How I funded my US education through scholarships and on campus jobs.

It was pleasant afternoon in fall of 2006, the floor of a multinational information technology firm in Mumbai suburb was buzzing with activity. It was an era before mortgage financial crisis and business were upbeat about their future so were employees like me.

For last few years, I had worked tirelessly to learn a novel French reporting platform that tied several databases to create business reports. I was getting good at making reports for management which were also viewed by the executive management of one of America’s largest movie studios. Whenever the report numbers reflected large variance, they used to send emails inquiring about the change in business context. Some queries I was able to handle individually while for others, I consulted our Business Analyst who was an MBA from a good school. That fateful afternoon, our Business Analyst was on leave and I got struck on several questions. My best explanations though technically accurate, felt inadequate due to the lack of firm business understanding. My struggles that day made me realize a prominent upskilling area for my profile and I decided to pursue an MBA. Since my education till that point had been in India, I saw the value of broadening my horizons and learning more about the global economy.

While doing my research, I also realized that the cost of studying abroad can be prohibitive for an Indian middle-class student and as Malcolm Gladwell in his famous book “David and Goliath” succinctly puts – “Scarcity breeds Innovation”, I was inspired to look for ways to subsidize my education through scholarships, loans and on campus jobs.

I evaluated the following options for funding the cost of my higher education.

  1. Need Based Scholarship
  2. Merit Based Scholarship
  3. On Campus Jobs
  4. Educational Loans

Post my research, I realized that I was only eligible for merit-based scholarship. I started working on my profile by taking more responsibilities at work by taking ownership of quality and compliance function in the project. I attended audits, conducted peer reviews, wrote training manuals for new hires, and promoted code reuse by creating project repository. On extra-curricular front I started participating in my firm’s CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities and organize fun events for colleagues in coordination with HR. I also prepared and gave GMAT securing a score around 700. With these efforts and well written application essays that highlighted my achievements, I was able to secure – admission offer from a great institution, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX with significant merit-based scholarship. Scholarship covered 60% of tuition and was also able to secure an on-campus job as Graduate Assistant (GA). GA stipend covered around 50% of my living cost. In essence, the research I did on scholarship/ GA options and applying to institutions that generously offered these concessions was crucial in making my education affordable.

A decade on, I still feel indebted to my Alma Mater and cherish the lessons learned and memories made during those years. I have also found it very satisfying to help other students and parents that are deterred by the high sticker price of foreign education. I can attest from my personal experience and that of hundreds of other students that for good and hardworking students several scholarship options are available provided they develop a good strategy and prepare accordingly.

Funding Options

#1 Need Based Scholarship

Colleges calculate need-based scholarship as per below formula.

Cost of College Attendance* – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = Need based scholarship

*includes tuition, room and board, transportation, books, and other expenses.

Unlike a loan, need based scholarships are “grants” that are exempt from repayment. These scholarships aim to remove financial constraint as a barrier to attending college.

Expected family contribution is determined by factoring various elements like current income, assets, family size and more. There are two ways to file for this scholarship.

    1. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – FAFSA aid is only available to US citizens and permanent residents. Students fill relevant forms and submit required documents avail scholarships through FAFSA. Click here to know more about FAFSA.
    2. College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile – CSS scholarships are available to both US and International students for undergraduate education. CSS profile is administered by College Board (organizer of SAT). Click here to know more about CSS profile.

To know about the list of universities that are participating in CSS for year 2021-22, click here.

#2 Merit Based Scholarship

Merit based scholarships are available to both US and International students.

Many colleges, especially those seeking to build their reputations, or the quality of their student body offer aid that is not based on need. Known as merit-based aid, these awards are often given to students in recognition of abilities, talents, or other criteria. Recipients may also have financial need, but need is not the basis for the scholarship. Some of the most selective colleges do not award merit aid as a matter of principle but most colleges do award it to some extent.

Below are few helpful websites to know which colleges offer merit aid.

https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/

https://www.cappex.com/scholarships

Apart from the two broad categories of scholarships, there are,

US state scholarships for their residents

US veteran scholarships (like Yellow Ribbon Program, Post 9/11 GI Bill, Dependents Education Assistance (DEA) programs etc.)

#3 On campus Jobs

Students both US and International can also subsidize their education by opting for on campus jobs like Teaching Assistant (TA), Research Assistant (RA) or Graduate Assistant (GA). Students need to check university job board or coordinate with relevant administration staff to submit their application for these jobs.

#4 Loans

After exploring scholarships and on campus jobs, students must avail remaining education amount through loans. Several banks across various countries provide education loans to their citizens for studying abroad.

About the Author: 

Sourabh is successful business leader and mentor with expertise in training and process management. He has studied at Southern Methodist University-Dallas, INSEAD-France and IIM-Calcutta. Over the years, Sourabh has helped multiple students with their college applications and test preparation strategy in order to secure admissions to Ivy Leagues and other elite international universities.

Scholarly helps ambitious international students locate the right universities and courses to pursue their education. We provide college credit courses and research papers to students that want to learn more and differentiate themselves. We help students develop and present their best version to their dream university. Our recommendations are based on the student’s field of interest, academic performance, financial resources and career plans. We provide test preparation classes from the best teachers to help improve scores and thus the prospects for admission. We also assist students with their visa and loan applications to reduce the anxiety associated with international education.

For additional questions about international education, choice of majors, university selection or admission strategies please visit the Questions section of our website.

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