Find Fellowships for International Graduate Students

Swati B. Carr

Fellowships are prestigious awards and are a great way for an international student to stand out from the crowd -- and help pay for graduate school.

While there are fewer fellowships for international students than there are for American students, the fellowships that are available are not necessarily well-advertised and many international students miss the opportunity to apply for them altogether.

A fellowship is a monetary award given to pursue training or research in a particular field, usually at the graduate or postgraduate levels. Fellowships typically provide a modest stipend so that recipients may devote time and energy toward research or training, and not work to support themselves.

[Learn about on-campus jobs for international graduate students.]

Fellowships are almost always merit-based, not need-based, so applicants are required to show that they have done outstanding work to be considered. The following are some very popular fellowships for international students as well as resources for finding such fellowships.

The prestigious Fulbright Fellowship is an international exchange program for graduate-level students with excellent academic records and some work experience. Being a Fulbright Fellow also provides access to a large community of scholars and a support network.

In India, the Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship provides support for educators, postdoctoral fellows and faculty from Indian universities, as well as master's level and doctoral students, to study in the U.S. Details and application guidelines can be found at your local United States-India Educational Foundation office.

[Get insight from Fulbright scholars into graduate school in the U.S.]

The EducationUSA advising centers, located in countries around the world, are among the best resources for finding fellowships that accept applications from international students. The centers keep updated lists on open fellowships for international students.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute supports international students of extraordinary academic and research standing in the biological sciences during the third, fourth and fifth years of their doctoral work.

There is no direct application process for this fellowship; the university or college nominates students from various departments to apply. International students must contact their advisers to have their names submitted for nomination.

Boston University also has a fellowship - the Dean's Fellowship - for new international graduate students with excellent academic records.I was awarded this fellowship in my first year and it provided me with a larger stipend than many other doctoral students and allowed me to avoid being a teaching assistant while I was also juggling classes and lab rotations.

[Check out other scholarship opportunities for international students.]

Other universities may have similar awards. Some great resources to find these are your university's international student office and your department secretary. Get on the mailing lists and read the emails that are sent out.

Your school's writing program for undergraduates will also most likely provide fellowships for conducting undergraduate writing workshops. Graduate students from all fields of study and any citizenship are typically eligible.

With some diligence, international students can secure a fellowship; they are just a little harder to find. International students should be comforted by the fact that they are at U.S. universities because they have excelled academically in their own countries. As long as they meet the other requirements, they stand a decent chance of winning that fellowship.

Swati B. Carr, from India, is currently pursuing her doctorate in synthetic biology at Boston University and advises prospective international students. She first came to the U.S. as an international student for her master's in microbial genetics from the University of Rhode Island.