Loans, Grants and Handouts for International Students – Pre Departure

by neville

Naturally, the surest way to guarantee funding for any venture is to search the space closest to you. In effect, mobilize your personal resources and those of your immediate family.

But if you are in a developing country, family resources can be limited or even non-existent. That is usually the source of initial frustration and a sense of hopelessness for the pessimistic. The optimistic ones dream of winning the lottery or acquiring the proverbial “full scholarship.”

The realistic, however, recognize that the solution is hard work, diligent research, and acquiring the information in addition to utilizing whatever resources are possible.


Loans are a fact of life. We notice quite frequently that many students from abroad seriously expect to garner a “free” education in the USA. Since that is not a reality for over 99% of American students, it is unlikely to be a reality for you – a foreign guests in this country.

Realistically, the probability of an international undergraduate obtaining a full scholarship to a US university, directly from the institution, is minuscule. Unless you are a gifted athlete in a desirable sport, or a superb academic of national repute in your home country, it is unlikely to happen in most institutions.

So from a practical standpoint, you should expect to incur some cost, and in reality, that will mean some debt, in order to pursue your dream. The student loan is a practical reality in most countries. And for the initial entry to the USA, that loan will have to be secured in your country of origin. The critical reason for this is the need to show the US university and the immigration service that you have adequate financial means to undertake your program of study.

Using the formula previously discussed in “How Much Money Do I Need, To Study In The United States?“, loans should be pursued as the primary source of funding, unless you are independently wealthy. Yet, they are supplemental in nature, or should be. There is no need to saddle yourself with the full four year total cost of your education in loans. The 2.5 formula previously discussed (have sufficient funding to cover 2.5 times the annual cost the school estimates), is the prescribed path to follow.


While the full scholarship will be elusive and unrealistic to hope for, grants, outside of the university domain, remain a real probability. The primary source for such grants would likely be your own government. Most developing nations have a priority training list of some sort and a training division or human resources division responsible for upgrading the workforce or manpower needs.

That center is usually a clearing house for scholarships and grants sent forward by donor agencies or foreign governments. The existence of this clearing house makes it easy for you to access all of the resources in one place. Unfortunately, these benefits are not always universally distributed in most countries, so that opportunity could be elusive.

Additionally, since many non-government entities and donor agencies tend to route their offerings through the government, it might present a problem for those not well connected.

Contacting some agencies directly can prove fruitful. For example, the World Bank has a training program for developing countries that is largely funded by the Japanese government. It accepts direct applicants. Conversely, the OAS fellowships are typically routed through recipient governments. The US government tends to offer opportunities mainly for graduate education. These typically are accessible through independent commissions such as Fulbright.


Handouts are rare to non-existent. A handout, per our definition, is a non-constrained gift from an independent benefactor. Ford Foundation, Gates Foundation, and several others, do dabble in higher education. However, their grants tend to be institutional. In effect, an individual, with a dream of undergrad or even grad education, is unlikely to secure any funding from one of these agencies.

The path to funding assistance is much more complex as you sit home in your country. But the opportunities and options increase dramatically when you arrive in the USA. The secret is to take what is available, seek what is potentially possible after arrival, and be willing to incur the responsibility of a loan. Even a smaller loan than the suggested 2.5 formula for undergrad or 1.25 for grad is a slightly risky but workable proposition to get you out the door.

Our advice, get here….with as much funding as you can muster (but a realistic sum), and then start to explore the options for post arrival students.

If you have not yet read Loans, Scholarships and Work for International Students – After Arrival do so, otherwise move on to What’s The Payoff, Is a US University Degree Worth It?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

ogamba frances October 14, 2011 at 10:46 am

thats a beautiful effort made by this team to clear doubts off our minds.i dream too of studying in d USA but i lack seems almost an impossible quest.i really want the world to hear my name.i crave to study creative writing in masters program.i dont intend borin you with pathetic lines.i just want to tell you ‘kudos’.c’est un bon travail!


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