How do international students get funding?

by MPOWER Financing | In Guides and Tools | 27 December 2022 | Updated on: December 27th, 2022

American colleges are not just for American students. Like students from the U.S. who study abroad, students from all across the world come to the United States for an education. And the cost isn’t cheap. Undergraduate international students pay upwards of US$45,000 a year to attend public colleges in the U.S. For private schools, that fee goes up to about US$75,000 a year.

With high costs, international students need funding for school, too. Here are a few ways to pay for school as an international student.

1. Find scholarships and grants

Scholarships are one of the best ways for any student to pay for school — especially international students. Scholarships do not need to be paid back after graduation (though some come with conditions for acceptance). These awards are usually based on merit, but sometimes they’re given out similarly to grants, which tend to award based on need.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to finding a scholarship around a certain topic, including the program or major you plan on studying, where you’re studying, and even where you’re from. You might need to submit supporting documents, like your grade point average (or equivalent) from where you live, show proof of enrollment in accredited college or university, and more. 

Some scholarships are renewable, which means you can get awards more than once, some might even be eligible for renewal every year. However, most scholarships are one-time only; this gives many students a chance to qualify but means you’ll be on the hook for finding alternative funding elsewhere for the remainder of your time in college.

Finding, applying for, getting, and maintaining scholarships and grants take time, but the payoff means you won’t have to rely as much on personal funds or student loans. To organize your scholarships, start by setting up a spreadsheet. You can list them however you would like, but consider sections for the scholarship name, link to apply, deadline, amount, if it’s ongoing or one-time, if you’ve applied, and supplemental materials or requirements. 

Keeping track of your scholarships and grants means you won’t waste time applying for the same one many times. You may want to use separate pages within one document or color-code your sheet so you can keep track of the ones you’ve applied for, the ones you’ve won, and the ones you’ve received funding for. 

While many scholarship databases and portals are just for U.S.-based students, there are places you can look for scholarships for international students. has a detailed scholarship database geared towards international students. You can search based on the award name, what you’re studying or the field of study you’re in, and your nationalities. Some awards don’t have any restrictions while others are specifically geared towards students from a specific country or those attending a specific school. If you feel like you’re limited in your search, broaden it by eliminating certain words or phrases. You might find you qualify for more than you think. MPOWER also offers scholarships for a variety of students – for example, women in STEM, refugees, and those looking to get MBAs.

2. Find loans

Since international students don’t qualify for U.S. federal financial aid, you might need to apply for an international student loan.

There are private student loans available to international students, you might even see some online lenders that are specifically geared towards private student loans for international students, like those offered from MPOWER. With MPOWER Financing you can get a loan up to US$100,000. 

These loans not only help you pay for tuition and fees, but when studying in the U.S they can help you pay for living expenses, like room and board or rent for off-campus housing. MPOWER also supports borrowers with visa help, career advice and assistance, and more. 

Many lenders require international students to have a cosigner join the loan application. Your cosigner might need to have good or excellent credit and also be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Having a cosigner might be what helps you qualify and get a private student loan to help pay for an international student education. But keep in mind that having a cosigner means that if you fall behind on payments not only will your credit score plummet, but so will the credit score of your cosigners. With an MPOWER loan, cosigners aren’t required and you don’t need collateral to take out a loan.

The Bottom Line

Almost one million international students are studying in the U.S. every year. That’s a lot of students that aren’t in their home countries and trying to financially stay afloat while also navigating the stressors of living in a new country for school. Students can fund their education through a combination of scholarships/grants, loans and personal funds.  

The first step is to explore scholarships and grants, which do not need to be paid back after graduation (although they may come with conditions for acceptance). Tracking your awards can be a bit time-consuming, so make sure you stay organized with a spreadsheet. 

You can also explore private student loans for international students. While student loans need to be repaid, they can help you pay for school. Make sure you’re eligible to borrow from private student loan lenders that offer them, since U.S. Federal loans are unavailable to international students. 

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