How to apply to scholarships in US universities

How to apply to scholarships in US universities

An integral part of studying in the US for Nepali students is scholarship availability. The socio-economic background of our nation doesn’t allow for the mighty high tuition of US universities. Almost all Nepalis can only go to the US if they are offered generous funding.

This means a whole extra layer of the process for applicants. On top of a college application, you will also need to apply to scholarships and/or financial aid. For the latter, you usually don’t have to do much work. For merit-based and other scholarships, however, you might have to write another essay and apply it through a third-party portal. To give you an idea of things, we put together a step-by-step guide to applying for funding. This article is focused on scholarships and funding your study only; for general application, queries check our articles here and here.

Scholarships Vs Financial aid

Although scholarships and financial aid both ultimately result in funding for your education, there are some fundamental differences you should be aware of. They are not the same thing even though they are often used interchangeably.

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How to apply to scholarships in US universities

Scholarships are separated grants that usually are based on merit and/or designated to a specific group of people. You will usually find a “Presidential Scholarship” in most universities that cover full tuition, room, and board. Other scholarships will also be available but will provide significantly less funding. That may not be the case with other less prestigious funding sources.

Financial aid, on the other hand, is usually universally available to all students that are accepted and are based on need. It is important to note that some colleges may not offer aid to international students but for the most part, aid is available to anyone who is accepted into the college. Your aid award will be determined on the basis of need. Keep in mind that financial aid, unlike scholarships, may not entirely be granted. You may have a loan amount and work-earnings included in your aid package.

Filling up the CSS/ISFAA profile

This is the first step to applying for financial aid. You will need to make a college scholarship service (CSS) account through the college board. (Find the website here)The form will ask you about your family income, family expenses, assets, and property. Fill out the form truthfully because colleges will usually ask for supporting documents on your data later on. You won’t be asked to upload any documents in the profile though.

How to apply to scholarships in US universities

The registration fee is 9$ and you will be charged 16 for each college that you send the profile to. However, most colleges will give you a CSS fee waiver if you just email their admissions office. Make use of that waiver wherever you can to avoid spending extra money.

An alternative to the CSS profile is the ISFAA profile. This is a physical form and you will need to fill it out, scan it and send to colleges. It is the better option because it’s free but most colleges don’t accept this profile and will specifically ask you for the CSS. Besides, you will get a CSS fee waiver from most colleges anyway so it doesn’t really matter.

Checking for scholarships

Financial aid is certainly the much more hassle-free option, but it is provided only by very competitive colleges. If your stats aren’t very good, you will have to search for colleges that provide other sources of funding. As mentioned above, most colleges will have “Presidential Scholarships” which, if you get it, usually provide more funding than financial aid does. These kinds of awards are called “full-ride scholarships”.


If you are not eligible for the presidential award, there are other options too. Colleges will have less prestigious awards that cover your tuition fee. If your parents can pay around USD 10,000/ year, then these awards can be an option for you. You can also check for third-party funding sources (funding from organizations other than your college).

Gathering documents

This is mostly relevant to financial aid but may apply to some scholarships too. You should prepare an income statement (employment-based), or a tax statement (business-based) of your parents. These documents should align with the numbers you have put into your CSS/ISFAA profile. Some colleges will also ask for bank statements from your parents, so you should keep them ready too.

How to apply to scholarships in US universities

Don’t wait for your college to ask you for documents, get them ready beforehand. Some documents might take a long time to process and you do not want to keep colleges waiting.

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