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A guide to scholarships in the US for international students

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If you are planning to travel to the United States to study, there is plenty of financial support available from a wide variety of sources.

The US has the world's largest international student population, with more one million students heading there to further their education.

In the majority of cases, they will have been asked by their chosen academic institution to provide proof of funding for their entire planned period of study.

Scholarships can be an invaluable help towards supporting your academic pursuits, although there are usually plenty of hoops to jump through to obtain these.

Read on as we take a closer look at scholarships in the US including how to find them, why you should study there, how to apply and more.  

Finding a scholarship

Searching for a scholarship may seem like a daunting task, but there are plenty of excellent online resources available to help you with the task.

These provide a plethora of resources that will help you make the right choices and give you the tools you need to thrive academically in the US.

There are numerous decisions to make including choosing the right course, picking the right educational establishment and understanding where these can take you.

However, perhaps the most important consideration is how you will finance your studies in the US and scholarships are an excellent route to pursue.

While there are lots of different schemes for US citizens, scholarships for international students may be a little more difficult to obtain.

Using reputable websites is a great way to find out what is available, and will also provide you with broader insights into studying in the US education system.

It can also be useful to speak to your current school or college, as these may have details regarding scholarships they are aware of or that previous students have obtained.

Why study in the USA?

Studying abroad has become something of a global phenomenon in the 21st century, with students criss-crossing the world in search of the best possible education.

One of the biggest attractions of studying abroad is the challenge it presents, taking students out of their comfort zone into a different environment.

Experiencing a different culture is another benefit, while studies have shown that career prospects are often improved amongst graduates who have international experience on their CV.

With regards to the US, it is a hugely attractive proposition for international students, providing them with the opportunity to experience one of the best countries in the world.

Esther Brimmer, Executive Director and CEO of the Association of International Educators, believes that the US provides international students with unique learning opportunities.

"Bright students around the world know they can come here and get a great education," she said. "And perhaps one of the most exciting things is the dynamism of the American classroom.

"That is very rare, that idea of having an interactive classroom where students and professors are talking to each other, where the learning is shared, it's not just the professor lecturing.

"I'll tell you as someone who was a former professor, I love that environment. It's something where we even put out a publication on introduction to the American classroom to help students get used to the idea that they will have to defend their ideas."

Am I eligible for a scholarship?

There is no hard-and-fast rule regarding the eligibility criteria for scholarships - it can vary between academic institutions and the type of scholarship you apply for. 

Some scholarships require students to have a TOEFL score above a pre-determined level, while others may be limited towards applicants from certain countries.

Grade point averages can also come into play, so it makes sense to spend time researching different scholarships to see which one best suits your circumstances.

It can be confusing, but there are some fantastic online resources on colleges that you can access which provide all the information you need.

College admissions officers and education finance experts are also excellent sources of knowledge and will help to point you in the right direction.

Make sure that you have more than one option available, as putting all your eggs in one basket can be a recipe for disaster.

Don't be afraid to submit an application even if you don't quite meet all the criteria - some institutions may be prepared to be flexible if they are short of students for a particular course.

What to take into consideration

Rankings are often a start point for students when it comes to choosing their academic route, but they don't always tell the full story.

How subjects are taught, location, the campus, environment and social scene are other important factors to consider.

Many suppliers of rankings apply different criteria to produce their lists, so what may look excellent on one list may bomb badly on another.

Dennis Nyanyo, an international student from Ghana, went to Cornell for his undergraduate studies with full financial aid before progressing to Harvard Medical School.

He says that he used academic rankings as a starting point to determine which path to take, but admits that other elements also came into play.

"I think rankings play a huge role and they certainly did for me," he said. "Just because, I left Ghana to find the best opportunities I could find for myself to achieve the goals that I had.

"And I guess the rankings of the universities were one of the proxies that I used to determine that. 

"But, as much as university rankings play into prestige, the quality of the education that you get there, I think, plays a much stronger role in the outcome for you as a person.

"And I had a very good experience at Cornell, but I think that's something that people need to consider more."

How do I apply for a scholarship ?

Much like eligibility, rules on how to apply for scholarships can vary. Some may just require an application form, while others may need to be supported by additional work.

Once you have found the scholarship you are interested in, the application criteria is generally published alongside this information.

This will detail everything you need to do to submit your application. If you are fortunate enough to be admitted one of the main things you will need to obtain is an f1 student visa.

This does not allow you to remain in the United States permanently, nor does it permit you to work for income with some exceptions while you're in the US.

It is a temporary visa that allows you to visit the US to study and comprehensive details about this can be found on the US Department of State website. 

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