Scholarships for International Students: Opportunities and Challenges

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Scholarships are a form of financial aid students receive to help with the cost of their education. Pursuing higher education is not an easy task. It requires intentionality, dedication, hard work, and of course appropriate resources.  Unfortunately, many people are unable to give the latter part hence their inability to push further and actualize their goals.

In 2022, N23.2 billion in financial aid and scholarships were awarded to Nigerian students studying in the United States according to Adnan Siddiqui, the counselor for Public affairs at the United States Embassy in Nigeria. According to Statista, over 420,000 international students studying in the United States in the 2021/2022 session received funding from other sources like foreign private sponsors, private sponsors, the US government, etc rather than family. 

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Additionally, this further goes to depict the importance of scholarships and other forms of financial aid in sponsoring one’s education. Moreover, apart from there being various scholarship opportunities for international students abroad, there are also various indigenous scholarships to help students who are citizens of the country. As much as there are many benefits of awards and scholarships, it certainly doesn’t come on a platter.

In this article, we will explore the world of scholarships while including various scholarship opportunities you should not miss out on especially if you’re planning to further your studies abroad. 

But before we explore that, take a few minutes to subscribe to our newsletter for more informative posts and opportunities. 

Why should you apply for a scholarship?

We all know that getting a scholarship for international students to help with the cost of your education is not a child’s play. For many scholarship opportunities, there are various requirements you will have to meet and they are demanding. So, why should you have to stress yourself to be on the lookout for scholarship opportunities? Is the financial benefit the only thing you stand to gain? What other things can you enjoy when you are awarded a scholarship? 

1. Opportunity to explore a different culture and lifestyle

For many people, traveling out of their home country is a dream come through. They know that within their means and financial capacity, it will be impossible because of the cost. However, winning a scholarship, especially a fully funded one that covers every single detail of your education cost will provide you the opportunity to not only travel out of your country but also live in a foreign country. You will also learn a new culture and lifestyle, explore the food, meet new people, and learn about a new environment. All of this will give you a new perspective as to how the world works and the differences and similarities that exist within cultures. You’ll also learn balance, how to relate with people, how to understand things from a whole new perspective and so much more.

Read also: 25+ Scholarships That Will Close December 2023 For African Students! Apply Now 

2. Reduces/Removes education costs

Securing a scholarship will help reduce the financial burden education brings both on parents who act as sponsors and individuals who are sponsoring themselves. Imagine having to study while worrying about the bills you have to pay. You certainly wouldn’t concentrate in class and this can lead to earning lower grades. 

Furthermore, depending on the benefits offered in the scholarships, some are designed to cover the whole cost of your education including flight tickets, tuition, accommodation, and even a monthly stipend for you. Others have different benefits that vary. Some might cover only tuition or half of it. Whether it’s a fully funded scholarship or a partly funded one, the fact remains the same. Scholarships help reduce the financial burden that comes with getting an education. 

3. Career Opportunity

Not only do scholarships help you explore a new country, but they are also useful to individuals who want to explore a new field. There are different types of scholarships available and some of them are strictly based on an area of specialization. Additionally, in many developing countries, the educational sector is not as advanced and developed as other countries, so there are limited opportunities to explore. However, securing a scholarship opportunity to study abroad provides you the opportunity to explore fields and career paths that are unavailable in your home country. You get access to in-depth research, learn with state-of-the-art facilities, and increase your knowledge. It also doesn’t end there. On getting to your home country with the knowledge that you have gained, you’ll be ahead in the job market while trying to apply for one.

4. Earning the prestige associated with scholarships

Imagine you’re hiring and out of the many applicants who showed interest in that role there’s one who studied in one the most prestigious universities abroad on a merit-based scholarship for high-achieving individuals. Immediately, you’ll be drawn to that person. You’ll begin to imagine how useful such a person will be on your team. Additionally, receiving a government scholarship is much harder than other private scholarships. Anyone who can win it will automatically be looked upon with a certain type of admiration. This is due to the competitive nature of the scholarship. 

Having examined the benefits you gain when you apply for and win a scholarship, let’s now examine the types of available scholarships we have. 

Read also: Scholarships For Women In Male-Dominated Fields

Types of Scholarships

There are different types of scholarships available for international students. They are explained below:

1. Merit-based Scholarships

When we explore the world of scholarships, merit-based scholarships are often the first thing that comes to mind. However, they are not the only existing type of scholarships. Merit-based scholarships are given to students and are strictly based on the student’s excellence. Some of the types of merit-based scholarships available include:

1. Academic scholarships: they are funded by either the university or a private organization and are often given to students who give excellent grades. 

2. Sports scholarships: this type of scholarship is often competitive and is best for athletic students who want to study in the United States. 

3. Average academic performance scholarships: before this type of scholarship is awarded, the student’s overall performance is often put into consideration. Other aspects apart from academics like extracurriculars, community service, joining a group, and other things are considered before the scholarship is awarded.  

2. Need-Based Scholarships

To get this type of scholarship, the applicant/student must be able to demonstrate his/her financial need. They are often for people who aren’t financially able to sponsor their education.

3. Government-Funded Scholarships

Government-funded scholarships are often sponsored by the government. Like sports scholarships, they are very competitive and not easy to get. Although many of the scholarships are awarded to citizens, there are also some awarded to international students. 

4. Country-based Scholarships

These types of scholarships are often awarded to students from selected countries. Some of these countries might include the ones affected by insurgency or natural disasters. The awards are often given to encourage students from such countries to further their education. 

5. Privately sponsored scholarships

As the name implies, these types of scholarships are often awarded by private individuals or organizations. However, some of them have stringent requirements that might bother gender, certain minority groups or developing countries, and a specific area/field of study.

Read also: 20 Fellowships In Australia For Graduate International Students – Open Every Year

How to find the right scholarship opportunity for you

If you’re looking forward to studying abroad you’re on the lookout for how to find scholarship opportunities for international students, below are some times that can aid your search:

1. Search the internet

There are various opportunities you come across when you search the web. 

Additionally, subscribing to our newsletter will guarantee that you are informed when we post available scholarship updates on our website. Here’s a helpful tip: we do this every day! By subscribing to our mailing, you get notified when we post about the different scholarships, fellowships, and even grant opportunities available for international students from Africa. 

2. Check the website of providing foundations regularly

Oftentimes, these scholarships are open yearly. Especially government-funded ones and the ones sponsored by foundations. Subscribe to the mailing lists of the sponsoring foundations and visit their websites regularly to get updated and informed when there is a new opening for a scholarship. 

3. Browse Government Funding Website

In addition to checking the websites of universities and foundations for scholarship opportunities, don’t forget to check government funding websites. Governments often invest in education. They offer fully funded scholarship opportunities to both indigenous students and international students depending on the country you want to study at.  Always check out their website to keep abreast of information that bothers in Scholarships, grants, fellowships, and other forms of sponsorships that can help with the cost of education. These are some examples of governmental scholarship and grant websites:,,   

4. Follow Professors’ individual’s blogs

Another way to stay informed when looking for a scholarship opportunity that is fit for you is to be active on different professors’ blogs or social media pages. When you follow their updates, you’ll be aware when they post about a funding opportunity that can help with the cost of your education. 

Finally, like our website, we also post scholarship updates on our social media pages. We are currently active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. When you follow us on our social media pages, you get to know about the scholarship updates available and you get to pick the right one for you. 

Read also: 20 Fellowships In The USA For Graduate International Students – Open Every Year

Downsides of Scholarships

Just as we have discussed the benefits that you stand to enjoy when you apply for and win scholarships, there are also some downsides/challenges involved in the process. Some of them include:

1. It is very competitive

Scholarships are very competitive and require extra effort to secure. Additionally, when compared to the number of students applying for opportunities, the number of available scholarships is few making them competitive to get. There is the possibility that you might have to apply more than once if you’re not picked and you desire the scholarship. 

2. Documentation Challenges

Furthermore, it is important to note that nothing comes on a platter. There are lots of requirements that you will have to meet up with when applying for scholarships. Lots of documents you will have to verify and submit. Consequently, making a mistake on your application can cost you the whole scholarship. 

3. It is academically demanding

 While some scholarships are not renewable, which means that students who got the scholarship will have to incur the subsequent education cost after the scholarship expires, others are renewable but there are requirements. For some of the opportunities, the student’s CGPA must be a particular score to be eligible to renew or apply. This means that even for difficult courses, students have to work extra hard to be able to maintain and enjoy the benefits. 

Tips for a successful application 

For you to successfully apply for and secure a scholarship opportunity as an internal student, you must take note of some important criteria. We have listed 5 important things you must watch out for when applying for a scholarship: 

1.  Focus on the application 

Many times, international students often apply for multiple scholarships at once. While it is said to not put all your eggs in one basket, it is also important that you don’t throw all your eggs around carelessly. If you will not be able to handle multiple applications at once, then focus on the ones you deem important and take note of the application process. Remember, applying for a scholarship can also be likened to applying for a job, so you will need to follow the guidelines that have been given to you as mistakes can cost you that opportunity. 

2. Pay attention to details

Additionally, it is of utmost importance that you pay attention to details. Before you submit your application, ensure that all the information you have provided is correct and verifiable. If you are not sure of an answer, verify again. Also, ensure that you do not make any grammatical mistakes or errors as you must proofread your application before you submit it. 

3. Provide references/referees where necessary

Sometimes, you might be asked to provide references or referees in your application. Ensure that you are including the right persons. Tell them the necessary information that they need to know so then they can include it in the reference letter you will submit as these qualities can make your application stand out. 

4. Remember the deadline.

Many scholarship applications of ten come with a deadline. Submission of your application after the deadline can cost you the scholarship as it can communicate unseriousness. Also, scholarship opportunities often get many applications, so you mustn’t make any mistakes that can cause you to be disqualified. 

However, before you start your scholarship application, ask yourself the following questions as it will help aid the process for you: 

  • Am I eligible to apply?
  • Am I aware of the deadline?
  • Do I have all the necessary documents and information that I need?
  • Do I know anyone who can stand as a referee for this scholarship? 
  • Who can help me proofread the application and point out errors before submission? 

Read also: How To Get Admission Into US Universities Without Travel Agents

What comes next?

This is one of the questions international students should ask themselves even before expressing their interest in studying abroad. While some scholarships are fully funded, others are not. Additionally, the visas issued to international students also have a limited timeframe. So, deciding on what to do after your studies is very important. As an international student, you can either: 

Return to your home country’s requirements

Having gained the necessary experience you need, especially if it’s in the medical or leadership space, you can decide to return to your home country to make a difference! Your expertise has improved and your knowledge would be very much needed especially if you are coming from a developing country. Additionally, if your family is still in your home country, it will be a good decision to come back home and make a positive impact!

Stay back and contribute to the host country’s workforce

If your visa allows it or perhaps if you prove to be exceptional you can stay back in your host country and contribute your quota. In Canada, there is currently a call for professionals in the STEM field and other areas to join the workforce. Perhaps you find yourself in a country like Canada, why do you stay back to work while planning on how to move your family to join you? 


In conclusion, we know that there are many benefits attached to scholarships and this is one of the reasons international students look out for it. However, it is important to note that you will also need to put in the work as winning and maintaining a scholarship is not an easy task at all. 

Start with us

Do you desire to start a career in STEM? The first thing is to pursue a degree in STEM. Wondering how to go about pursuing a postgraduate degree in STEM courses abroad? We can guide you through your journey and make your dreams come true. Reach out to us at EdXtra to access opportunities that will help you on your journey

Enrolling in the top universities in the world can increase your chances with employers. Unfortunately, it can be quite expensive to study abroad due to the current economic crisis. But this shouldn’t limit you as there are other options you can explore to enhance your career. 

MPower Finance and Prodigy Finance are some of the best student loan providers for international students. They also do not require any cosigner or collateral before application. At EdXtra Associates, we can help you with your loan application process. We also provide educational consultancy services for international students to help make your journey easier and faster. You can reach out to us, as we’d love to guide you through this journey.