Dos, Don'ts of Applying for Scholarships as an International Student

It's no secret that getting a college education in the U.S. is expensive, especially for international students. Applicants from other countries who are attending school in the U.S. don't have the opportunity to claim residency in a state to receive a lower tuition rate at a public institution, like many American college students do.


The in-state rate can make a huge difference in tuition costs. For example, at the University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign, for example, Illinois residents pay about $15,600 in tuition and fees while out-of-state students pay nearly $31,000.


International students are also sometimes excluded from scholarships, since these awards frequently require applicants to be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. It can take some digging, but there are a handful of scholarships that international applicants may be qualified to win.


However, if you're planning on studying in the U.S. as a foreign student, you need to be aware of a few factors as you apply for financial awards. Here's a list of dos and dont's to review as you search for scholarships as an international applicant.


Do: Use all the resources available to you. Finding scholarships on your own can be a challenge, but the school you plan on attending may be able to provide you with lists of scholarships that international students can win.


Your home country may also offer resources and scholarships for citizens who plan on earning a degree overseas. 


Do: Read all the requirements and qualifications listed for the scholarship. Make sure you don't need to be an American citizen or permanent resident and that the scholarship is open to all students studying in the U.S.


You may need to provide test scores or essays. Some scholarships also require additional submissions like videos or letters of recommendation. Once you're sure you're eligible for the award, create a checklist and gather the items you'll need to submit an application.


Do: Ask a native English speaker to read your essay. This is especially the case if an essay is required and English isn't your first language. This person will be able to point out any errors or make suggestions for improvement.


If you don't have a friend, teacher, tutor or parent who speaks English well, ask around and see if anyone you know is acquainted with someone who has strong English proficiency. The essay is often a key component of the scholarship application, so yours needs to stand out and be well-written to earn you a scholarship.


Don't: Ask someone to write your essay for you. Don't pay someone to write it on your behalf, either, even if you're not confident in your English language skills. Not only is it unethical, but you could be automatically disqualified if anyone learns that you didn't write the essay. If you win the award and someone discovers you didn't complete the work yourself, the scholarship could be revoked.


Don't: Wait until the last minute to get started. It takes time to gather everything you need for the application, ask for letters of recommendation and make sure your essay has been proofread. Start working on your application well in advance to make sure you're able to submit it before the deadline.


Don't stop applying for scholarships. Just because you've won one or two doesn't mean you should put the brakes on your scholarship search. Continue seeking out awards for international students to get the most money possible for your college education.


No scholarship search is easy, and it can be particularly tricky for international students. But with a little luck and a lot of hard work, you may be able to earn some scholarships that help pay for your college education in the U.S.