Proof of Funds to Get Your I-20

October 8th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

Applying to study in the US can be pretty confusing if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are all kinds of forms and applications which need to be filled out, and a specific order that they all need to be filled out in. Before you are able to get your student visa, for example, you have to first get what is called an I-20 form. And to get your I-20 form, you have to prove that you can finance your time studying in the US. This is because it is required by US law that you prove that you can afford to study in the US, the proof of funds to get your I-20 is how the US determines that you are financially secure enough.

Because of the high cost of living and tuition, many international students rely on at least one sponsor who will help out financially. You are allowed to have as many sponsors as you want, and each one that plans on being a sponsor will need to fill out an affidavit of annual cash support stating that they promise to send you a certain amount of money, as well as a proof of income. The proof of income can be a letter from your sponsor’s employer, income tax returns, an income estimate by a bank, or a bank statement showing that there is enough money to cover the promised amount. If you have sponsors who plan on providing you with a free room and board, they will also need to show a proof of income as well as copies of their lease, deed, rent receipts and/or any other documentation that the university can use to verify ownership of the property.

It is also important that your sponsors do not exaggerate how much money they are able to cover when providing the university with a proof of funds to get your I-20. While your sponsors may think they are helping you by exaggerating, they are actually putting you in danger of having your I-20 form rejected. The reason that you are required to show a proof of funds to get your I-20 is because it is far too risky to move to the US without a guaranteed source of income. If a sponsor backs out and you don’t have enough money to continue living in the US, you would have to move home and stop pursuing your education.

Once you have your I-20 form, you have completed one of the first steps to studying in the US. You will then be eligible to get your F-1 student visa, which will allow you to legally stay in the country and study in a US university full time!

*Visa application photo thanks to Shutterstock


How to Budget So that You Can Travel for Winter Break

October 1st, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

One of the best things about studying in a foreign country is that everything around you is new and exciting, making every day seem like a mini-vacation. To make the most of their time abroad, many international students decide to travel during their time off from school. If you are one of those students, then you might be wondering how to budget so that you can travel for winter break.

Set Incremental Goals

One of the single best tips on how to budget so that you can travel for winter break is to set incremental savings goals. This way you can make sure you are on track to saving the amount you need by winter. These goals should be set up as weekly or monthly dollar amounts that, if met, will result in you having enough money when winter break comes.

See What Your Bank Can Do to Help

Most banks have savings programs to help you save money, so if you’re trying to decide how to budget so that you can travel for winter break, you should check online or ask in person at your bank to see what is offered. For example, some banks will transfer whatever change is left over from a debit card transaction and automatically put it into your savings. If you use your debit card a lot, the occasional 25 and 50 cents being put into to your savings account can really add up in the long run. Other banks have a way to automatically move a set amount from your savings to your checking every month. This method is a great way to make sure you are keeping up with your monthly goals!

Remember What You Are Saving For

Sometimes, after saving for a while, it can be tempting to dip into your money and buy something expensive for yourself. You might tell yourself that you’ll make up for it by saving more in the future or that you deserve to cheat a little. This is because people are good at tricking themselves into spending money, and you should definitely avoid this pitfall if you plan on traveling over the winter. Whenever your temptation to spend some of your savings rises, visualize how amazing your winter trip is going to be and let that image keep you in line and on budget.

There are many other methods on how to budget so that you can travel for winter break, and in the end some will work for you more than others. The best thing to do is to try out several savings methods and seeing what works for you the best!

* Picture of male hand putting a coin into piggy bank courtesy of Shutterstock


Travel Video Content Launched – Now Is Your Chance To Win $4,000!

September 14th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

That’s right, if you are currently studying outside your home country – or if you want to study abroad, you have the chance to win $4,000! The 2012 Travel Video Content hosted by InternationalStudent.com has just opened allowing you to submit your video with the opportunity to add $4,000 to your travel budget.

As the 7th annual Travel Video Contest, this could be your year to win! To enter, submit a video of less than 5 minutes explaining why you want to study or travel abroad! If you are currently abroad, then talk about a trip you’d like to take and why.

Check out previous winners to get those ideas flowing, and submit your video before the deadline, October 31st. The winner of the Travel Video Contest will be announced on the InternationalStudent.com website the week of November 12-16, International Education Week.

In addition to the grand prize of $4,000, the winner will get their very own blog on International Student to document their trip and share their experience with viewers. This blog will start immediately after the winner is announced, and will continue through the trip until return to school. For more information, check out the Travel Video Contest for rules and regulations, to see previous videos, and learn how to submit your video.

Good luck to you all!

* Professional Video Camera picture thanks to Shutterstock


10 Tips to Keep Food Costs Low

September 7th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

Studying in the United States can add up, but there are many tips to budget properly and keep costs low. Food can add up weekly, especially if you are not planning appropriately. Going to dinner can easily add up to $20 for one meal. By taking the time steps to save money on food, this can mean more opportunities – and more adventures for you!

Here are 10 tips to keep food costs low:

1. Eat at Home

With a restaurant on every corner, many students think convenience! Pizza in 10 minutes? Hamburger in 2 minutes? Or, splurge at a fancy restaurant? While this might be a treat once in a while, try to find easy and quick recipes you can make at home. Not only are these typically healthier options, but it will save you money in the long run!

2. Buy Local

Buying fresh fruits and vegetables at a grocery store can be expensive. Mangos can be $1 each – on sale! Go to your local farmers market though and you’ll pay much lower prices. Some people show up early – others show up late – to get even greater discounts on their produce.

3. Buy on Sale

Sales can be so much fun – great deals and good food is the way to go. If it’s food that doesn’t go bad, then you can buy more and save it for later. If it’s meat, then you can freeze it for later also. Don’t splurge on food you may not normally purchase, but buying your everyday food on sale allows you to save even more money!

4. Freeze Left Overs

Ever try to cook something and make more than you can stomach? Or, have you had left overs but couldn’t fit it into your weekly schedule? Don’t forget that freezing food can be a great way to conserve and make the most of your budget.

5. Plan Your Meals to Reduce Wasted Food

There are so many times that we’ll go to the grocery store and buy everything in sight. There are also many times where you may be swayed to indulge, but not actually incorporate it into your eating regiment – and therefore goes to waste. Don’t let this happen to you. Plan your meals, reduce wasted food, and watch your money go even farther.

6. Buy Store Brand

Many times “white label” food is just as good as the brand name. Try buying your grocery store brand – not only will you save money but you will in many cases end up with the same quality!

7. Clip Coupons

If you are one of those people who read the newspaper – or go searching for coupons online – then take the time to see if there are any coupons for your normal purchases. One dollar off or buy one get one free can certainly help lower your costs on regular shopping days.

8. Compare price on per unit cost – not total price!

If you’ve ever taken the time to notice, many packages will tell you the weight of the food you are buying. Just because the total price is lower, it may be that you are buying less. Don’t be fooled by marketers, compare prices based on the equivalent weight to make sure you get the best deal!

9. Buy in Bulk

Many times if you buy in bulk, you will end up with the best price. While you may end up buying more than you need, consider sharing with friends or roommates to make sure that you get the lowest price for the maximum quantity.

10. Grocery Store Membership

Many stores now have memberships which offer you discounts or money back. If you are not already a member, sign up and see the savings come back to you!


Tuition Waivers for International Students

August 14th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

If you have the grades and are looking to keep costs low while studying in the US, consider seeking out universities that offer tuition waivers for international students. In most cases, being awarded a tuition waiver will mean that you will be allowed to pay the resident rate as opposed to the non-resident rate. Or, you could receive a discount on the non-resident rate. Not all universities offer this option, but you could have luck if you are willing to be creative in your search.

Tuition waivers offer high-achieving international students the chance to keep costs low while studying in the US. They should not be viewed as a source of need-based financial aid; you will have to prove your ability to cover your costs otherwise. Factors for determining allocation of funds include grade point average, the number of applicants meeting the requirements, and sometimes, the number of students that normally attend the university that are currently studying abroad. To be eligible, you might also need to meet the TOEFL requirements for the university you are applying to.

When you are conducting your search for schools that offer tuition waivers for international students, keep in mind that you might have better luck depending on where you are from and where you are looking to study. For example, New Mexico State offers priority to students from Mexico while other universities might give priority to students from China, Scandinavia, or Egypt.

The important thing to remember is this: studying in the US does not have to be as expensive as you might think. Keep an open mind and remember that each place you travel to has value as it takes you out of your comfort zone and into a different culture. When you research your college or university, check to see if they offer tuition waivers for international students and then see where your studies will take you.


International Students Find Teaching Assistant Opportunities

August 10th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

As an international student, you most likely have an F1 visa to come and study in the US.  Because of restrictions on this visa, the easiest place for you to try to work will be on campus.  Thankfully, American college campuses, especially the larger ones, have many jobs that need to be filled by students.  You can work in an on-campus facility such as the pool or dining hall, you can work for one of the administrative offices, or you can try to find a teaching assistant opportunity with one of your professors.

Most college professors will have one or more teaching assistants that work with them each semester.  Some lecture hall at large universities can hold over 1,000 students, so the professor will likely lecture and then divide the class into smaller discussion groups to be led by a student teaching assistant.  You will then hold one or two classes per week with your assigned students where you can review the lecture and go over homework.  In order to find a teaching assistant opportunity, you will need to be a top student in the subject you are pursuing.  You should also contact professors that you are interested in working with as soon as you find out when and where you will be studying.  Get your name on the professor’s radar because they will most likely already have their teaching staff assigned by the time you show up for class.

Each university differs, but if you are fortunate enough to earn a teaching assistant opportunity, you can be compensated.  This is a great way to study in the US but come out the other side with a smaller bill to pay.  To pursue different teaching assistant opportunities, check your department of interest within the universities you are considering.  It’s never too early to start planning your time as an international student in the US.


What You Should Know if You Want to Work On-Campus as an International Student

July 31st, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

If you are an international student getting ready to spend time studying in the US, you will likely apply for an F1 visa. The F1 is for people who are not looking to immigrate to the US and who will be studying at a university or taking a language program temporarily.

While you may require financial aid in order to complete your study abroad experience, there are some things you should know if you want to work on-campus as an international student. You will be required to prove that you can financially support yourself before traveling to your program. This is because employment opportunities for F1 visa holders are very limited. However, your best opportunity for work will be on-campus. As a student, you are permitted to apply for part-time work on-campus during your course of study, and you should be able to find assistance with figuring out how to work on-campus as an international student through the International Student Office or the Office for On-Campus Employment. Be sure to check with the individual campus as each will have limits on hours you can work as a full-time student and other requirements for employment.

While you likely want to work on-campus as an international student in a particular academic area, be aware that you may not be able to find employment in your field of study. You might be able to get a job as a teaching or research assistant for a class that you are well-versed in, but more than likely your work might not relate to the subject at hand. You could work in an on-campus dining hall, as a lifeguard, or at the front desk of a residence hall, to name a few options. You will not earn enough money to pay for your tuition, food, and housing, but you will be able to help offset some costs for extras or save the money so you can go home at the end of your time with less of a bill to pay.

If you want to work on-campus as an international student, make sure that you are aware that it will only be supplemental to your finances. But, you will walk away with more than a paycheck; you will likely meet other students that you otherwise would not have gotten the chance to know. And, isn’t that the whole point of studying abroad?


Know What is Included in Your Tuition

July 23rd, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

Before you come to study in the US, you should know what is included in your tuition – check each line item of your bill and know what it means. For most universities, tuition will only cover the courses you take. Schools charge per credit hour, so for example, if you take four courses that are worth three credits each, you will pay for twelve credits. Some universities might offer a flat rate that will remain the same no matter how many credits you take, so you could get more of a bang for your buck if you took the maximum number of credits allowed.

In addition to tuition, you will also be responsible for fees. This cost covers things like registration, student activities, on-campus transportation, and general upkeep of the campus that all students must contribute to. This expense will generally come in the form of a lump sum per semester of attendance.

Then there are living expenses such as the cost of your dorm and food. This is where the costs become variable depending on how much you want to spend. You can choose from a variety of living situations and a variety of dining hall plans, or you can just shop at the grocery store. Some universities will list the cost of a computer or clothing, but if you are bringing those things with you then you don’t have to buy them in the US.

To get the best idea of how much it would cost to attend a particular university, you should visit the admissions website and get a list of estimated costs. It is important to remember that tuition and fees are unwavering, but the school estimates everything else. Don’t be scared by the sticker price, schools usually place a higher estimate on variable costs so students will be eligible for more financial aid: if it looks like it costs more, chances are you will be offered more money.

Tuition itself is often only the beginning of what you’ll need to pay to come and study in the US, but the good news is that there are hundreds of opportunities to research that can help you find the best overall package for what you want. The first step in addressing these costs, however, is to know what is included in your tuition.


Stafford Student Loan Rates Held

July 4th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

What a difference a week makes in the world of financial aid. After all, at this point a week ago, there was every indication that federal student loan interest rates – which had been set to double on July 1st due – would do exactly that. Although both US President Obama and Mitt Romney, his Republican challenger – not mention quite a few members of Congress besides – voiced support for measures that would prevent this automatic increase of interest rates.

With such broad support, in and of itself, there was not enough to reconcile differences between the two parties on how to pay for the bill or, ultimately, to bring the matter to a vote. With the issue of funding unresolved, as Congress approached the weekend (and its weeklong recess to commemorate the US’s Independence Day), the general consensus at the Capitol was that, come the new month, the interest rate on federally backed student loans would jump from 3.4% to 6.8%. While this measure only affects federal loans – and not private international student loans – this would indeed affect those students who plan to study abroad with federally-backed student loans.

In the end, though, what a difference a week makes. In a rare flurry of bipartisanship in the United States, an 11th hour compromise was reached. The leaders of the two major parties in the Senate found common ground on how to pay for the nearly $6 billion cost of the measure on Tuesday and it was this compromise measure that passed the House 373 to 52 Friday and, later the same day, the Senate itself 74 to 19. The US President, who actively called for the legislation, signed it into law on Friday. In so doing, the change is estimated to help more than 7 million students who currently receive Stafford loans by saving them an average of $1,000 each on their loans.


Florida Undergraduate Tuition Increases for 2012

June 25th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

Last Friday, Florida’s State University System – approved by the Board of Governors – agreed to increase the state tuition among public universities. Among the 11 schools that will be affected by this ruling, tuition increases will run between 9% – 15% higher for this year’s tuition. Not to fear, however, even with these increases Florida will still remains one of the most affordable, ranked 45th in tuition and fees (out of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia).

There were four Florida universities that had a full 15% tuition increase. Out of these four, the highest undergraduate tuition will now be Florida International University at $4,669 per year assuming a normal load of 30 credits – which equates to an annual increase of $609.

The lowest tuition is at $4,154 at the University of South Florida branch of both St. Petersburg and Sarasota. While they had an increase as well, they only went up $446 – an 11% increase over last year.

This rate increase is controversial as many supporters state that it will help avoid closing programs and laying off faculty. Those against the ruling state that many people cannot afford to pay more. In either case, here are this year’s new annual tuition beginning this Fall 2012:

  • New College: 15% tuition increase (or $561), $4,303 new annual tuition
  • Florida A&M: 12% tuition increase (or $449), $4,191 new annual tuition