For international students looking to pursue a degree at an American university, planning and scheduling are critical. You first have to find the right school based on your areas of interest, the university’s location, lifestyle choices, and, of course, affordability.
With more than 5,000 colleges and universities in the US, you’re almost certain to be a great fit at the right school. Finding the right match takes work but there are many resources available to help you as you embark on an educational adventure across the Atlantic.
Unlike British universities, the U.S. does not have a central organization like the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) to facilitate applying to multiple colleges. Moreover, since each school charges an application fee, you’ll need to focus your choices on the best fits.
If you are a city person, four years at a small college in a rural part of the U.S. could be a refreshing change. But it might just drive you a little crazy, too! Still, not everyone is cut out for New York City or L.A, but with so many schools located in every region of the country, your chances of finding the right spot are good.
The cost of an American university degree varies wildly. In 2020, the average U.S. higher education tuition dropped slightly amid the global crisis as most schools tried to help students graduate with less debt. Still, very few competitive schools can be considered inexpensive.
Tuition and required fees (not including room, board, and other expenses) at a good public university education in the states average about $20,000 per year, or about £14,500. On the other hand, a top private institution averages a little more than $35,000 (£25,000) and can reach more than $60,000 (£43,500).
For most international students, that means finding enough financial aid will likely play as important a role as the other factors in their research.
Financial aid for education in the U.S. takes various forms, primarily government or private loans, grants provided directly by the college, work-study programs, and merit- and needs-based scholarships provided by the college, private donors, and various business, civic, or other non-profit organisations.
International students don’t generally have access to subsidised loans from the American government. That makes understanding and finding other financial aid options even more important.
The good news is that there are even more scholarships than colleges in the U.S., and many of them accept applications from international students.
Start by checking with your target schools’ Financial Aid and International Student offices. Ask about any scholarships or grants available through the university if you are accepted. Be sure to also check for alumni awards or other related sources you can apply for.
Beyond school-administered scholarships, hundreds and hundreds of organisations across the U.S. offer scholarships for targeted groups.
There are two sides to a scholarship strategy. One involves finding scholarships that specifically support your area of study or particular skill and talent. Some scholarships are targeted to specific genders with other demographic or cultural considerations.
Many targeted scholarships – such as Women in STEM scholarships aimed at increasing the number of women pursuing technical degrees – require a significant amount of work from applicants.
You’ll need to make sure you tick every one of the necessary boxes, and you’ll likely be asked to provide detailed examples of your talent and skills, whether through a world-class essay, a solid work portfolio, or an audition.
Or, if you have the drive and imagination to develop exciting new business ideas, many entrepreneurship scholarships are available to ambitious students who can demonstrate those skills. Also, students interested in helping others as part of their educational journey should check out the many community service scholarships available.
Many targeted scholarships can pay a large portion of a student’s total costs, so they are highly competitive. Start looking early and make sure to hit every deadline.
The different areas of focus for those scholarships and the amount of effort required means that you aren’t going to have time to put together all the materials to apply for more than a few.
Your strategy doesn’t have to depend on these target scholarships only. Many more scholarships will help you cover various expenses, including housing or the cost of the many books you’ll need.
Many of these smaller scholarships are comparatively easy scholarships to apply for, so apply to as many as you can find to help increase your chances. Most are no essay scholarships and don’t require any other materials from you; however, finding them will be the toughest part of applying.
Either way, like everything else about your dream of studying in the states, finding and applying for scholarships to help pay for your studies takes lots of work and lots of help. The resources we’ve shared here and elsewhere on Casita.com are a great place to start.