Is it possible for international students to pay only $5,000 a year to attend an American university? The answer is yes. It is very possible for international students to attend excellent universities in America by paying only $5,000 a year.

In this article, I explain how to finance your studies in America through the combination of automatic scholarships, competitive scholarships, external scholarships, need-based financial aid, and work-study. These resources will help you to attend excellent universities without taking a huge student loan.

Automatic Scholarships

Many excellent universities offer full-tuition scholarships to qualified international students which are awarded solely on the standardized scores (SAT and ACT) and GPA. Some offer more scholarships based on your major and your SAT scores. For example, the University of Alabama offers an additional $2,500 for engineering majors. Another example is Mississippi State University which offers housing for students with high standardized scores.

There are not many universities that offer automatic scholarships to international students. However, there are still some. For a complete list of schools with automatic scholarships, please visit the automatic scholarship category.

Competitive Scholarships

Competitive scholarships are not awarded solely on your GPA and standardized scores but also on your extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendations. To attract qualified international students, many schools offer numerous competitive scholarships.

Some competitive scholarships are full-ride scholarships which means that they cover tuition, room, and board, and many others cover full tuition. While some scholarships are highly competitive, others in less selective universities are not competitive at all.

Almost every university offers competitive scholarships in some shape or form. You need to visit the individual college’s scholarship page to receive more information.

Check Also: Available Programs for International Students

External Scholarships

Every year, billions of dollars are awarded by many different companies such as McDonald’s, Bank of America, and Coca-Cola. Scholarships that are awarded by companies are called external scholarships.

The advantage of external scholarships is that you can apply to any institution that you choose. To receive automatic scholarships and competitive scholarships, you have to attend that school, but you can choose to attend any university and still receive external scholarships.

The disadvantage of external scholarships is that the amount is small compared to other scholarships. Generally, external scholarships award anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. Also, there are not many external scholarships available for international students because most are only for U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

However, there are still hundreds of external scholarships available for international students. Personally, I have applied to two external scholarships and received $1,000 from one. Hopefully, I can receive more scholarships from the ones that I will be applying during the summer. If you want more information, please comment. If there are enough comments, I will start listing external scholarships that are available for international students.

Need-based Financial Aid

Need-based financial aid is awarded based on your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). EFC is calculated by the school based on the financial information that you have provided to the school through the financial documents. There are many schools that award up to full cost-of-attendance (tuition, room, and board), and also many that award up to full tuition. For more information about need-based financial aid, visit this article.


Work-study is a program allowing students to work during the semester on campus. International students are not eligible to work outside the campus but can work on-campus up to 20 hours per week during the semester. Also, they can work on-campus for 40 hours a week during the summer to finance their study.

If you can work for 20 hours per week, you can earn up to $5,000 each year. Also, you can earn about $5,000 during the summer if you work 40 hours a week. However, you should expect to earn less than $3,000 from working because it is difficult to work 20 hours a week with full load of classes, but it is possible to earn about $5,000 each summer.

Each university has its policy regarding work-study for international students. You should contact the university to find out if working is an option for international students.


It is entirely possible to study in the United States without taking out huge loans. If you have good GPA and standardized scores, combination of these five opportunities should help you to lower the cost of attendance significantly.

I will pay approximately $5,000 a year to study in America because of external scholarship, need-based scholarship, and work-study. I hope that you can afford to study in America by using these five resources!


I hope that this article on How to pay only $5,000 a year to study in America was helpful. To know more information on studying abroad, check out the Available Programs for International Students.

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