How do you pay for your MS from the US?

How do you pay for your MS from the US?
How do you pay for your MS from the US?

How do you pay for your MS from the US?

How do you pay for your MS from the US? | Struggling to cover the tuition? Find out the smart strategies to pay for your MS including financial aid, scholarships, education loans, and more.


Pursuing a Master's degree in the United States can be an incredibly rewarding experience. With access to world-class faculty, cutting-edge research facilities, and a diverse student body, US universities offer unparalleled opportunities for professional and personal growth. However, as an international student studying abroad in the US, figuring out how to pay for this prestigious and often expensive degree can be daunting.

Tuition and living costs for international graduate students at US universities often range from $35,000 to $65,000 per year. Coming up with this kind of money – especially from overseas – requires creativity, resourcefulness, and careful planning. The good news is that with the right financing strategy, an American MS degree can be affordable and accessible, even on an international student budget.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the best ways to pay for your MS degree in the United States as an international student. You’ll learn insider tips and strategies for securing financial aid, applying for scholarships, taking out student loans, bringing down costs, and exploring alternative funding options. With smart planning and persistence, you can make your US Master’s degree dream a reality, without breaking the bank.

Research Thoroughly and Apply Broadly for Financial Aid

The first step to funding your US MS is researching universities that offer generous aid packages and applying broadly to increase your chances of scholarship awards.

Unlike undergraduate programs, many Master's programs in the US do not guarantee merit-based financial aid. However, some universities – especially top private institutions – offer excellent need-based aid, covering up to the full cost of attendance for international applicants who demonstrate financial need.

Thoroughly researching the aid policies and application processes at your target schools is crucial. Compare the average grant/scholarship package awarded to international graduate students. Look at the percentage of international students receiving aid and the total dollar amounts.

Cast a wide net and apply to 5-10 universities offering substantial need-based aid to maximize your chances of securing funding. Work closely with the financial aid offices to submit required paperwork and advocating for your need. With persistence and a well-researched application strategy, you can secure the aid you need to make your MS affordable.

How do you pay for your MS from the US?
How do you pay for your MS from the US?

Leverage University Fellowships and Assistantships

In addition to traditional financial aid, many US graduate programs offer university funded fellowships and teaching/research assistantships exclusively to MS students. These highly competitive awards can cover your tuition and living stipends, in exchange for 10-20 hours of work per week.

Fellowships are granted based on academic merit, while assistantships are offered depending on your field of study and specific skills. For example, teaching assistantships go to students who can help teach undergrad courses or labs. Research assistantships are awarded to help professors with ongoing projects.

These awards are challenging to obtain, but provide huge financial pay-offs. Aim for programs highlighting these awards upfront. Reach out to department heads and professors to inquire about open positions. Be prepared to send your transcripts, CV, research background, and cover letter.

Leveraging a university fellowship or assistantship can make your US Master’s essentially free, while also giving you valuable teaching and research experience.

Apply Aggressively for External Scholarships

In addition to university aid, applying for external scholarships from organizations, foundations, and government agencies can really move the needle on funding your MS. From huge nationwide scholarships to smaller awards from local Rotary Clubs, these scholarships help cover substantial costs.

Spend time identifying reputable scholarship providers focused on international students and MS applicants. Create a master list to track deadlines and requirements. Apply each cycle to 10-15 scholarships, customizing your materials. With a focused, proactive approach, you can win multiple smaller awards that add up over time.

Some excellent MS scholarships for international students include:

  • Fulbright Scholarship: Covers full tuition plus living stipends for 1-2 years. Extremely competitive.
  • Scholarships for Women: AAUW, P.E.O., and organizations supporting women in STEM offer awards.
  • Rotary Scholarships: District level Rotary Clubs worldwide give out graduate scholarships.
  • Home Country Government Scholarships: Organizations in your home country may offer MS scholarships abroad.
  • Diversity Scholarships: Minority and need-based awards offered by universities and organizations.

Securing even a couple external scholarships can shave thousands off the overall cost of your degree.

Evaluate On-Campus Work Opportunities

Working part-time on campus can be a great way to offset tuition costs as an international graduate student in the US. Unlike off-campus work, on-campus jobs are readily available and do not require special work authorization.

Look into part-time roles such as tutoring, research lab work, IT assistance, library work, food service, and office/administrative positions. These jobs typically pay $15-$25 per hour, allowing you to earn up to $10,000 per year working 10-15 hours a week.

On-campus jobs provide convenience, flexibility for your course schedule, and networking opportunities. The earnings can make a dent in tuition payments, rent, and other living costs.

Just be careful not to overload your schedule. Balance the extra income with sufficient time for academics. With strategic work-study, you can chip away at the expenses of your MS.

Minimize Living Costs with Smart Choices

While tuition comprises a big chunk of the total MS cost, finding ways to minimize living costs can also help stretch your budget. Getting strategic with housing, transportation, food, and other lifestyle choices allows you to make the most of your finances.

Opt for cheaper off-campus housing like shared apartments instead of pricier dorms. Use public transport or buy a used bike instead of paying for a car. Cook affordable healthy meals and limit eating out. Find free or discounted entertainment like student movie tickets.

Being thoughtful about discretionary spending allows you to reduce expenses by thousands per year. Pack lunches, go thrifting, and take advantage of student discounts. Every dollar saved is one step closer to affording your degree.

Consider Taking Out a Student Loan

After exhausting scholarships, aid, and self-funding strategies, taking out a private student loan may be necessary to cover any remaining MS costs. While loans should be used judiciously, they can provide vital financial access when approached strategically.

Federal loans are limited for international students, but private lenders like Sallie Mae offer loans covering up to 100% of school expenses. Interest rates range from 5% to 13% based on eligibility. Students typically have 5-15 years to repay the loan after graduation.

Only borrow as needed to fill legitimate funding gaps. Have a plan for repayment based on projected future earnings. While loans require caution, for many students they serve as the crucial last dollars-in to make their US MS degree possible.

Explore Alternative Funding Routes

If traditional funding options fall short, some alternative routes can help finance your MS as well:

  • Crowdfunding: Platforms like GoFundMe allow you to fundraise for tuition from family, friends, and the public.
  • Employer Sponsorship: Ask your company about education grants or reimbursement programs.
  • International Organizations: Groups like IIE and SAF provide loans and scholarships.
  • Future Earnings: Some programs allow you to pay later as a percentage of income.
  • Teaching English: Use programs like TALK to teach English online part-time.
  • Entrepreneurship: Start a business or freelance in your field to self-fund.

With creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit, you can piece together an alternative funding plan to pay for your MS.


Figuring out how to pay for a US Master's degree as an international student presents a complex financial puzzle. However, with a multi-pronged approach leveraging financial aid, scholarships, student jobs, cost-saving tactics, loans, and out-of-the-box ideas, you can make an American MS affordable and within reach.

Be relentless in pursuing funding opportunities. Apply broadly and repeatedly. Reduce unnecessary costs. Mitigate loan burdens. With strategic planning, resourcefulness, and perseverance, you can finance your US graduate degree and invest in your future, without breaking the bank. The rewards of an MS from a top American university make the effort well worth it.

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