Finding the Right Scholarship for China Study

Last updated by Kamilla Yunusova on May 25th, 2015.


Study abroad

This article is part of a three-part series on finding scholarships in China. For more information, check out 20 Scholarships to Get You to China and Your Guide to Chinese Government Scholarships.

by Austin Groves and Francis Miller

Did you know that there are thousands of scholarships available for students looking to study abroad? Take it from us—we’re two college students who have received more than $14,000 to study in China.

Yet when we started our quest to study in China, we had no idea where to begin. Without help from our mentors, we would have had to research thousands of scholarship listings and ask the same two questions over and over:

  • What types of scholarships are out there, and which one is right for me?
  • Am I eligible to apply for this scholarship?

To save you the trouble, we’ve come up with a simple guide to help you answer these questions.


Eligibility is one of the most confusing parts of any scholarship application. Scholarships tend to have three types of eligibility requirements: need, diversity and merit. Many scholarships contain a mix of these as requirements, and occasionally also have other requirements like citizenship and educational level.

Here’s a breakdown of the three requirements:

  1. Need-based scholarships like the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program provide funds to those who typically qualify for federal student aid. If you would like to apply to a scholarship based on need, you will likely be required to have submitted your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for the previous year in addition to other relevant financial information.
  2. Diversity-based scholarships like the Diversity Abroad Achievement Scholarship give special consideration to underrepresented groups in study abroad programs.  There are also scholarship programs like Americans Promoting Study Abroad (APSA) and the Thurgood Marshall Fund that focus on providing opportunities to under-represented communities.
  3. Merit is a part of every scholarship application, but there are many scholarships where merit is the only consideration. Merit-based scholarships like the Luce Scholars Program usually consider many different qualities, including GPA, essays, research experience and letters of recommendation.


Figuring out if a scholarship is in line with your personal goals is also a challenge. Depending on whether you want to study Chinese, pursue a degree or conduct research, you may wish to consider different sources of funding.

While it will be difficult to list every scholarship that is out there, there are generally five different types of scholarships that might guide your search.  Here’s a breakdown of the different kinds of scholarships:

1. Chinese Government Scholarships

If you are looking for an authentic experience at a Chinese university, then you might want to consider applying for a Chinese government scholarship.  These funds generally provide opportunities for students to pursue an undergraduate degree, graduate degree or general language acquisition. These scholarships tend to be merit-based and except for airfare are all-inclusive, including tuition, housing and even a monthly living stipend. Programs usually last two or more years, although you do not always need to participate in a degree-granting program. The Chinese Scholarship Council and the Confucius Institutes of the Hanban oversee many Chinese government scholarships.

2. U.S. Government Scholarships

Many U.S. government scholarships provide tuition and travel funding for American students and scholars. Most of these scholarships include a language component and tend to be directed towards students who want to work in government. These scholarships, like the Fulbright Scholarship Program, are very competitive and carry significant prestige. The Critical Language Scholarship Program by the U.S. Department of State funds students to learn any dialect of Chinese, which is classified as a critical need language.

3. U.S. University Scholarships

Many universities have relationships with study abroad programs or are developing partnerships with Chinese universities. If your university has a relationship with a study abroad program or Chinese university, you might be able to transfer existing financial aid to your study abroad, including work-study. Check with your school’s study abroad office to learn about existing scholarships and financial aid. For example, the University of Pennsylvania offers a scholarship through its Chinese language program.

4. Study Abroad Program Scholarships

Study abroad programs also offer scholarships of their own. Programs such as IES or CEA Global Education offer a variety of different merit, need- and diversity-based scholarships. These scholarships are only available for students enrolled in the program and are usually between $1000 and $2000. Students are typically only eligible for one scholarship per semester. CIEE offers many scholarships to its students, including its Global Access Initiative Scholarship.

5. Privately Funded Scholarships

Scholastic fraternities, corporations, private donors and other organizations also offer a wide array of scholarships. The awarding institutions usually have a clear mission in mind for their scholarship money. These scholarships are typically diversity- or merit-based and are generally very competitive. For example Pacific Prime, an insurance company, holds an essay contest to award scholarships for international study.

We hope that you see there is a great deal of funding for students like you who want to study in China. To find specific scholarships, check out Project Pengyou’s top 20 scholarships!

Francis Miller is a master’s student at the University of Pennsylvania studying Chinese. He won a FLAS Fellowship to study at the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He enjoys suannai, a traditional Beijing yogurt consumed with a straw.

Austin Groves is a senior at Drexel University studying business and Chinese. Austin received the Freeman Award for Study in Asia to help him pay for studying in China. He is currently spending the summer interning at the Golden Bridges Foundation in Beijing.