The United States has one of the largest international student populations in the world. The United States is home to a wide variety of colleges and universities, many of which offer quality education, unique curriculum, a diverse cultural environment and abundant opportunities. You get the flexibility to choose your courses and modules molded around your academic interests and hobbies.

The United States has the best colleges and universities in the world with an excellent support system for international students, making it the place to be for students.

How can I afford to study in the United States?

With quality education comes a high price. Studying in the U.S. is expensive and requires a sound financial plan to cover the costs of tuition, books, transportation and student housing, and to lead a comfortable student life. Most colleges and universities have scholarships to ease the financial burden on students.

Scholarships cover a certain percentage, or in some cases, the entire cost of studying abroad and college expenses. In general, they cover some or all of the following:
  • Student housing
  • Course materials (books and lab fees)
  • Partial or full tuition
  • Living expenses (food, transportation, etc.)
Here are some types of scholarships you can apply for as you consider studying in the U.S.

1. Academic Scholarships

Academic scholarships are awarded to students who have demonstrated exceptional academic performance and ability. Universities and nationally recognized federal organizations generally provide these scholarships. High-achieving students with excellent grades do not need to demonstrate financial need, as their average GPA is available to them. Scholarship amount and preference are based on several factors:
  • Cumulative GPA: Anything higher than a 3.5 out of 4.0 GPA is considered a good score.
  • Overall grades: helps to be an outstanding student.
  • Participation in academic activities: mock trials and science clubs help a lot
  • Choice of classes taken in school: An A in Molecular Biology > An A in Intro to Biology
2. Need-based scholarships

Need-based scholarships are the most common types of scholarships for U.S. students, but international students may still be eligible and are for those who have expressed a need for financial assistance. They are awarded by schools, government agencies, nationally recognized colleges or local communities.

With need-based scholarships, the application process is different and not as straightforward as with merit-based scholarships. Several requirements are taken into account:
  • Colleges request proof, such as documentation of income (paychecks, tax returns and bank statements).
  • A certain GPA depending on the major you wish to pursue.
  • Letters of recommendation with a personal statement of why this scholarship is necessary for you.
Need-based scholarships are awarded based on financial need. Students who show need at a specific level are eligible for this type of financial aid. Each university may have funds used to assist international students who show exceptional need or talent.

3. Scholarships for extracurricular activities

Interests outside the classroom can also translate into financial awards in the form of scholarships. These scholarships are awarded by individual universities. All students are expected to earn good grades, score high on competitive exams, and have outstanding letters of recommendation.

Still, the extracurricular activities in which you participate can take you far. Along with all your academic achievements, you should always mention the activities you participate in outside those four walls, which are skills admissions officers are always looking for. If you have evidence such as certificates or recognition awards, always include them in your application. Some extracurricular activities include:
  • Arts: having a special skill for the arts such as theater, painting, design, dance or music shows your creativity and problem-solving skills.
  • Internships: securing an internship as a student is always well regarded as it shows your ability to work and thrive in a professional environment.
  • Student research: research is a complement to your academic work and shows your ability to work in groups and think critically.
  • Community service: community service and social work show your willingness to cooperate and work for the common good, which is an impressive skill for students.
4. Athletic Scholarships

Athletic scholarships are awarded to student-athletes who have demonstrated outstanding performance in sports. Individual colleges or universities award these scholarships, which are comparatively less competitive as there are fewer applicants. In addition to having excellent skills in sports, you also need a consistently good academic record to justify the scholarship.

There are a few ways you can get an athletic scholarship:
  • Start early: if you know you are interested in a particular sport, join a team or create your own to increase your chances and improve your game.
  • Have a mentor: a coach who can guide you in following NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) guidelines to collaborate with them on off-field activities and volunteer initiatives.
  • Play for the right team: Play for a team with an excellent track record, good training facilities and contacts with coaches and scholarship athletes.
5. Student-Specific Scholarship

A student-specific scholarship is based on an individual student's personal and professional affiliations, which are generally background and demographic specific. They are awarded by individual universities and nationally recognized institutions. These scholarships include:

Background specific: students of specific backgrounds and ethnicities may qualify for these scholarships.

Students with learning disabilities: students who are diagnosed with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, visual-motor deficits, dysgraphia, etc., qualify for these scholarships.

First Generation Students: Students who are the first in their family to attend college may qualify for these scholarships.

Legacy: Students whose parents or relatives have been students at the same college qualify for these scholarships.

Identity Specific: Students who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community qualify for these scholarships.

All of the above scholarships depend on your authenticity and excellence in particular backgrounds and fields. You may find a scholarship that best suits your experience .