Scholarships for Undergrad International Applicants

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Ahsaas Verma

Updated on Apr 30, 2021

Scholarships | 8 min read
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Scholarships for international undergraduate students

Scholarships are meant for financially assisting students, to help them fund their college tuition, based on athletic or academic merit.
Grants, on the other hand, are usually awarded based on the financial conditions of the student’s family. Scholarships and grants come under the category of ‘gift aids’ because students are not expected to pay them back to the awarding organization or body.

There are a plethora of scholarship types available, catering to a wide range of applying students, some of them being merit - based, need - based, athletic, program or domain specific scholarships, minority scholarships, country - specific scholarships, etc.

In this article, we’ll briefly talk about merit - based and need - based scholarships, the two frontier types of awarded financial grants.

Merit based scholarships

These are the ones which one tends to think about, while pondering over the subject of scholarships. A merit scholarship is a financial award awarded to students on the basis of various factors such as extracurricular activities, involvement in community service, SAT / ACT scores, most important of them being the academic performance in high school.

They are famous for substantially lowering or completely covering the entire tuition charges for 4 years of college. This characteristic proves extremely helpful to students who don’t qualify for need - based aids.
A helpful fact for Indian applicants, who often plan to pursue a Bachelor’s degree from the US, merit - based awards may be the kind of thing you should seek for, because American colleges being slightly expensive for the Indian populace, most students often don’t qualify for need - based aids due to them belonging to well - to - do families.

A point which a non - believer of social inequality may like is that merit - based scholarships have the same probabilities of being granted to students across the entire gamut of financial stabilities.

Below mentioned are some points to be kept in mind to maximize the chances of being awarded with a wholesome scholarship -

a) Apply where you rank high academically - Sending your applications to colleges where you stand in the top 10 percentile according to your grades and GPA enhances your chances of getting a scholarship.

b) Strike a deal - Sometimes, in order to lure students into choosing them, universities offer grants of a higher magnitude than those offered by adversary universities. But it’s also important to keep the reputation and quality of education imparted by the college on a higher pedestal, than simply running after a university just because they’re offering lucrative grants.

c) Compare net prices before choosing a college - Before opting to attend a college due to high scholarship grant, compare the net prices. It so happens that a college offering a slightly less scholarship may have lesser additional expenses of attending it, than a college which offers a high scholarship amount but has a downside of heavy supplementary expenses.

d) Acceptance rate - It’s a regular observation that less reputed colleges offer more merit - based scholarships, thus boasting of a high acceptance rate. One should remain careful when considering options in such cases.

Documents usually necessary to apply for merit - based scholarships include the following (the list below is not thorough) -

  1. Portfolio - A portfolio containing detailed listing of previous work experiences of work samples is required, keeping in mind the fact that this is a merit based scholarship, for which colleges like to see the academic merit. Indian students, the typical contents of your portfolio should include a list of the awards or certificates you won from your extra - curricular activities, or any club you were a part of in school; prizes won in nationwide talent search examinations, etc.
  2. Transcript - Certified and attested copies of grade sheets or transcripts will be definitely asked for, in most merit - based scholarship applications. Indian students typically submit transcripts containing brief information about the courses they took in high school, the grades (CGPA) or percentages they obtained on them, their class rank, etc.
  3. Test scores - To stand out in a huge crowd of applicants, it’s a prerequisite to have exceptional scores in qualifying exams such as the ACT or SAT, as well as having good grades in high school.
  4. Indian students take note - in order to qualify for a decent undergrad college in the US, it is kind of a must to have a SAT score around or greater than 1500, out of 1600.
  5. Essay - One factor of paramount importance when judging a student’s application is the essays - to craft a piece of work which acknowledges your experiences and highlights your personality is what colleges want, from the essay of a bright student.
  6. Recommendations - A true discernment of character, which can’t be portrayed through one’s transcripts or essays is a recommendation from a previous employer or colleague, which can truly speak for your qualifications and persona.

The teacher in high school of the subject you liked, or a startup you wrote content for in your summer vacations, these are some examples of recommenders to approach.

Need - based scholarships

Also known as the ‘financial aid’ scholarships, these are awarded to prospective students who face difficulties in paying for their college tuition. Students who showcase a requirement for financial assistance at a pre - arranged level are eligible for this kind of scholarship.

(For international applicants, this means submitting a detailed financial statement of your family, including annual income, the sources of income, the amount of taxes paid annually, etc.)

These differ from merit - based scholarships in that, the latter is awarded only based on the academic excellence of the student, but the former requires proofs, or financial statements of the family of the student and is only granted when the funding officials feel that the student is in genuine need of monetary aid.

A vast scale of scholarship awards are bestowed from diverse funding sources. Some of them which sponsor international undergrad scholarships comprise of

  1. colleges and universities
  2. charitable foundations
  3. corporate giants, etc.

With just a little bit of research, one may encounter a huge number of need - based scholarships awarded by different institutions, with regards to varying sets of criteria.

ASME (American School of Mechanical Engineers) administers quite a number of scholarships solely for mechanical engineering students, based on their need, academic performance and contribution to ASME activities and events.

The SAE foundation dispenses undergraduate scholarships, promoting education in STEM subjects and growing student participation in the various fields of engineering.

Another class of scholarships, titled ‘student - specific’ strives to finance students representing particular strata of the society - they can be international students, undergraduates from the military or minority quotas, etc.

A good instance of this kind of scholarship is the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, which is reputed to be the largest source for undergrad scholarships for students of Asian origin.

Departmental scholarships are offered by colleges for incoming students interested to study, or highly inclined for a specific department such as astronomy, medicine, mathematics etc.
In order to avail the advantages of such scholarships, it is ideal for the applicant to have a good profile which speaks for the expertise of the student in that particular area, for example, if a student is applying for scholarship provided by the Department of Physics in a reputed university, it is required by the student to have done exceptional work in the field of Physics, or having done internships in reputed laboratories, or won several international Physics Olympiads, etc.

The funds offered by departments across various colleges vary, but one fact is recurring - the funds granted are meager, they range from about 2000 - 6000 dollars for the entire 4 years of college.

One may also stay wary of external scholarships - grants provided by corporations or other educational institutions.
There is no dearth of organizations which dole out handsome amounts of money to deserving students, it’s just that one should know where to look for. Sometimes, some companies approach exceptionally brilliant students in high school and offer to fund their studies, in return for a contract of employment post - graduation for a stipulated amount of time.

A key feature about such scholarships is that, in order to take advantage of them, one must have a brilliant academic record and must have done some extraordinary research or project work in order to stand out from the immense crowd of students. So, these kinds of scholarships are often not viable for the common masses stocked with average students.

To conclude, for Indian students, it is usually not that hard to look for and apply to a scholarship program - all it takes is some research work, & careful and timely submission of documents to the portals of the universities.
We hope we have provided enough information in this article which may be of immense help, when applying for foreign undergrad universities. For any other help regarding the application process, don’t forget to check out our blog of educational articles.

List of scholarships:

  • Asian Women in Business Scholarship Fund – Offering female Asian students funding for an undergraduate business degree taken at an accredited US university.

  • Cornell University Tata Scholarship – Scholarships for Indian citizens who have been accepted to study at the undergraduate level at Cornell University.

  • Dr. Manmohan Singh Scholarships - Available for all the courses except medicine and veterinary science, the scholarships cover all undergraduate tuition and college fees, as well as a grant for living and travel expenses.

  • India 4EU II (Europe) - India4EU II provides scholarships for students, researchers and staff from India in order to study, do research, training or teaching at one of the European Universities of the Partnership.