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Study Abroad Scholarships – How to pursue higher studies abroad

Many in India dream of pursuing their higher studies abroad. It is the world’s largest economy and has the world’s best ranked universities. The presidency of Donald Trump is seen as a concern by many; but unless you are a refugee from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia; you are not likely to be impacted. Donald Trump has proposed no limits or restrictions on issuance of student visas. And the quality of US education is not going to reduce.
If you decide to pursue your higher studies in USA through a Masters’ or PhD, you might have other problems that you need to address first. The top obstacle that most foreign citizens face is to obtain funding for the universities that you may get admission into. Most of the scholarships are for local residents or citizens and do not cover foreign students.
Given the strength of the US dollar, and the rates of interest for loans in developing countries, it can be a Herculean task for people to cough up the required money. Once they graduate, they are under tremendous pressure to get a job in the country of schooling, as it is near impossible to pay off the loan with a job in a developing country. There are three main ways to address the issues, besides taking loans at high interest rates and being born into a rich family. These are the main methods used by those who decide to pursue higher studies in USA.

Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA)

With a Graduate Research Assistanship (GRA), you get a scholarship to perform part-time/full-time research for a research position. The type of research you do and the type of professor you work for does have a significant impact on the type of research that you do while you pursue higher studies in USA. You should contact the professors that you are interested in working with, and express how your current experience can help out with his research; and also why you are interested in the research.
The laws regarding Graduate Research Assistanships vary from university to university; so you should contact current/ past students in your university of interest to learn more about the process.
To learn about how to email people you have not met before, read my blog post on sending out informational interview requests here. This is a generic template and you would need to modify it for your purpose. In most cases, emails to relevant professors (after you apply to the university) with your portfolio should help. If you are already in the US or making a visit to the US, you should try to stop by his office and talk to him.
In your portfolio, describe in detail with pictures all the information in your project; with relevant detail included where it pertains to the professors’ research. If you need to pay someone to edit your SOP or portfolio to make sure that it is grammatically correct or has a proper flow, it is worth the money. This is the most commonly used method used by Indian graduate students to pursue higher studies in USA.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA)

Graduate Teaching Assistanships (GTA) are scholarships that are offered to graduate students to teach undergraduate courses. While you pursue your higher studies in USA, you will assist the professor in running his undergraduate courses. Your work will involve running class when professor is missing, running secondary sessions, answering questions outside class, correcting homeworks and tests etc. These are mostly offered for PhD students, but in some universities, they are offered to MS students as well.
The application procedure differs for different universities. The scholarships for both GTA and GRA differ from university to university, but they generally cover your entire tuition and include a living stipend.


If you are unable to get funding using a GTA or GRA, then look at study abroad scholarships that are focused on funding students from developing countries. A lot of these scholarships are very specific in nature, so read carefully and ask questions before applying. Some of them include Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship, Joint Japan World Bank Scholarship etc. They aim at bridging the education gap between developed and developing countries.
While a google or quora search is tempting, you will still have to filter results for relevance. I suggest looking at books/other resources that have already done this for you. A good resource for the scholarship that are specific for Indian citizens is my book “Scholarships for Indian Citizens looking to study abroad”. You can download the book here.
It also has a guide on how to approach the scholarship application process to pursue higher studies in USA. Each scholarship is specific to an applicant. Please read the instructions carefully before applying. It includes Canadian, US, UK and Australian scholarships. It is a game changer to those looking to pursue higher studies in USA and other countries.
Abhishek Kumar
Not ready for the book? Get our free step-by-step guide on how to apply for scholarships here