When you’re planning to complete a postgraduate qualification in America, there’s a lot to think about; as well as picking the right university and course, you’ll need to look at possible sources of funding. Here are some ideas to get you started on the road to academic success.
Many bursaries and scholarships are awarded on merit, but some are also aimed at specific ethnic groups, genders or nationalities. Examples include the East West Centre Graduate Degree Fellowship, which funds postgraduate students from the Asia-Pacific region who plan to study in the USA, and the American Association of University Women fellowship, which supports female US students. Often international students are not eligible for the same scholarships as their US counterparts, but there are many other schemes which they could consider, some funded by individual universities, some by private organisations and some by the American government. It’s also worth researching more obscure sources, like the generous Rotary Peace Fellowships on offer from the Rotary Foundation of America. These are provided to 100 people each year who are undertaking a postgraduate course in a Rotary Peace Centre – in the USA these are Duke University and the University of Carolina. The fellowship funding will cover your tuition fees, living expenses, travel, and more.
Many postgraduates will have to fund their tuition fees and living costs through a bank loan taken out in their home country. Student loans may have preferential rates, but the conditions of each can vary greatly, so be sure to research the terms and conditions before signing up. For US students, Federal Student Aid is available in the form of a loan from the US Department of Education. These loans are often provided on more favourable terms than those from a private lender. Not many non-US citizens can obtain a loan in the USA, but you can contact your university to find out about lenders that may be sympathetic to your needs. In the UK some private banks like Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Cooperative Bank, operate in conjunction with the Learning and Skills Council – the body which runs the Career Development Loans scheme. Again, these specialist loans tend to charge lower rates of interest and are more understanding towards a typical student’s financial situation.
If you are lucky enough to have built up a savings pot before taking a postgraduate degree, then you can use this to fund your program. Although the prospect of spending your hard-earned savings and losing that financial buffer may be a worry, you can consider it an investment in your future.
US citizens can part-fund their postgraduate studies by either working on campus or taking a job in the local community. This is a great way of completing a course without running up too much debt, but your life will be arranged around essays and shifts, so great personal organisation is vital. For international students on an F1 visa, the situation is far more complex. You can take on 20 hours of paid work on campus, but you are not allowed to work off campus within the first year of your course. After this time, the US Citizenship and Immigration service may grant permission for you to work off campus, but only in the case of extreme financial hardship that you could not have predicted.
Universities in the USA recognise that sometimes the most promising students do not have access to the funds needed to complete their studies, that’s why so many institutions run scholarship programs. These are open to all students who hope to attend that specific institution and are usually offered in recognition of academic achievement, as well as personal strengths.
One of the most popular scholarship schemes for international students is the Fulbright Foreign Student Program; it is aimed at young professional people and graduates from around the world. Around 4,000 people a year benefit from the scheme and it is open to all fields of study in the US, aside from medicine. There are many postgraduate awards each with different selection criteria and the cash paid out varies.