How Partial Scholarships to Study in the U.S. Help in a Big Way

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

Finding full scholarships to study in the U.S. might seem like the easiest way to fund your way through school, but these are highly competitive, so you should explore partial scholarships as well. There are many partial scholarships for international students offering smaller awards, ranging from US$100 to US$1,000 or more.

Although these amounts might seem trivial compared to a full scholarship that’s worth tens of thousands of dollars, don’t dismiss their impact. Focusing your efforts on scholarship programs that offer partial funding for international students can be an effective way to contribute to your college costs.


Why Small Scholarships for International Students Are Worth It

Typically, applying for a scholarship — even for a partial award — takes some work. They often require filling out an application form, providing a copy of your academic transcripts and existing financial aid (if any), and commonly, a personal statement or essay.

All of this effort, however, is worth it for a few reasons.

Potentially fewer applicants

Full scholarships that offer high-dollar awards are highly attractive among domestic and international students. These programs receive more applicants compared to partial scholarship programs, and are very competitive. 

Partial scholarships, on the other hand, tend to receive fewer applicants per award round. Fewer applications to compete against means you have a greater chance at being selected for these scholarship awards.

Offsets education and living expenses

As an international student, your education and living expenses are higher than a domestic student who lives with their parents. Not only might you pay for higher tuition fees, but you likely have initial and ongoing living expenses to cover. 

For example, if it’s your first year studying in the U.S., you might need to buy home goods, like bedsheets and basic furniture.

According to, a home furnishing and design service, the average cost of essential bedroom furnishing is US$880 to US$2,300. A partial scholarship for international students can help you pay for some of this initial expense.

Multiple partial scholarships add up

The best part about scholarship financial aid is that there’s no limit to scholarship funding for international students. You can apply to as many scholarships as you want, as long as you’re eligible for the program.

Applying for various partial scholarships and receiving multiple small awards adds up to a large amount of financial assistance. For example, if you earn US$200, US$600, and US$1,500 from three different scholarship programs, your total funding is US$2,300. 

Recent CollegeBoard data found that a full-time undergraduate student attending a public four-year university, and living on campus, will spend an average of US$1,240 on books and supplies, and US$1,250 on transportation. 

In the scholarship example above, the three partial scholarship awards would nearly cover all of your textbooks, school supplies, and transportation expenses for the year.


Types of Scholarships for International Students

There are various kinds of scholarships for international students to choose from. Below are the general scholarship groups you’ll find in your search.


A merit-based scholarship is based on a student’s achievements, rather than financial need. It might use factors, like test scores, grade point average (GPA), or extracurricular involvement as a metric for selecting award recipients.


Need-based scholarships are designed for students who face financial difficulty paying for college. Typically, students must submit personal financial details, including other financial aid they’ve received, for consideration.

Interests and talents

Many scholarships that offer funding for international students are based on the student’s special talents and/or interests. For example, if you play a musical instrument or enjoy gardening, there are scholarships specifically for these categories. 

If you meet a scholarship’s unique eligibility criteria, you’ll already be among a narrow pool of applicants which is in your favor.     

Personal characteristics 

These scholarships are for students who identify under a particular underrepresented group. For example, some are based on ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender identity, and more.


How to Find Scholarships to Study in the U.S.

There are many ways to find scholarships for international students. If you want to study in the U.S., but need funding, try these tips:

  • Ask your school’s financial aid office. Always start your search with your university’s financial aid office. It is an extensive resource for school-based scholarship programs that you might be eligible for. 
  • Search for scholarships online. You can also start your scholarship search independently. Search scholarship databases, like, for access to thousands of scholarships for international students. Among its list are a handful of MPOWER scholarships that are open to international students who want to study in the U.S. or Canada. 
  • Keep applying for scholarships. Scholarships have different deadlines, and there’s often an opportunity to apply for multiple scholarships throughout the school year. Some students only apply for scholarships before the term starts. Applying for scholarships in the middle of the year might mean you’re competing with fewer students, and can help your chances.

Although there’s nothing wrong with applying for full scholarships to study in the U.S. just remember that partial scholarships can be valuable opportunities for funding. Besides, there’s no rule against applying to both scholarship types to see how far it gets you.


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