School Estimated Budget vs. Reality

August 25th, 2006 by Keith Clausen

When you are admitted to a US institution, take a close look at the international student budget provided by your school. These estimated expenses will also appear on your I-20, and they are usually accurate insofar as they go. International students are required to prove that they have funds to cover the full amount shown, and you cannot arrange for more financial aid once you arrive at school. Click here to see three samples of school-estimated international student budgets from our last post.

Although the summary budget provided by your school and shown on your I-20 is helpful in outlining some of the bigger expenses, like tuition, fees, and if you live on campus, room and board, it does not tell the full story. For instance, if you are not planning to live on campus, you should check carefully what your accommodations will cost. There is always a range of off-campus housing, and costs vary widely. Some students want their own luxury one-bedroom condo, while some are happy to share an old 2-bedroom apartment with 3 other students. Perhaps the biggest variant is the “Personal/Other” category, for which most schools include a budgeted amount between $1,000 and $2,000. For many students who intend to travel, who may need clothes, who have taxes to pay, who call home frequently, or who like to eat out, or who spend money in any other myriad ways, this number may not be realistic at all.

Use this list to help you think about all the possible expenses you may have. When you prepare your own realistic budget, make sure you have considered all of the following categories:

Expenses

* Tuition
* Fees
* Rent
* Meals (Board)
* Health Insurance
* Medical costs (doctor visits, prescriptions, dental and eye care)
* Books and supplies (computer equipment, etc.)
* Communications (cell phone, internet, home phone, international calling)
* Utilities (electric, water, gas, cable)
* Car ownership (insurance, registration, gas, parking, repairs, etc.)
* Other transportation (buses, trains, etc.)
* Clothes
* Personal Expenses (laundry, haircuts, contact lenses, eyeglasses, etc.)
* Family Expenses
* Entertainment (shows, restaurants, nights at the pub, dates, movies, cds, music, parties, etc.)
* Recreation (gym fees, club dues, hobbies, teams)
* Travel
* Taxes (you will pay US taxes on assistantships, scholarships, job income, etc.)
* Bank fees, credit card payments, etc.

Preparing a realistic budget can be an uncomfortable experience, as it forces you to examine how you spend your money. However, going through the process will ensure that you have a good handle on how much money you actually need to live. Or you will understand much better that you’ve really got to cut back in certain areas to make your budget hold up in the US.

Having a US bank account can really help you stick to a budget. You can set bills up for automatic payment, write checks or use a debit card instead of carrying cash, and track all of your expenses much more accurately and easily.

Next Post: Opening a US Bank Account


Evaluating School Program Costs

August 18th, 2006 by Keith Clausen

International students spend a lot of time and energy trying to find enough financial resources to fund their foreign study. An important part of this effort is understanding exactly how much money you will need for your time overseas, and then carefully managing your finances to stay within your budget. Dealing with a new currency and cost of living add to the challenge, but with a little effort and planning you won’t have to spend your academic experience in a constant state of panic over money.

Evaluating School Program Costs

The first step is to carefully evaluate the cost of your program, and be realistic about your ability to afford a particular school. Many students are amazed at the range of cost for the same basic product — a US post-secondary education. To give you some idea of the range of cost you can expect, here are the 2006/2007 estimated annual international student budgets at 3 schools — Harvard Law School ($59,300), the University of Washington ($38,312), and Western New Mexico University ($14,867):

Harvard Law School

Tuition $ 37,100
Room/Board/Personal $ 16,966
Health & Insurance Fees $ 2,606
Books and Supplies $ 1,050
Travel Allowance $ 1,578
TOTAL BUDGET $ 59,300

University of Washington:

Full-time Tuition & Fees $ 23,113
Health Insurance (required) $ 1,536
Room & Board on Campus $ 9,902
Books & Supplies $ 1,100
Transportation (local) $ 396
Clothing, Entertainment,
Personal Items $ 2,265
Total Annual Expenses $ 38,312

Western New Mexico University (Graduate):

Insurance, Health and Accident $ 500
Tuition and fees $ 7997
On-campus room and board $ 4,370
Textbooks/supplies $ 1,000
Other/personal living expenses $ 1,000
(*not including travel)
TOTAL YEARLY EXPENSES $ 14,867

A 3-year program at Harvard Law School would cost close to $200,000, while a 3-year graduate program at Western New Mexico University would cost less than $50,000. Remember, these estimated budgets, though usually fairly accurate insofar as they go, do not necessarily cover all of your needs, as the personal living expenses are unlikely to capture all of the travel and basic needs you will face. Also, the cost of living is much greater in urban areas like Boston, New York and Los Angeles, and you’ve got to take that into account when evaluating personal needs.

Next topic: Preparing a realistic budget


Last minute funding?

August 15th, 2006 by Keith Clausen

Did you know that you can apply for funding with InternationalStudentLoan.com and receive preliminary approval in as little as 15 minutes? With the International Student Loan for international students studying in the USA and Canada you can apply as long as you meet the following guidelines:

- An Undergraduate or Graduate Student
- Enrolled at least half-time
- Attending a Teri-Approved School
- Proof of Enrollment
- An eligible US Cosigner

For full information about the eligibility guidelines and to apply please visit:
International Student Loan Program