Step 2 : Finance Your Study

Invest in yourself! The cost of living and studying varies across the United States. With the right amount of planning and research, pursuing a U.S. higher education can be made affordable with high returns on your investment.

              In Need of Funding? Find Financial Aid

Start your financial planning as early as possible. Each year international students receive significant amounts of financial assistance for their studies. However, competition is high. Applications for financial aid go together with applications for admission.

When looking into studying in the United States, evaluating your finances should be one of the first things you do. As with any investment, you need to evaluate what’s best for your educational and career goals and what you are willing to spend.

U.S. institutions offer a wide array of programs with a wide array of tuition and fees. The United States is a large country and the cost of living varies greatly from place to place. You need to assess your funding and what you are able to spend on your education and living expenses.

Choose your level of study (community college, undergraduate, graduate, short-term, English language)  to learn more about financing your options.

GOOD TO KNOW

Location matters! Depending on where you live and study, costs for housing and food vary greatly in the United States. Suburban or rural areas in the South and Midwest of the United States generally have the lowest cost of living.


 

 

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

Start your financial planning as early as possible to assess what you can afford. As you work to develop a budget for your studies, keep in mind that your overall costs include tuition, fees, and living expenses. Actual costs vary by institution, so refer to the institution’s website for specific amounts. When budgeting, you should estimate that tuition costs typically increase 6-10% each year.

Beginning your studies at a community college is often a great way to save on funds as tuition costs tend to be lower. Furthermore, many four-year colleges will accept transfer credits from community colleges, allowing students to complete the “2+2” model whereby they spend their first two years at a community college and then transfer to a four-year institution to complete their bachelor’s degree, often saving thousands of dollars.  Some community colleges have articulation agreements with specific four-year institutions that further ease the transfer process. While some community colleges offer financial aid to international students, it is less common than at four-year colleges.

Assess Personal Funds

Start out by evaluating how much funding you or your family can provide for your education. If you are planning to apply for financial aid, note that general financial aid amounts are based on the difference between the college cost and what your family can afford. Understand that most scholarship awards cover only part of the total educational and living costs and may not be available to first-year international students.

How can you reduce your educational costs?

  • Research a wide variety of community colleges
  • Think about applying to colleges in areas of the United States that have a lower cost of living, such as in the South or the Midwest or in more rural areas of the country
  • Attend a community college first and then transfer to a four-year school to complete your bachelor’s degree

How can EducationUSA Advisers help you plan your expenses?

Advisers can help you distinguish yourself in a highly competitive applicant pool so that you have a better chance of competing for admission with financial aid. Advisers have access to resources that help you learn about scholarships and new programs. Advisers also share current information about financial aid.


 

 

UNDERGRADUATE

Start your undergraduate financial planning as early as possible to assess what you can afford. As you work to develop a budget for your studies, keep in mind that your overall costs include tuition, fees, and living expenses. Actual costs vary by institution, so refer to each institution’s website for specific costs. When budgeting, you should estimate that tuition costs typically increase 6-10% each year.

Assess Personal Funds

Start out by evaluating how much funding you and your family are able to provide for your education. If you are planning to apply for financial aid, note that general financial aid amounts are based on the difference between college costs and what your family can afford. If you compete in sports, look into athletic scholarships. Understand that most scholarship awards may cover only part of the total educational and living costs and may not be available to first-year international students.

How can you reduce your educational costs?

  • Research a wide variety of public and private schools
  • Think about applying to colleges in areas of the United States that have a lower cost of living, such as in the South or the Midwest or in more rural areas of the country
  • Attend a community college first, then transfer to a four-year school to complete your bachelor’s degree

How can EducationUSA Advisers help you plan your expenses?

Advisers can help you distinguish yourself in a highly competitive applicant pool so that you have a better chance of competing for admission with financial aid. Advisers have access to resources that help you learn about scholarships and new programs. Advisers also share current information about financial aid opportunities.


 

 

GRADUATE

Start your graduate financial planning as early as possible. As you work to develop a budget for your studies, keep in mind that your overall costs include tuition, fees, and living expenses. Actual costs vary by institution, so refer to each institution’s website for specific costs. When budgeting, estimate that tuition costs typically increase 6-10% each year.

Assess Personal Funds

Start out by evaluating how much funding you or your family can provide for your education: annual family income, family assets, your own earnings, and other sources. If you are planning to apply for financial aid, note that general financial aid amounts are based on the difference between college costs and what your family can afford. Understand that most scholarship awards may cover only part of your total educational and living costs and may not be available to first-year international students.

How can you reduce your educational costs?

  • Research a wide variety of schools, from public to private
  • Think about applying to colleges in areas of the United States that have a lower cost of living, such as in the South or the Midwest or in rural areas of the country
  • Identify sources of financial aid, including home government scholarships, U.S. government assistance, private sources and international organizations, U.S. universities, and loans.
  • Find out if the institutions in which you are interested have opportunities for you to work as a graduate teaching or research assistant in exchange for a tuition waiver and/or a stipend. This is very common at the PhD level.

Plan Ahead

Deadlines for scholarships and grants can be as early as 18 months before your program start date. Before you submit your application, research independent scholarships and identify univerisities with financial aid in your field of study. Contact professors in your department of interest at U.S. institutions since they play an important role in identifying and choosing grant and funding recipients in their departments.

The main types of U.S. university assistance are fellowships, teaching assistantships, research assistantships, and administrative assistantships. Make sure you understand the responsibilities involved and level of funding before accepting an award.

How can EducationUSA Advisers help you plan your expenses?

Advisers can help you distinguish yourself in a highly competitive applicant pool so that you have a better chance of competing for admission with financial aid. Advisers have access to resources that help you identify scholarships and new programs. Advisers also share current information about financial aid opportunities.


 

 

SHORT-TERM

Start your financial planning for short-term programs as early as possible to assess what you can afford. As you work to develop a budget for your studies, keep in mind that your overall costs include transportation, tuition, fees, and living expenses. Actual costs vary by institution, so refer to the institution’s website for specific costs.

Assess Personal Funds
Start out by evaluating how much funding you or your family can provide for your education. How can you reduce your educational costs?

  • Research a wide variety of institutions, from public to private
  • Think about applying to colleges in areas of the United States that have a lower cost of living, such as in the South or the Midwest or in rural areas of the country

University Exchange Programs
You may be able to apply for funding for an exchange program from your home university or institute, even if study abroad is not a requirement for your program of study. Check to see if your university currently has any partnerships or established exchange programs with U.S. institutions – there may be special tuition agreements or further support you can explore.

Non-degree Programs
Non-degree, or “special students,” are usually, though not always, ineligible to receive university-sponsored financial assistance such as scholarships or assistantships. Funding may be available from independent foundations and organizations, such as Fulbright Commissions, that award scholarships for postgraduate study. Some national governments also offer scholarships for short-term exchange or non-degree programs so be sure to research potential financing options available through your own ministry of education or the equivalent.

General Funding Resources:
Visit the EducationUSA financial aid database to see current government and U.S. higher education financial aid opportunities. There are also numerous financial organizations that offer educational loans for international students. Students and parents should thoroughly research loan terms prior to applying and accepting funds.


 

 

ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Start your financial planning for English language studies as early as possible to assess what you can afford. As you work to develop a budget for your studies, keep in mind that your overall costs include tuition, fees, and living expenses. Many programs require an application fee, which is often nonrefundable, and a tuition deposit. Be sure to find out the total cost of a program before you apply.

Assess Personal Funds

Start out by evaluating how much funding you or your family can provide for your program.

How can you reduce your educational costs?

  • Research a wide variety of schools, from public to private
  • Think about applying to colleges in areas of the United States that have a lower cost of living, such as in the South or the Midwest or in rural areas of the country

How can EducationUSA Advisers help you plan your expenses?

Advisers can help you research the variety of English language programs available so that you can make cost comparisons. Advisers have access to resources that help inform you about the range of programs that fit your schedule and budget.


 

 

ONLINE LEARNING

Costs for distance education vary considerably. Distance education can save you the expenses of travel, taking time off from work, and lodging, but the actual academic fees may correspond to those of traditional campus programs. If any period of residency on campus is required during the course of the program, you should include those costs in your budget as well.

Review the costs of any learning materials associated with each course and allow for the shipping fees and import duties these may incur. Also take advantage of the growing number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that are free. A common business model for MOOC participation is that students who would like to receive a certificate of completion or credit for a course pay a small fee but all others may participate free of charge. Participating in a MOOC is often a great way to “test drive” a U.S. education.

Assess Personal Funds

Evaluate how much funding you or your family is able to provide for your education. To reduce educational costs, compare programs of interest to see if there is any fluctuation in cost, depending on the type and location of the U.S. institution.