study abroad scholarships
Indian students qualify for a number of study abroad scholarships / Source: OLI SCARFF / AFP

Studying abroad can be very expensive for any Indian student. The cost of higher education has steadily risen through the years, especially among the world’s top universities. Take Harvard University, for example — students were charged US$51,904 for the 2021-22 academic year, which is over 4,187,991 INR. That’s not including other expenses such as accommodation and day-to-day living costs, making study abroad scholarships extremely attractive.

For students like Manu Chauhan, son of a village salesman from Aligarh, this would have been impossible to meet. He’s received a full scholarship to study International Relations and Economics at Stanford University. 

His motivation? A desire to work in the United Nations for the children of the world. “Education can change everything,” Chauhan says. “In India, we can provide infrastructure, but the mentality of the people has to change. The teachers in government schools, especially in a village like ours, simply aren’t interested in teaching. I want to change that.”

Successful scholarship recipients won their awards with help from their schools. Source: Oli Scarfd/AFP

Chauhan secured his impressive achievement with hard work and single-focused determination. He made sure to study hard, participated in debate competitions, and took his SATs. However, the process of applying for a scholarship was tedious in itself. He had to seek out help from various sources both within and outside school to get his application in order. 

“The admission was based on the performance over the years and the overall application,” he stresses. “The essay also plays a crucial role.”

Chauhan succeeded in securing a scholarship, but there’s no doubt that it was a notoriously difficult process.

To help future scholarship applicants, we’ve collated a guide around scholarships for Indian students studying abroad that will walk you through what you need, the challenges you’ll face, and how previous applicants have found success in the past. 

Average cost of studying abroad

Keep your costs in mind when you apply for a scholarship. Source: Bulent Kilic / AFP

Before you seek out a scholarship for yourself, you should understand how much it will cost to study abroad. This is to make sure you’re able to secure the right amount of funding for yourself without having to worry about any unexpected additional costs. 

Generally, studying abroad means you’ll need to think about: 

  • Textbooks and additional study materials
  • Your accommodation — rent, bills, and maintenance costs
  • Your travel expenses
  • Other expenses — e.g. shopping, food, entertainment

This amount will differ across countries. 

In the US, tuition fees can range between US$8,000 to US$55,000, and Indian students have recorded spending up to US$25,000 on living expenses alone. An undergraduate degree in the UK can cost up to 20,000 pounds on average, and accommodation costs vary from, for example, 90 to 160 pounds per week depending on where you’re living. In Canada, students have spent over US$7,570 on their living expenses and US$22,500 on tuition fees. Australian international students spent an average of US$22,170 on tuition fees and needed to prove that they had a minimum of US$14,600 in their bank accounts to study in the country. 

Make sure to do some research on how much you might need to study and live in the country you’d like to go to. You may need to be flexible on this front, just in case you’re unable to find a scholarship best suited to your needs.

Types of study abroad scholarships available

Different types of scholarships are available according to students’ needs and capabilities / Source: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP

Scholarship applicants often say that the most difficult part of the process is actually beginning it. With the large number of scholarships available, it might seem that finding one suited to you will be simple, but the truth of the matter is that many scholarships have strict eligibility criteria. 

Here’s a short explanation of the most common types:

Merit-based scholarships

Awarded based on educational achievements and a strong academic record. Extracurricular activities may be considered on this basis, as well.

Need-based scholarships

Given to students who are in financial difficulty or otherwise unable to pursue an education abroad without outside funding. Typically, these students show promise in the form of outstanding academic achievements. 

Subject-specific scholarships

Given to high-achieving students who aim to study a specific subject i.e. engineering or law. 

Athletic or skill-based scholarships

Awarded to students who are exceptionally talented in a sport, instrument, or other skills. 

School-based scholarships

Scholarships available to students of a particular university. Larger universities usually offer a wider range of scholarships, but they tend to be limited in number. 

Country-specific scholarships

Governments often offer a limited number of scholarships to their nationals. In India, there are several scholarship schemes that are available. 

Scholarships are offered by both universities and external sources, such as the British Council or the United States-India Educational FoundationThese can be partially or fully funded, with many of them being the former. 

Documents you need

Your academic transcript and a copy of your passport are among documents you need to apply to scholarships. Source: Patrick T. Fallon / AFP

Once you’ve considered which scholarships you’re eligible for, you can begin the application process. To do this, you need a number of documents on hand. These will act as proof of your financial situation, your academic history, and more. 

Indian students will need: 

  • A copy of your passport/ID
  • Your academic record, including your schooling history, any diplomas or certificates you might have earned, and your exam results 
  • A statement of purpose or letter of motivation detailing why you are applying for the scholarship, your chosen area of study and how this relates to your goals, and why you are the best suited candidate 
  • Your CV
  • A letter of recommendation from a teacher or employer that provides their impression of you
  • Proof of your finances or your parents’ finances via an income certificate or any other supporting documents

Sometimes, scholarship providers may also ask for additional documents, such as an essay or added task. As with normal applications to universities overseas, you may also need to prove your English language capabilities by taking an English language test

Most common study abroad scholarships in India

You can search for scholarships online from a number of sources, but for now, we’ve collected a list of the most common ones for Indian students: 

We hope you found this guide useful, and good luck for your application!