Win a Master’s Grant in the United States: A Success Story


Studying at the US university is the dream of many students and alumni from around the world. However, for the most part, the high fees and accommodation hinder talented young people who do not have enough money of their own. And then grants and funding from outside organizations come to the rescue. We spoke with Anastasia Sakharova, a FRI member and a board member of the Kyiv branch of the FRI (FRI Kyiv), who was trying to reach her goal for more than two years and eventually she got a chance to pursue a master’s degree at Ohio State University with full reimbursement and scholarship. We will tell you what to do so that your efforts were noticed and adequately appreciated.

Anastasia is a graduate of the historical faculty of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. She was enrolled in American and European studies. At one time, she became interested in Latin America, learned Spanish, and gradually decided to link her life with Latin American studies. This was facilitated by the experience of volunteering under the international program AIESEC in Mexico in the second study year, previous volunteering as a buddy (friendly to the novice mentor, ready to answer all questions and help with adaptation. — Ed.) for international students in Ukraine as well as diplomatic practice. Anastasia realized that Ukrainians knew little about Latin America, so she wanted to gain experience from abroad and share it at home.

To prepare for admission to a college or university in the United States, applicants may benefit from the free program Competitive College Club (CCC) based on Education USA. CCC is engaged in education and internships and will help to understand many nuances. It should be borne in mind that master’s degrees in the United States are usually entered with several years of experience, and the structure of documents submission is entirely different than in Ukraine. To apply for the grant, first of all, you should choose the area of studies, collect the required documents and receive TOEFL1 or GRE2 certificates, with the absence of which the application will not be considered. In case you’ve already achieved Upper-Intermediate (B2) level in English, the preparation for these exams may take months, because when passing the GRE you’ll have to deal with native speakers. In order to cover the test fees, which are a few hundreds of dollars, Anastasia won financial assistance in the Opportunity funds program, that supports talented students in the admission period. After that, she realized that there is no way back, and she started choosing universities.

1Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) — is a standardized test to measure the English language ability of non-native speakers wishing to enroll in English-speaking universities. 
2Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) — is a standardized test that is an admissions requirement for many graduate schools in the United States and Canada.

When the area of studies and the university are chosen, make sure that these educational institutions cover the finances for the foreign students. It is important to ask whether they provide a fully paid grant, because the coverage can be full or partial, with scholarship or without. You ought to think over your possibilities and correctly communicate with the representatives of the institutions from the very beginning.  

As there is a big competition, not all candidates are able to explain their motivation decently. It is important to understand why you are applying for this speciality and whether you have the relevant experience. In addition, competition depends on the chosen area: e.g. STEM-professions (Science; Technology; Engineering; Math), as well as, sports disciplines have a bigger chance to receive the grant for bachelor studies.

Anastasia enrolled in a two-year master’s program at Ohio University. She was awarded the Graduate Assistantship, a master’s program that combines both study and work. Under this program, tuition fees are covered and an assistantship work is provided 20 hours a week, for which the student receives a scholarship. This is a common model of a master’s degree in the United States about which Ukrainian students know almost nothing. The applicant needs to show that he or she is the most interested in the topic because it is worth researching and writing directly to the professors you want to do an internship with, as they may influence the final grant decision and work with you in real life. Anastasia has applied for six universities and from her experience, she advises to think carefully about whether to count on top institutions because the competition there is very high. Education in lesser-known universities is also quite high quality, and the chances of getting funding there are much higher.

Top tips for applicants:

1. Choose a specialty wisely.

Obtaining a master’s degree is an important step, especially if you are applying for funding. Think about what you would like to do and that you already have the experience in. If you know what you want, the process of finding a university will be easier, it all depends on your specialty.

2. Evaluate yourself critically.

When visiting the profiles of students who have been enrolled in these programs, think about admission to your university and receiving funding. Remember that registering or publishing (if it is more of an academic field) a relevant experience is particularly important; this can be a job, internship or volunteering. 

But the main advice is to be prepared to go to the end because the process is long and complicated. If you are really motivated — you will succeed!

Text by Mariia Ridkous

Design by Tetiana Matskailo