USA Study: Funding your degree

The cost of undertaking a degree in the U.S increases each year, and many students are finding that they are unable to financially support themselves.

International students can expect to pay a total of up to £42,000 in tuition fees, living expenses and other costs at the top U.S universities and colleges.

However, try not to let this put you off as there are a number of other options that you can investigate when looking for sources of funding for your higher education.

1. Home country

If you need to obtain financial aid or an international student scholarship to afford an American education, the best place for you to look is in your home country.

There may be international student scholarships and international student loans available for study abroad from your government, or from local businesses, organisations, and foundations in your home country.

2. U.S university funding

Although there are many universities in the US that provide financial aid and international student scholarships to international students, this aid is normally limited and is often more accessible to graduate than undergraduate students.

Furthermore, competition for international student scholarships and aid is fierce, and schools are careful to help out the most deserving international students.

Good grades and exam scores are extremely important in securing an international student scholarship, as they are only awarded to those with an outstanding academic record.

Find out whether any of the institutions that you would like to apply to have grants, loans or scholarships for international students. If they don’t, and you have not been able to obtain enough funding on your own, you may have to consider other schools that will help.

3. International organisations

Other places to look for international student scholarships, international student loans and other forms of international student aid are international humanitarian organisations that promote international education and cultural exchange with the U.S.

These organisations include the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, the League of Red Cross Societies, and the World Council of Churches.

Some of these organisations have restricted financial help, international student scholarships and international student loans.

For example, the international student scholarships or aid may only be available to graduate students, students from a specific ethnic group, or students who have chosen a specific course of study. Financial aid and scholarships from these organisations are highly competitive, so it's important to start your search early.

4. Online scholarship search

Below are some links for websites that provide information on international student scholarships and financial aid for international students:

  • GoodCall - Offers the opportunity to search over $25 million in available scholarships...
  • - this site helps international students who want to study in the USA with time-saving international student scholarship search tools. It also contains advice sections for international students.
  • International Education Financial Aid (IEFA) – this site provides a searchable database that contains various sources of aid available to international students. It is a free service.
  • International Student Loans – this site offers loans to international students, so long as the international student loan is co-signed by an American citizen.
  • Fulbright – Fulbright grants are available for international students in graduate school.
  • Rotary International – this organisation provides some limited international student scholarships.
  • The Soros Foundations Network – this foundation offers international student scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students. Many are restricted to students from specific countries.
  • AAUW – this organisation provides fellowships for international graduate students who are women.
  • American Councils for International Education – the councils provide international student grants and fellowships to international students from the former Soviet republics.
  • AMIDEAST – this organisation provides grants for international students from the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Institute for International Education – the institute publishes a book titled Funding for U.S. Study: A Guide for Citizens of Other Nations that provides information on hundreds of grants and international student scholarships offered by governments, foundations and international organisations.

5. Employment

As you start to think about funding sources for your educational and living expenses in the United States, remember that you cannot count on working in the U.S unless you have been granted a teaching or research assistantship.

When you submit evidence of your financial resources, you cannot reply on potential income. The income on which you base your application must be assured, and it must be equal to or exceed the costs of the first year of your studies.

Immigration regulations are very strict with regard to working while carrying a student visa. F-1 status, which is the most common status for full-time international students, allows for part time, on-campus employment (fewer than 20 hours per week.)

J-1 student status allows for similar employment, with similar restrictions, as long as permission is given by the exchange visitor program sponsor.

Jobs available on campus do not normally pay very much, and certainly not enough to finance a university education. Therefore it's important not to depend on this sort of job for anything more than a supplement to your other funds. 

Careful long and short-term planning is required to ensure that you will have a rewarding educational experience in the U.S. If you are realistic about your financial needs, and create a good budget plan, you will be better able to enjoy the exciting academic and cultural experience of living and learning in the United States.

Further information

For more help and advice on applying to university in the U.S, please see: