Perfecting the Scholarship Search: A Mother’s Story

A mother from Kazakhstan wrote to us to suggest we add the word “scholarship” to our Glossary of Confusing Words. As we talked more, it turned out the meaning of the word “scholarship” had been important for her – her two children went to college in the U.S. Here’s her story about what she learned about finding scholarship money, and why her experience sending her daughter to college led her to change her approach when it came time for her son to apply.

Things that don't exist: financial aid in a bag (Photo: CC by Flickr user p373)

“We have explored two different aid achieving paths, both, though, based on the kids academic success and our relatively low income.

Our daughter studied in a state university (her SAT was not very good to apply to better schools), and we paid her tuition in full initially, while she was earning excellent grades in the university. Then she applied for financial aid in her school and got a 50% discount and a decent scholarship deducted from the discounted tuition, so the remaining part was three times less than her initial tuition.

» Not all schools provide this option. Find out how financial aid policies can differ.


She also saved on everyday expenses by staying in our friends’ place, buying groceries in cheap stores, and making some simple meals, which would have not been impossible, if she had lived in a dorm.

I explored college sites and the Common Application site for one year, trying to help my son with a solid financial aid from the very beginning of his study. We did not try Ivy League schools, as they are clearly too hard to get admitted to, so we sorted out a few liberal arts colleges that provide need-based aid to international students, and my son applied there.

» Get more information about which colleges provide aid to international undergraduates.

He also applied to an honor program at one school in New York, but was not awarded a scholarship there. He, however, received a full tuition scholarship with some loan for accommodation from another college. Amazingly, it is cheaper for us to have him study there, than it would have been in the first school, in case he had been accepted with a scholarship there, as even decent accommodation and meals are extremely expensive in NY City.

Dorms and food are good and the campus is fantastic at the college he attends, and our son can fully focus on his study without thinking how he can save money to survive, which was the case for our daughter. He has to work hard at his GPA, though, to maintain his financial aid.

All that was possible, because we had access to Internet and could browse through various school sites, as well as rating and educational resources. Sure my son also had to study hard for TOEFL and SAT 1 and 2, and get very good grades in high school, and learn to write interesting and notable essays, and to do that well in advance of applying to colleges.

» Get more tips on how to become a better candidate for admission.

In addition, we collected all required papers to prove our financial needs, on the one hand, and our ability to provide our son with some financial support, on the other hand.

I hope, our experience might help dedicated students to make their dream of studying in the US come true.”

Have you learned something applying to or studying in the U.S. that could help others? Share your story using the comments or the form below.

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