10 Tips on How to Save Money on Books for College

June 21st, 2013 by Jennifer Frankel

textbooksdv740057The new school year is right around the corner and we want to help you save money! One expense you will run into during the first few weeks of the new semester will be buying books for your classes. It’s amazing how quickly you can spend thousands of dollars just on books for one semester. If you pre-plan, think ahead, and do your research, this could end up saving you thousands of dollars. Check out these 10 tips on how to save money on books for college:

  1. Find out what books you need early. You are all geared up for the new school year, and you know what classes you are going to take. Check online and in your syllabus to see whether your professor has listed the required books for the semester. Be sure to check that the books listed are for your semester – and not the one prior – to make sure you don’t buy the wrong book or the wrong edition.
  2. Avoid your school’s bookstore. It’s common fact that the bookstore on campus does not offer the best available rate. While the convenience is appealing, often times there are other stores that will offer their books at a fraction of the cost.
  3. Buy used. Brand new books can be appealing, but the sticker price isn’t! If you buy a used book – whether online or in the store – you’ll find that books are much more affordable. And really, who cares? You are going to use it for one semester, and likely mark all over it. Many times you can find a version that looks new, but without the price of a new book.
  4. Buy online. If you have done your homework and already know what books you need, buying online may very well be the best option. Be sure to find out the complete costs that includes any shipping or handling costs. Websites like Amazon, eBay, Chegg, and AbeBooks can help you find the best deal. You can also find it comparison tools that help you find the cheapest textbooks.
  5. Don’t buy, rent. That’s right, now you can rent your textbooks instead of buying it. As with buying online, make sure that you check the shipping charges to make sure you are getting the best available prices. ValoreBooks, Barnes & Noble’s, and BookRenter are just a few resources that do this.
  6. What about the library? Depending on the classes you are taking, it’s not impossible to find the books you need at the local library. While they do have a due date and you’ll have to make sure they stay in mint condition, this can be a great place to turn to save some extra $$$.
  7. Free books online. That’s right, with the World Wide Web you can now find free books right online. Flat World Knowledge allows students to have access to a complete catalog for a low fee – or none at all.
  8. Reduce, reuse and recycle books. While many courses may want you to purchase the newest version, there may not be a whole lot of difference between the different editions. We recommend contacting your professor to see whether an older edition will work for your class.
  9. Sharing. This may not be the easiest thing to do, but you can form study groups and share the books you are using. Be aware that this may mean going out of your way to study as a group, but it also means splitting the costs.
  10. Sell books when you are done. When classes end, many students want to put their class out of their mind. With that, goes the textbooks. Other people like to keep their books as a reference or memento. Keep in mind that the best time to sell a book is right after your class ends to ensure that you don’t have an out-of-date edition as that will reduce the amount of money you’ll get for your books. You can sell them online, use Craigslist or social media to give them to a friend, or sell it back to stores in your town. Be sure to check around to get the best price.


Have You Heard Of Crowdfunding?

June 12th, 2013 by Jennifer Frankel

change balanced on hand83313553Want to fund your studies overseas, but need help doing it? A recent trend has emerged – have you heard of crowdfunding? Crowdfunding allows individuals to raise money by asking people to invest in your trip or project. Over the last couple of years, websites have been popping up that are designed to gather small amounts of money from investors, and then pool a sufficient amount of money to finance a particular project.

Attention to crowdfunding has now made its way into the realm of international education. Colleges and universities, especially study abroad programs, are evaluating these fundraising websites as a means to help students fund their travels overseas.

The idea. Students create their own campaigns or websites that discusses the purpose of their trip and the total amount of money they are looking to raise.

Sharing. Next, students share their page through their social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, email, blogs, etc.

Affording. Depending on the site, students may be able to keep all contributions even if they don’t meet their goal, other sites require a certain level of money raised in order to keep the funds, while still others will require you to meet the complete goal otherwise no funds are gathered.

If you are interested in checking this out as an alternative way of funding your education, check out these sites along with a short bio about them:

  • Fundmytravel.com – This crowdfunding site is designed for those studying or volunteering abroad. It is meant to give you a platform for your friends and relatives to help you fund your travel experience.
  • GoFundMe.com – This site allows you to fundraise online for a whole host of reasons, from traveling to honeymoons to everything in between. This site gives you a donation page where you can raise money by reaching out to friends, family, and personal contacts.
  • Indiegogo.com – This site allows you to raise money by creating a campaign and then helps you spread the word around the world. The site also includes social media tools to help encourage others to contribute.
  • Projecttravel.com – Want to raise money for domestic and international educational travel experiences? Then check out Projecttravel.com. Here you can raise money by creating a project and letting your network of friends and family know. This site is limited to only US citizens and permanent residents.
  • Kickstarter.com – This fundraising site is full of projects and has more than 4.2 million people pledge over $654 million. This site allows you to set up a funding goal and deadline, and if you meet the goal you’ll get the money. If not, then you won’t. This all-or-nothing model makes it unique from its competitors.

Be sure to do your research if you plan to get involved. Most of these crowdfunding sites do charge a fee so it’s important to compare and find the best crowdfunding platform for you!


Top 4 Places for Financial Aid for International Students

May 31st, 2013 by Jennifer Frankel

girl with computer146789416Funding college can be expensive, especially if you have to pay for your education overseas. Most students rely on their own personal savings and get help from family members, however this many not necessarily be enough to cover all of your costs. With most degree programs taking four years, and sometimes even longer, getting an international education can certainly add up. If you are looking to get financial aid for your education overseas, we recommended looking at the following sources:

- Institutional Help – Many colleges and universities offer some sort of financial assistance to their international students. While some schools offer more than others, get in touch with your international student advisor to see what’s available, how competitive it can be, and whether you can rely on it. You will also want to find out when you need to apply and be sure to write down any deadlines in your calendar to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines.

- Private Scholarships & Grants – Universities aren’t the only organization that provides financial assistance to international students. Home country governments, host country governments, non-profit organizations, and international companies do support studying abroad through scholarships, grants, and other awards. Be sure to do your research to find out which awards are available so that you can apply and increase your likelihood of winning awards.

- Work in the US – Many visas have restrictions on the type of work you can do and in what capacity you can do it. Many schools do have openings for part-time employment opportunities that are available to international students. To find out what’s available, check out your school’s current openings and make sure that you are eligible. Remember, payment is minimal and should be expected to cover only ancillary expenses.

- International Student Loans – International students can apply for an international student loan as long as they have a US cosigner. This cosigner must be a US citizen or US permanent resident with good credit and who has lived in the US for a minimum of two years. If international students have a cosigner, they can apply for the total cost of their education minus any other financial aid they’ve received.


Tips for International Students Wiring Tuition

May 10th, 2013 by Jennifer Frankel

paying tuitionWhen it comes to paying for tuition, international students must plan ahead and make sure that they do their research to keep their expenses low. Many banks – whether it’s in your home country or in your host country – will charge a wire transfer fee, which can add up especially if your money goes through intermediary banks as it makes its way to your school. Because of this, we’ve created tips for international students wiring tuition:

Find A University-Approved Wire Service

Many US colleges and universities work with a particular few wire services which are designed to help students send substantial amounts of money to the host country. These schools most often times do their research to ensure that they are legitimate and that the money is safe. Contact your bursar or accounting office to find out which companies your school works with. You will also need to find out the banking information from your school if they agree to accept direct wire transfers.

Confirm the Tuition Deadline

International students wiring tuition will need to first confirm the deadline in which the money must be fully received and paid. Depending on the school, you may be required to pay one semester’s (or in some cases, more) tuition and any on-campus room and board fees. While in theory a wire transfer should be immediate, it is not uncommon to find that there are frequent delays with the process. If the money arrives past the specified deadline, this may require you to pay additional late fees. Because of this, we recommend that you do the wire transfer weeks in advance of the deadline to ensure that you have adequate time in case of delays.

Wire Money Directly to the University or College

Many banks charge a fee to do a wire transfer, and this can be deducted from the overall money that is being wired. A $15 USD wire transfer fee by each bank can result in inadequate funds by the time the money is received by your school. Be sure to ask your country’s bank if there are any additional fees associated with the transaction. International students wiring tuition should see whether university will accept the money directly. Often times there may be no fee, or a minor fee, associated with the wire transfer. If you will be sending the money to a US bank, be sure to find out if there is a fee charged by that bank – and if there will be any intermediary banks involved who will be charging a fee as well.

These and other tips for international students wiring tuition can be found here at our IEFA.org blog. Share with us your experience of paying for tuition, what issues you faced, and how you overcame it.


When Are Student Loans Disbursed?

March 28th, 2013 by Ben Cohen

student handing in application87347451 />Students going to college in the United States may be partly paying their way student loans, using them for everything from tuition and room and board to books and supplies. But the exact time for student loan disbursement, as important as it is, can be hard to pin down. So when are student loans disbursed?

Generally speaking, student loan disbursement is split between a school’s two semesters (or four quarters, three trimesters, etc.). This means that your $2,000 yearly loan won’t give you that full amount right away in the fall; you’ll get $1,000 for fall semester and $1,000 for spring semester. This splitting of the disbursement by semester is usually not a problem since tuition and fees are charged by semester as well – meaning you won’t be left with a huge bill to cover in the fall and only half of your yearly loan amount to help cover it.

When are student loans disbursed within each semester, though? The answer to that question is a little less definite because student loan disbursement ultimately depends on each school’s financial aid office and its specific policies. The loans usually show up in a student’s account sometime between the start of classes and the tuition payment due date. Before the funds actually show up, they will often be listed as “pending” so you can get a clear picture of what your financial situation will look like once the loan comes through.

There are some reasons that your student loan disbursement may be delayed, however. A delayed disbursement may be due to a failure to meet minimum enrollment or GPA standards, an unpaid fee from a previous semester which must first be settled, or various other factors. If you think your disbursement should have come through already, contact your financial aid office to see if there are any other snags like these you need to address.

So when are student loans disbursed? It’s not an exact science, but they come through in halves toward the beginning of each semester. If you’re waiting on student loans for immediate needs like housing or food, get in touch with your school to find out exactly when you’ll be getting them.


Understanding Interest Rates on Student Loans

March 25th, 2013 by Ben Cohen

interest rate149070729Coming to college in the United States involves a lot of expenses, and you may find yourself turning to a private loan to help you meet the financial burden. While loans can be great, it is important to understand the full financial burden of repaying them. One of the most important factors in picking a loan to help you finance your college education in the United States is understanding interest rates on student loans.

Interest is a fee that a bank requires you pay on top of the base loan amount so it can make money from the loan. Interest rates on student loans are given as yearly percentages. For example, a $1,000 loan with an interest rate of 7.5% APR (annual percentage rate) will mean a total repayment of $1,075 after one year of interest.

Stretch this out across years – even decades – of repayment, and clearly interest rates on student loans can have a huge impact on how much you pay in total. So how can you make sure you lower your interest rates on student loans?

To a certain extent, interest rates on student loans are fixed. Student loan interest rates are based off parameters set by reputable American and international banks and generally vary between about 2% and 9% APR.

But your student loan interest rates will also change based on the creditworthiness of your US cosigner. A cosigner is a financially responsible person who, by cosigning a loan, agrees to cover any costs that the original borrower can’t. Find a cosigner with a solid credit history (as an international student, you’ll need a cosigner in the US anyway) and banks will be more likely to give you a favorable interest rate on the loan.

Another way to lower the overall impact of interest costs is to repay your loan more quickly – thereby accruing less total interest. This can mean anything from paying a little more than the monthly minimum when you have the spare cash to choosing an official repayment plan that features earlier or more substantial regular payments.

Understanding interest rates on student loans is very important part of your college financing, so make sure to look into your best options before you decide on a loan!


Costs to Consider When Changing Apartments

March 13th, 2013 by Ben Cohen

opening apartment doorAs a college student, you can find yourself changing apartments often. New school years or semesters often come with new housing setups, and changing circumstances during the middle of a schooling period can result in an unexpected change in living situation. To help you save money in the process, it’s important to know the costs to consider when changing apartments.

Deposit

Your biggest new apartment cost (besides a possible uptick in rent) is probably going to be your security deposit. A security deposit is a one-time payment generally ranging from a half a month’s rent to a full month’s rent that is paid upon renting a new apartment. At the end of your tenancy, the security deposit will be returned to you minus fees for cleaning or repairing your apartment that your landlord sees fit.

Moving fees

Another one of the costs to consider when changing apartments is the actual price of moving. Using a professional moving company to help you is the most expensive way, but even if you forego this convenience and haul your stuff yourself you can rack up costs. Truck rentals, gas, boxes and other packaging – all these things should be considered when you look at your new apartment cost!

Furniture

Furniture is an especially important new apartment cost if you’re moving from a furnished apartment into an unfurnished one, where you can find yourself in the market for pricey items like beds, couches, and dining tables. Even if you own some or all of these things already, you may want to buy new furniture that better fits the space in a new apartment.

Utilities

Different apartments come with different utilities paid, making utilities one of the sneakier costs to consider when changing apartments. While basics like gas and electricity are almost always the responsibility of the renter, other utilities like hot water and garbage tend to vary. Make sure to discuss this with your new landlord so you know what kind of different expenses you’ll be getting into with your new place!


How to Budget for Your Spring Break Trip

February 27th, 2013 by Ben Cohen

With spring break just around the corner, now is the time for international students to be planning their budget for their upcoming spring break trip. Follow a few key tips and you’ll find you can have a great time without needing a massive spring break budget!

Book early

It’s no secret that airline fares and hotel rates rise steeply the longer you wait before you book; this is even truer for a notoriously high-traffic time like spring break. Yet with the hectic start of a new semester getting in the way of talking with friends and finalizing plans, many students wait too long and pay an arm and a leg for their trip. Get on your game a few months ahead of time and reduce your overall spring break budget.

School-sponsored trips

Many schools have organizations that will plan their own spring break trips, whether they involve the organization’s interest (an archaeology club trip to Rome, say) or whether it’s just a fun outing. These trips often come at a discount, especially when they are only open to the members of the sponsoring organization. See if you can find any enticing options like this to help you budget for spring break trip.

Get it all together

You can cut down your spring break budget a lot by booking as many parts of your trip as possible together. Get a flight paired with a hotel with a side serving of shuttle service to and from the airport, and you might save yourself a significant chunk of change.

Reduce incidental expenses

There are a lot of little costs that come with spring break that many students forget to include in their budget for spring break: meals, baggage fees, tips, and so on. Do your best to reduce these costs! Pack your things in fewer bags to avoid exorbitant baggage fees, or pay more for a hotel with a kitchenette and save on going out to eat for every meal. If you don’t include these expenses in your budget they can be an unwelcome surprise, but if you consider them you can curb your spring break spending by quite a bit.

Spring break is a time to explore and have fun, so don’t let a budget issue stop you. Follow the above tips to make sure you can do something great!


Saving Money on Your Food Budget

February 18th, 2013 by Ben Cohen

For international students who are working hard just to make ends meet as they go to college in the US, one large and constant financial burden is food. Whether you’re on a college meal plan or not, there are plenty of things you can do to get started saving money on your food budget.

  • Make your own food

This may seem like a very obvious way to save money on food, but students on meal plans often forget that they can still save money by staying in and making their own food some of the time. Meal plans usually have limits to the amount of times you can use them – so lean on them too much and you’ll find yourself paying up for every meal at the end of the semester.

Instead, work on saving money on your food budget by making your own meals a couple times a week. Don’t have a kitchen in your small dorm? You can still throw together small breakfasts and lunches just with basic ingredients that can go in a mini-fridge.

  • Save at the grocery store

Even once you’re making your own meals, you can still save money on food by cutting down on the costs of the food you’re buying. One of the best ways to ensure this is to buy food at wholesale grocery stores, but the cost of membership and the amount of food you have to buy at once will deter plenty of students who have little to no storage space. See if any grocery stores offer savings cards that get you better deals or regular coupon mailers to get you saving money.

  • Snack more

You can cut down on the size of your meals – and thus the money you spend on them – by keeping some food in your belly throughout the day. Be careful with what you buy for snack food, though, as individual bags of chips, candy, and so on can be costly and unhealthy.

If you follow the above tips to save money on food not only will you have less stress about your financial burden, but you also may be eating healthier and feel better in general. Get started on your new eating plan today!


5 Financial Considerations When Choosing a School

February 5th, 2013 by Jennifer Frankel

student in libraryOne of the most important decisions international students will face is what school they choose to pursue their degree program. This is one of the most critical decisions since it will financially determine the costs over the next few years. The school you choose can determine whether you are set up for financial success – or failure.

Think about it. If you are an international student planning to study in the US, there are over 2,000 universities that you can go to that accept international students. Your primary purpose is to enroll, get an education, and translate that into the opportunity to have a good job that will allow you to earn even more money (not to mention, a rewarding career!). College costs money, especially for international students, and the costs can vary greatly. You don’t just have to worry about tuition, but there is the cost of textbooks, housing, food, other educational fees, health insurance, electronics and more.

To help you out, here are 5 financial considerations when choosing a school:

  • Evaluate the tuition costs

If you’ve done your research, then you know that US public colleges tend to be more affordable than private universities. Even though international students can expect to pay the out-of-state tuition at a public institution, this tends to still be more affordable than a private school. If you have a list of schools you plan to apply to, create a cost comparison chart and see what makes financial sense to you!

  • Find out what financial assistance is available

No matter if you are looking at private or public university, financial aid for international students is limited. That being said, however, schools have different budgets allowing some schools to provide more financial assistance to international students than others. Check with your potential schools to see what financial aid is available. Ask questions like, do they offer need based aid? Is there an opportunity to get on-campus employment (and if so, what’s the likelihood of being able to do so?)? What is the likelihood of getting financial aid, even if it is not need base? If so, how much can be expected?

  • Check to see what employment opportunities exist

Some colleges and universities have a budget that allows them to hire international students part time. US students have what’s called “work study” which allows federal funds to pay for student employees. While this is not available for international students, some schools allocate funds to allow their international students to work in compliance with their visa employment restrictions. Check with your school(s) to see whether this is an option, but keep in mind that the amount you’ll make will be small and only cover miscellaneous expenses.

  • Consider the cost of living in the area

New York City, San Francisco, and Washington DC are some of the key cities international students dream of living. Did you also know that these are some of the most expensive cities to live in as well? New York City is ranked #1, San Francisco #2, and DC is ranked #7 as the most expensive cities to live in throughout the US, according to Kiplinger. If you are looking for a high quality education but don’t have a lot of funds to support your education, be sure to consider the cost of living of the town in which your school is located. This will also affect what you’ll be able to do off campus, because the less expensive the town, the farther your money will go.

  • Compare your projected income to your total degree cost

If you have your heart set on a top, ivy-league school, do a cost-benefit analysis to see what the costs will be – and then see how it compares to your projected income According to Mark Kantrowitz, founder of FinAid.org, “if your total student loan debt is less than your annual income, you’ll be able to repay that debt in about 10 years.” While it may be difficult to forecast your projected income, it’s worth the research to ensure a good investment. Check out Salary.com to see what your projected income would be if you land a job in the US after graduation. It would also be advantageous to evaluate your projected income in your home country as you will still be responsible for paying back any money borrowed.

* Photo of girl in library courtesy of Shutterstock