Full-Ride Scholarships for International Students | Options and Opportunities in the US

07/02/202319 minute read
Full-Ride Scholarships for International Students | Options and Opportunities in the US

With the increasing costs of higher education, international students aspiring to attend a college in the US often have to find funding sources to cover tuition and living expenses abroad. For undergraduate programs in the US, international students have different options to do so, as each university has a unique approach to allocating financial assistance to students. Generally, international students have limited opportunities to obtain a full-ride scholarship (covering full tuition, room and board, activity fees, books, airfare, and stipend).

Can I afford to study in the US?

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Full-Ride Scholarships: Options and Opportunities for International Students

Below, we will present the main opportunities for academically strong students qualifying for undergraduate admission in the United States. First, we will discuss universities that offer need-based scholarships. Second, we will share a list of full-ride (or near full-ride) merit-based scholarships available at specific universities.

Need-based Scholarships

Students who apply to undergraduate programs in the States can pursue need-based financial assistance. After applying for a program, students can send supporting documents (e.g., bank accounts, tax returns, spending information, etc.) to financial aid offices of universities, proving that their families cannot meet the full contribution for the upcoming academic year.

In doing so, international families communicate with admissions offices who estimate the family’s Expected Financial Contribution (EFC), the total amount a family can afford to spend on a student’s education in a year. Please note that each university has its unique way of calculating EFC.

Amount Needed + Expected Financial Contribution (EFC) = Total Cost of Attending University

Impact of Need-Based Financial Aid on Admission Chances

For the majority of schools in the US, requesting need-based financial aid negatively affects students’ chances of admission, as undergraduates tend to consider a student's academic record and financial need simultaneously.

For example, exceptional students with great SAT scores and academics can become much less competitive in the eyes of need-aware schools.

There are only a handful of exceptions to this rule. In the US, only seven undergraduate institutions are truly need-blind for international students.

Amherst, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and Yale separately evaluate international students’ academic records and financial needs. The latter does not affect a student’s admissions chances.

Additionally, these seven institutions are committed to meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial needs of international families. On the other hand, these universities attract an even more competitive pool of applications—a stellar group of students, some of whom might have high financial needs.

Financial Aid Availability at Need-Aware Universities in the US

Besides need-blind schools that meet 100 percent of EFC, do other need-aware universities in the US offer significant need-based scholarships?

The answer is yes, for certain institutions. Check out this blog for a list of Need-Blind and Need-Aware Colleges.

In these schools, international students’ requests for financial aid influence admission decisions. Nonetheless, students can qualify for a sizable portion of scholarships if accepted.

For example, in 2021-2023, Wellesley College in Massachusetts, on average, awarded USD $78,432 for international students. In the same period, on average, Haverford College in Pennsylvania and Washington and Lee University in Virginia awarded USD $76,600 and $75,605 in annual financial aid, respectively.

Bearing these figures in mind, if not offering a full-ride scholarship, these universities offer very reasonable, significantly reduced costs of attending an elite undergraduate school in the US.

In summary, students with significant financial needs should carefully develop their school lists. At Crimson Education, we have a group of experienced consultants who can help students to choose and apply for a strategically selected list of schools tailored to students’ academic achievement, aspirations, and financial needs.

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Merit-Based Scholarships

International students often apply for need-based scholarships for undergraduate studies to meet their financial needs. However, students can also qualify and apply for merit-based scholarships, as they present a viable alternative for high-achieving scholars, athletes, community leaders, and future global change-makers. In general, students have to apply for these school-specific scholarships separately, though, sometimes, they might get automatically nominated for these merit-based awards. Some present an appealing opportunity to attend a US institution on a full-ride scholarship. Below, we list the most prominent ones with qualifying criteria, and we hope you’ll find comprehensive information about them.

Note: Some colleges require separate applications from the student’s end. Some admissions offices nominate students themselves, and some require high school college counselors to nominate candidates. You may find this information for each scholarship below.

Universities That Offer Full-Ride Scholarships

Boston University | Trustee Scholarship

Around 20 stellar students are selected for the Trustee Scholars Program, many with perfect 4.0 GPAs (top of the class). The scholarship values creatively adventurous viewpoints, experiences, and well-rounded individuals. A Trustee Scholarship covers full undergraduate tuition plus mandatory student fees and is renewable for four years if a student maintains solid academics.

Nomination / Selection Criteria:
  • An applicant must submit the required materials for an undergraduate program at Boston University by December 1st
  • An applicant must complete the Trustee Scholarship essay on the Common Application as part of their application to BU.

Davidson College | John M. Belk Scholarship

Full Ride: Yes

The Belk Scholarship offers full funding (tuition, fees, room, and board, plus a $3,000 opportunity stipend to support students’ intellectual, leadership, and professional development).

Nomination / Selection Criteria
  • International high schools may nominate up to 2 students (per class year) for these scholarships.
  • On top of this, Davidson’s Admissions Committee may nominate these candidates among the pool of applicants.
  • Excellent academic record and stellar recommendations.
  • Intellectual community and a mindset to develop their local communities.
  • Regular Decision candidates should still apply before December 15 to be considered for this scholarship.

The University of Richmond | Richmond Scholars Program

The University’s most prestigious academic merit award gives students full tuition plus room and board. Scholars are selected based on academic achievement, demonstrated leadership, a strong sense of purpose, and commitment to a diverse and inclusive campus community. This program creates a small, multi-disciplinary community of scholars, assisting them in becoming future leaders.

Nomination / Selection Criteria
  • All interested students must complete the admission application by December 1st.
  • Final SAT scores accepted for Richmond Scholars consideration are the October and November SAT administrations. Test-optional candidates will also be considered.
  • Students selected for the final round will be notified by February 1st.

Villanova University | Presidential Scholars Program

Renewable, merit-based award covering full tuition, room and board, the general fee, and the cost of textbooks for eight semesters and attracting students from different intellectual, social, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. Villanova selects 25 Presidential Scholars annually.

Nomination / Selection Criteria
  • Counselors/school officials must nominate a student by December 1st
  • Students must submit their Common Application to Villanova University by December 5th
  • After receiving the online Nomination, Villanova will reach out to the student to complete the Presidential Scholarship application by January 2nd. This includes eight short essays (200 words per essay)
  • All recipients of the Scholarship will be notified at the end of February.

Indiana University Bloomington | Wells Scholars Program

Wells Scholars program prides the full cost of attendance for undergraduate students on IU’s Bloomington campus. Selected students also receive financial support for their study abroad programs and summer grant funding. Beyond this, the Scholars have access to special extracurricular events and activities for public service. Each year, approximately 18 first-year students are awarded this scholarship on merit.

Nomination / Selection Criteria
  • Past successful Wells Scholars place in the top 5% by class rank, have a GPA of at least 3.9 out of 4.0, and (optionally) a 1430+ SAT score or 32+ on their ACT.
  • Please note that your application will still be considered if you go test-optional for WSP.
  • WSP cannot accept changes after November 1st
  • If you decided to apply Early Decision (binding) to other institutions, you will not be considered for WSP.
  • However, you can still pursue Early Action or other non-binding applications in different institutions.
  • School counselors should nominate international students for WSP by 11:59pm EST on November 1st. Students should submit supporting nomination materials by then.
  • By August, WSP will send nomination materials and instructions to school representatives at international schools on their mailing list.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison | King-Morgridge Scholars Program

Students who drive to alleviate poverty in their own countries will receive a full-time, four-year scholarship to UW-Madison, including tuition and fees, room and board, health insurance, airfare, and a stipend for other expenses. 6 scholarships per year. Scholars will come from countries in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and South / Southeast Asia.

Nomination / Selection Criteria
  • Applications are only accepted once a year, and only first-time, undergraduate, and degree-seeking students are eligible.
  • There are no nominations in this case. Students should submit a separate application for this scholarship and their regular application to UW-Madison.
  • Applications for the scholarship open on December 1st and close on February 1st.

American University, Washington DC | Emerging Global Leader Scholarship

The AU EGL is dedicated to civic service and positive social change and funds students who will return home to improve under-resourced communities in their home countries.

Note: applicants should be able to meet their airfare, insurance, and book costs.

Nomination / Selection Criteria
  • Only one scholarship is awarded.
  • Covers all billable AU expenses (full tuition, room, and board).
  • Does not cover non-billables such as mandatory health insurance, books, flight tickets, and other expenses.
  • Renewable for four years, as long as the student maintains satisfactory academic performance.
  • AU EGLS applicants should refrain from applying for Early Decision (ED).
  • Preference will be given to international students facing obstacles and challenges.
  • A minimum 3.8 GPA / 4.0 is required. A student should be in the top 10% of graduating class.
  • Leadership, volunteering, community service, and advocating the needs of people in their home countries.
  • TOEFL iBT 95+ or 120+ Duolingo (all subscores must be 110+).
  • Priority application deadline by December 15th (Common Application).

Vanderbilt University | Chancellor's Scholars

Recognizing students with outstanding leadership, strength of character, academic achievement, and a deep-seated commitment to social justice. Chancellor’s Scholars receive full tuition plus a summer stipend to develop academically or professionally following the sophomore or junior year. Vanderbilt will provide additional need-based financial aid to recipients whose demonstrated financial need exceeds the amount of full tuition. Renewable for four years as long as the recipient receives at least a 3.0 GPA.

Note: Full-ride scholarships are only given in some cases.

Nomination / Selection Criteria

Preference is given to those who apply. Meaning: students can be nominated by the school, but they prefer those who apply

After submitting a Common Application or Coalition Application, students will receive access to MyAppVU, Vanderbilt’s portal.

Under the Scholarship tab in MyAppVu, students can select or apply for this scholarship.

Final Thoughts

Looking to gain one of these competitive full-ride scholarships but don’t know where to start? Want free assistance from our experienced strategy team in increasing your chances?

Then apply for the Crimson Access Opportunity program today!

Crimson Access Opportunity (CAO) provides economically disadvantaged students free access to Crimson’s admissions experts through strategy and application mentoring. The CAO program is entirely cost-free and requires students to complete an application. CAO students have been accepted to top universities like Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Duke, Tufts, Bowdoin, and many more! The 2021-2022 cohort of CAO students received over 8 million USD in financial support. Also, the 2022-2023 cohort of students have already received more than 4 million USD just in the early round this year from the universities they were accepted to.

Priority Deadline for CAO: March 1, 2023, at 11:59 PM in your local timezone.

Final Deadline for CAO: April 7, 2023, at 11:59 PM in your local timezone.

Learn more about CAO through our CAO Website!

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