarships — scholarships to study at the University of Oregon, aimed at international students from around the world.

University of Wisconsin, Superior Non-resident Tuition Waiver Programme — Tuition waiver for international students demonstrating financial need.

 

(The writer is the co-founder, Collegify)