Budgeting for Overseas Housing

July 12th, 2013 by Jennifer Frankel

When moving to another country for a semester or year there are always unexpected expenses that arise, but the most important element to studying abroad is knowing where you will be living. The cost of housing while you are abroad will depend on the type of residence you choose and what your available budget is after paying for airfare and your  program. When studying abroad one of the most expensive costs can be where you live, so make sure you consider your options and do the budgeting for overseas housing. Normally you have the option to live with a host family, live in student housing, or find your own apartment. In order to appropriately budget for your housing expenses it is important to consider all the possible costs. Here’s a quick guide to help you consider the expenses that come with each option:

Living with a host family

Often times if you choose to live with a host family, it is organized through your study abroad program. If it is organized through the program then you are usually expected to pay this before you arrive as part of the program’s cost of attendance. Taking care of this before you arrive means that you will not have to worry about paying rent on a monthly basis. Generally living with a host family also means that you will be provided with a room and meals. Because you will be receiving meals on a daily basis, buying your own groceries is not an expense that you will need to consider. Normally, families will provide you with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but any type of snack or special food outside of this will be paid out of your own pocket.

Living in student housing

Living in student housing is similar to living with a host family since you generally pay the amount upfront so monthly rent is not a concern. Student housing can differ from university to university so it is important to find out what type of residence they offer. There are some facilities that provide students with a kitchen and others that do not. Normally housing that does not have kitchens provide access to a campus dining hall. If you are living in student housing without a kitchen your food budget will depend on whether you have the option to purchase a meal plan or pay on a day to day basis. If you have a kitchen then groceries will be an expense. For those who are not quite ready to be chefs in the kitchen, will have to budget for eating out which often times is more expensive.

Finding your own apartment

If your program does not provide either a family stay or residence hall, or if you just prefer to live on your own, moving into a privately owned apartment always comes with more expenses. In some countries, such as Spain, it is common that apartments come furnished. However, in the U.S. this is not the case and apartments that come furnished tend to be quite expensive. It is important to do some research on this, in order to know whether furnishing your apartment with a bed, a desk, etc. will be part of your expenses. Another essential thing to consider is that you budget enough money to be able to pay the first month’s rent and a deposit, which is usually the same amount as the rent. Other expenses can include monthly or bimonthly bills for internet, water, gas, and electric.

>> Want to learn more about apartment costs? Check out Costs to Consider When Changing Apartments


Top 10 Schools Providing Financial Aid to International Students

June 26th, 2013 by Jennifer Frankel

A recent New York Times article announced, “many public institutions that used to get most of their financing from state governments now rely on tuition for more than half their budgets.” It comes as no surprise then that with international students paying out of state tuition – which is higher than the in-state tuition – along with international student fees, that colleges are turning to international students to not only diversify their student body but to also help bridge the funding gap. With that being said, however, there are still schools providing financial aid to international students that show their hard work, dedication, and capability to rise above the challenge.

The U.S. News Report comes out with the list of top 10 schools providing financial aid to international students. This can be quite helpful as studying abroad can be expensive between, travel and tuition, student fees and programming – and after all said and done, the majority of international students are not eligible for federal financial aid programs.

Here are the top 10 schools providing financial aid to international students according to this 2011-2012 report:

School State Average aid awarded to international undergraduates Number of international undergraduates who received aid
Yale University CT $53,255 350
Skidmore College NY $52,967 64
Harvard University MA $51,865 504
Amherst College MA $50,990 141
Trinity College CT $50,854 139
Williams College MA $50,591 127
Dartmouth College NH $48,977 251
University of Chicago IL $48,907 58
Bates College ME $48,888 76
Duke University NC $48,391 134

According to this list, you’ll notice a lot of big name universities and colleges – and most are located in the Northeast in the United States. While applications can be competitive, and financial aid even more so, having an outstanding college application with strong test scores and high school stats can provide you with the opportunity to stand out among the rest.


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!