Do you know what 15.6 billion euros represent? Well, this is the approximate value of scholarships available for international students every year! And this is only in Europe.
But which scholarship is the right one? You will discover that scholarships can be very different. After deciding to study abroad, you should check all the available funding options and pick the one that matches your needs and goals.
Even if you benefit from low tuition fees or don't have to pay for tuition at all, you need all the financial support you can get to pay for your monthly living costs and other expenses.
Scholarships are the most common and well-known form of financial aid, but you can also apply for other types of financial support. Let's see which are they and how you can benefit from them.
1. Merit-based scholarships (fellowships)
The merit-based scholarships are awarded based on a number of criteria including academics, achievements, hobbies, talents, affiliations with various groups or career aspirations. These scholarships can be offered by the federal and state government, large corporations, local businesses, professional organisations or universities.
Each scholarship has its own eligibility criteria which must be met.
Scholarships offered by universities
The criteria by which universities offer scholarships are usually: academic excellence, students have to be under a certain age limit (for example under 35 years of age). In addition, you will find out there are special scholarship offers for each degree level.
In Switzerland, for example, you may find more scholarships available for a PhD and fewer for a Bachelor's or Master's degree.
At some international universities, accommodation costs and health insurance can be covered by the scholarship.
In Sweden, depending on the organisation offering them and their type, scholarships can cover tuition fees, living expenses, some travel grants and insurance.
In France, some of the scholarship-holders receive a monthly allowance and the scholarship also covers other expenses such as return trip, health insurance and cultural activities, but it does not cover tuition fees, because they are already very low.
Here are examples of European universities that provide the largest number of scholarships:
- University of Oxford, the UK
- University of Bristol the UK
- Utrecht University, the Netherlands
- University of Bologna, Italy
- Uppsala University, Sweden
Scholarships offered by the government
Normally, scholarship holders are exempt from tuition fees. Most of these scholarships last for three, six, or nine months.
To receive this type of scholarships, these are some of the mandatory criteria:
- educational qualification required by the chosen institution
- knowledge of a certain language (the language of instruction used in the programme that you applied for)
Often times, students also have to be under a certain age limit.
In the UK, some of the government scholarships cover the following:
- tuition fees
- monthly living allowance
- economy class return airfare to and from the UK
- additional grants and allowances to cover essential expenses
Read more about popular scholarships in Britain for which international students apply.
If you simply want to practise a sport and be a member of the college or university team, you can qualify for a scholarship, most times offered by your college/university. The good news is you don't necessarily have to be very good at the sport you practise.
Sometimes local groups or different organisations may offer these sports scholarships and they usually look at criteria such as community service.
Check these American universities that offer numerous scholarships to international students:
2. Specific scholarships
Most specific scholarships are given to students with a certain ethnic background or family affiliations. These scholarships are designed to benefit gender or ethnic minorities. For this reason, you will find a number of scholarships specifically dedicated to African-Americans, Asian-Americans or Hispanics.
In some countries (Belgium, France, U.S. etc.), the local government provides scholarships to students that come from certain countries. For example, Belgium offers special scholarships to applicants coming from African, South American, and Asian countries.
These programmes are also meant to help minority students pursue an education in fields in which they have been historically under-represented.
Some organisations provide scholarships to students with physical disabilities, learning disabilities and debilitating health conditions.
3. Need-based scholarships (grants)
Grants are often called "gift aid" because they are money-free; basically, they are a type of financial aid that doesn't have to be repaid. Compared to scholarships which are usually merit-based, grants (called bursaries in some countries) are mostly need-based. Grants or bursaries are usually based on financial circumstances but may also consider other factors (e.g. physical or mental disabilities).
This form of financial support doesn't need to be paid back and its value most times varies from 500 to 2,500 USD.
In the US, the Department of Education offers numerous federal grants to students who attend four-year colleges or universities, community colleges, and career schools.
In Germany, different types of merit-based grants are awarded. Each institution awarding the merit scholarship decides the amount and duration. For example, the University of Hamburg offers a merit grant of 720 – 1,000 EUR/month for 2 semesters (12 months). However, you can only apply for this grant if you are not eligible for the federal student loan scheme.
Read more about scholarship opportunities in Germany.
4. Student loans
Student loans for studying abroad are funds that you have to pay back. They function like any other loan, with a few differences. You can get a student loan from the government or a private bank; it can be a bank from your home country or a foreign bank, in the country you wish to pursue your studies. Co-signing (along with parents or legal tutor) is very common for private student loans since most teenagers don't have the credit history to get a loan of such a size.
However, student loans that you can get from the government tend to be more favourable, as the rates are usually lower.
Some loans are based on financial need, while others are much like any other loan and are based on your credit score.
Types of student loans
It would be impossible to cover or to list all the student loans that are available out there, but you can take the ones mentioned below as examples to get you an idea.
In Europe, you can find the Erasmus+ Masters loans scheme that provides EU support for bank loans up to 12,000 EUR for a one-year Master's degree, or up to 18,000 EUR for a two-year programme.
In the US, you can apply for federal loans (supported by the federal government) that have flexible repayment terms, benefits, options and low-interest rates.
Repayment of the student loan
The repayment usually starts within six months after the completion of the degree, also called the grace period. Depending on the amount of the loan, it is requested that you repay the loan within 5 to 10 years, although in certain European countries, you can repay it in 15 years.
If you have taken out a student loan to cover tuition fees, you only have to repay the loan after you finish your studies and start earning a certain level of income, called the 'repayment threshold'. For example, in the UK, you can borrow 8,200 GBP, but have to repay this sum once you earn more than 21,000 GBP/year after graduation.
5. Student prizes
Student prizes are exactly what you think: the prize is represented by a certain amount of money, which will not technically support your studies, but it can be considered as a form of financial aid. Student prizes are one-time awards and they can range from a couple of hundred to several thousand euros.
Student prizes can be offered as follows:
- for academic achievements
- to reward performance in undergraduate examinations
- awarded based on the results of coursework and public examinations
- for the best paper in a wide range of subject areas
- rewarding outstanding work submitted for a dissertation, examination or thesis, as well as for overall performance
You can also win a prize and get a scholarship for the following year or receive the title of scholar, if you are about to graduate.