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Graduate Scholarships for Refugees, Immigrants, and Asylum-seekers

Relocating to a new country can be a scary — but exciting — opportunity. Whether you’re a first-generation immigrant or seeking asylum in the states, you can build a better future for yourself and your loved ones by pursuing a master’s degree in the U.S. Use this list of scholarships and resources to help fund your graduate education — regardless of your citizenship status.

Author: OMD Staff

Editor: Staff Editor

Silhouetted figures of diverse people walking in a line against a cloudy sky at sunset, representing movement and diversity.

Succeeding in a graduate degree program at a U.S. college or university is tough, but it can be so much tougher if you’re an immigrant, refugee, or asylum-seeker. Immigrants have the additional challenges of dealing with a new culture, learning environment, and language. Graduate school is also expensive, especially for immigrants without the funding connections and resources commonly available to U.S. citizens.

The news isn’t all bad for immigrant grad students, however — there are an estimated 18 million-plus first- and second-generation and international students enrolled in higher education in the U.S. today. That’s a lot of college students in need of financial help. And U.S. schools are slowly starting to develop programs to aid immigrant students in finding the funding help they need; in fact, more college campuses are recognizing the benefits of a diverse student population.

If you’re an immigrant, refugee, or asylum-seeker dreaming of earning your master’s in the U.S. but not sure if you can afford it, we’re here to help with this guide to scholarships and resources just for you. Keep reading for information on some of the best scholarships and fellowships available today, valuable tips for applying for and landing those scholarships, and additional resources to support your academic journey.

10 Scholarships for Immigrants, Refugees & Asylum-seekers

Since scholarships specifically for immigrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking master’s students are limited, the list below contains 10 scholarships that are available to students regardless of their citizenship status. While some are exclusive to immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers, others are open to a wider demographic.

Based on your country of origin, you might also find this guide to scholarships for minority graduate students valuable. With that said, keep reading to learn about your options for funding your master’s degree in the U.S.

National Scholarships

MPower Global Citizen Scholarship

This scholarships is open to international students allowed to legally study in the U.S. and Canada (including permanent residents/green card holders) who are enrolled full time in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at one of the over 400 MPower-supported colleges and universities.

Awards are made solely on the applicant’s essay submission (200-500 words) on the subject of how their international education will empower their “positive impact on the world, whether locally or globally.”

Scholarship amount: $2,000 to $10,000

Upcoming application deadline: Jan. 31, 2024

Application requirements:

  • Completed application form.
  • Application essay.

Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans

This prestigious fellowship program provides substantial funding support to the most promising of new U.S. immigrants and the children of immigrants seeking to make a “significant contribution to U.S. society, culture, or their academic field.”

This scholarship is open to students in professional and graduate programs of all types. Applicants must be 30 years of age or younger and enrolled in, or planning to enroll in, a graduate or professional degree program. Non-U.S. citizen applicants must possess a valid green card, have been granted asylum or refugee status in the U.S., or have graduated from both high school and college in the U.S.

Scholarship amount: Up to $90,000 (over two years)

Upcoming application deadline: TBA for 2024

Application requirements:

  • Eligibility confirmation and higher-education history.
  • Three to five recommendations.
  • Current resume.
  • Two essays.
  • Standardized test scores, if they are required for admission into the applicant’s graduate program.

Byron Hanke Fellowship

Sponsored through the Foundation for Community Association Research, the Byron Hanke Fellowship provides financial support to graduate and law students in the preparation of a research project concerning community associations or common-interest communities in one of several specific topics (see fellowship website for current topic list). The fellowship is open to applicants from all disciplines. Awards are based strictly on merit with no regard given to gender, race, ethnicity, age, religious beliefs, or disabilities.

Scholarship amount: $3,000 to $5,000

Upcoming application deadline: May 1, 2024

Application requirements:

  • Completed application form.
  • Research paper proposal.
  • Three references.

Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund

The Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund provides need-based grants to students who are “actively working toward liberation, justice and social change in their communities.” Awards are available to students in accredited post-secondary education programs on all levels, including master’s and doctorate programs. Non-U.S. citizen applicants must have participated in required activities in the United States, and preference is given to applicants planning on remaining in the U.S.

Scholarship amount: Up to $15,000 ($7,500 average)

Upcoming application deadline: April 1,2024

Application requirements:

  • Personal statement.
  • Two letters of recommendation.
  • Demonstrated financial need.

iVein Health & Wellness Scholarship

Open to all undergraduate and graduate students — regardless of immigration status — with an average GPA of 3.7 or higher who are currently enrolled full-time at an accredited U.S. college or university. Selections are made solely on the evaluation of the applicant’s written essay (800 to 1,000 words) on the subject of “promoting a practical approach to healthy lifestyle during college years and how these habits can be sustained over a lifetime.”

Scholarship amount: $2,500

Upcoming application deadline: Aug. 31, 2024

Application requirements:

  • Completed essay.
  • Documentation of full-time enrollment in degree program.

Overcoming Adversity Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded based on a 500- to 1,000-word essay, in which the applicant is asked to describe how they overcame adversity by detailing a specific roadblock through which they “fought and emerged victorious.” Immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers who entered the U.S. due to adverse circumstances may find that their journey to the states provides the perfect essay topic.

Graduate student applicants must be currently enrolled in college and demonstrate good academic standing through a 3.0 or higher GPA. Open to all otherwise qualifying applicants regardless of immigration status.

Scholarship amount: $1,000

Upcoming application deadline: TBA for 2024

Application requirements:

  • Essay.
  • Unofficial transcript.
  • Resume outlining the applicant’s academic and professional experience.

Field-Specific Scholarships

ASSP Foundation Academic Scholarships (Occupational Safety and Health)

The ASSP Foundation sponsors dozens of scholarships and grants each year to support prospective occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals in achieving their educational goals. While citizenship is not a requirement for any ASSP Foundation scholarship, applicants must be enrolled in a U.S.-based undergraduate or graduate degree program that is either directly related to the OSH field or that supports the student in their career as an OSH professional.

Scholarship amount: Varies

Upcoming application deadline: Feb. 15, 2024

Application requirements:

  • Completed application form.
  • Academic transcripts for every level of education.
  • One letter of recommendation.

Chester Burger Scholarship for Excellence in Public Relations (Public Relations)

Offered through the PRSA Foundation — a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting diversity among public relations companies and professionals — this scholarship was created to encourage graduate students in the public relations field to pursue careers in corporate public relations.

The Chester Burger Scholarship is available to all students, regardless of immigration status, enrolled in a graduate degree program in public relations or related field at a U.S. college or university. Applicants must possess an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Scholarship amount: $1,000

Upcoming application deadline: TBA for 2024

Application requirements:

  • Completed application form.
  • Essay.
  • Two letters of recommendation.
  • Current resume.

LAF Honor Scholarship in Memory of Joe Lalli (Landscape Architecture)

Sponsored by the Landscape Architecture Foundation, this award is available to landscape architecture students currently attending an LAAC- or LAAB-accredited master’s degree program at a university in the United States or Canada.

Applicants are evaluated on the basis of leadership, character/integrity, design ability, and service to others. Financial need is also considered. This scholarship is open to all qualifying applicants, regardless of immigration status.

Scholarship amount: $5,000 to $20,000

Upcoming application deadline: February 1, 2024

Application requirements:

  • Completed application form.
  • Biography and photo for LAF website.
  • Financial aid form.
  • Resume.
  • Two letters of recommendation.
  • Essay.
  • Work samples.

PDK Educational Foundation Scholarship Program (Education)

The PDK Educational Foundation offers more than 100 scholarship opportunities to PDK International members pursuing a degree/career in education. Eligibility requirements vary by specific scholarship; however, they are all open to students who meet their application requirements, regardless of citizenship/immigration status. Applicants submit a single application and are considered for all scholarship opportunities for which they qualify.

Scholarship amount: $500 to $4,000

Upcoming application deadline: April 2, 2024

Application requirements:

Expert Tips for Landing a Graduate Scholarship Without Citizenship

Finding scholarships that you’re interested in and eligible for is only the first step in funding your graduate degree. Next comes the application process, and it’s almost impossible to understate the importance of getting this process right. Remember that most scholarship programs are competitive. That means your goal is to submit an application that not only meets all application requirements, but also causes the selection committee to stand up and take notice. To help you accomplish this goal, here are five valuable tips for putting together an exceptional graduate scholarship application.

Tip 1: Research Available Resources

The fact is that there simply aren’t a lot of scholarship, grant, or fellowship programs out there exclusively (or even specifically) for immigrant, refugee, and/or asylum-seeking graduate students. However, there are numerous non-exclusive programs that are open to these students and others. So, start early and put the necessary time into your search. And be sure to make use of any and all resources available to help in your search (like this List of Scholarships and Fellowships from Immigrants Rising) and, most importantly, your school’s financial aid office.

Tip 2: Start Working on Your Applications ASAP

Another great reason to start your scholarship/grant/fellowship search early is that you’re going to need a lot of time to complete all application requirements and submit them on time. Applications typically require a lot of information and supplemental documentation, including transcripts, letters of recommendation, essays and personal statements, and more. And every individual program has its own unique application requirements. All of this adds up to a real time commitment from you, particularly if you’ll need to obtain any documentation from your native country or will require additional help in completing written materials in English. So get to work on those applications as soon as possible.

Tip 3: Follow Each Scholarship’s Application Requirements Exactly

Every scholarship program has its own unique set of eligibility and application requirements, and it’s critical that you understand and meet each and every one of them fully and specifically. As a non-native English speaker, if you aren’t completely certain you understand the specifics of a scholarship’s application, seek out someone who will help make sure you do. Finally, don’t be shy about having someone review your application form and submittals before you send them in. Mistakes on your application can lead to disqualification, so ensure you don’t make them.

Tip 4: Write Your Own Essays and Personal Statements

If you’re not completely confident in your English skills, you might be tempted to have someone ghost-write – or worse – plagiarize your application essays and personal statements. Absolutely do not do this! Plagiarization is an obvious huge no-no for anyone in any situation. As for having someone else write your essays and statements, remember that it’s through those writings that scholarship committees best get to know you for who you really are.

To be safe, you’ll want to review and edit your writing (probably several times) and use spellcheck or even a writing assistant app like Grammarly before submitting your essays and statements. And you’re strongly encouraged to have an English major or instructor go over them, too. But expressing your personality and honesty is what scholarship essays and personal statements are all about, and that may not come across if yours are written by someone else.

Tip 5: Meet Your Deadlines

It’s very simple: Missing a deadline for submitting your scholarship application or supplemental documentation will totally kill any chance you have of winning that scholarship. And pleading your case won’t save you — as an immigrant, you’re held to the same standards as all other students, so language issues, delays in obtaining documents from your home country, etc., will not be seen as a valid excuse. So again, start your application process early, keep a calendar with all application-related due dates highlighted on it, and do whatever else you need to do to ensure that you don’t miss any deadlines.

Resources for Refugees, immigrants, and Asylum-Seeking Master’s Students

To go along with the 15 scholarships listed above, you’ll find below 15 valuable resources aimed at helping immigrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking students succeed in their graduate degree programs and beyond. Before you begin browsing the list, access this guide for graduate student success. Then to connect with even more quality resources, be sure to check out OMD’s resource guides for ESL/ELL, Undocumented, and International master’s students.