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


2012 College Admissions Data for International Students

June 18th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

It’s that time of year again, international students from around the world have applied to colleges and universities, and are preparing themselves to both live and study in the US. This year, the 2012 college admissions data for international students is in, and we would like to share some of the findings.

According to the New York Time’s report, we have preliminary data of the admissions yield which reflects the number of students who have accepted admissions and who have also paid their tuition deposit – and therefore are planning to enroll in their college or university the new school year.

While this is subject to change as we approach the new academic term, the new data reflects that the Ivy League schools – the dream of any international student wanted to study in the US – were even more selective this year.

Harvard University, for example, one of the most recognized US school for higher education shows that international students will make up 11.3% of the total student body this year. With over 34,000 applicants, the New York Times reported that only 5.9% were accepted – an even higher standard over last year’s 6.2% acceptance rate.

Brown University, located in Rhode Island, will also have a relatively large student body population where they accepted 348 international students – 191 of which said “yes” and are planning to attend this semester. International students are expected to make up 12% of the total student body for the class of 2016.

Dartmouth College is planning to have 1,080 students for the Class of 2016 – 10% of which are expected to be made up of international students.

You can view more from this New York Times article and check out other school profiles and 2012 college admissions data for international students. There is no doubt that schools are looking to gain an international edge by creating a diverse environment with an international student body.

If you are an international student planning to study in the US, what criteria do you look at when you apply to a college or university?


STAR Act Proposed to Help Foreign Students with Work Visas

June 4th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

United States Senator, John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas introduced the STAR Act which aims to help international students with graduate degrees live and work in the US post graduation. The bill is an attempt to give more H-1B visas to students who graduate with high level degrees in needed fields in the United States. Currently, there is a cap of 85,000 visas issued annually – far lower than the demand, and arguably need, that currently exists.

The Securing the Talent America Requires for the 21st Century Act, or STAR Act, aims to allocate 55,000 work visas for those students with a job offer who have obtained a master’s or doctorate degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics from a US institution.

According to the Senator, “The U.S. attracts the best and the brightest, but because of our cap on the number of visas, we usually send these people home. Then they turn around and compete with us by creating jobs in their native countries.”

Taking this merit-based approach, many companies and other government officials are praising the bill, saying that it is a way to retain and attract some of the best and brightest people from around the world to stay in the United States.

Read more about this in the Bellingham Herald.


Financial Aid Definitions

May 29th, 2012 by Jennifer Frankel

Are you confused about the financial aid jargon? If you are a student looking to get additional financing to support your education overseas, you may need help understanding the lingo. Here’s a list of financial aid definitions that commonly appear throughout the world of loans, scholarships and grants.

  • Award package - This is typically given by your college or university that details the type and amount of financial aid you’ll be offered.
  • Capitalization - Interest rates are deferred and added to the principal of the loan.
  • Cost of education - Many financial aid packages will want to know your cost of education. This includes tuition, fees, books, transportation, room and board, etc.
  • Deferment - When international students take out a loan, the deferment period is when payments of principal (the amount you borrow) are not required.
  • Departmental scholarship - Did you apply to a specific department at a college or university? This is typically an award given to a distinguished student.
  • Disbursement - Students will see this phrase commonly in international financial aid. This is the process by which funds are given to students to meet their educational and living expenses. In terms of loans, this is when the amount you want to borrow is given to the you – this is typically dispersed for an academic period.
  • Financial aid - of course we need to define this! – financial aid is the money given to student based on both need and merit in the form of scholarships, grants, employment (which is limited and restricted for international students) and loans.
  • Foreign student - When it comes to financial aid, this is a student who has their allegiance to another country other than the country they are studying in. For example, foreign students are typically on a student or exchange visa and are ineligible for federal financial assistance.
  • Need based aid - An award granted to a student based on the financial need of the student. These awards are limited for international students.
  • Tuition waivers - A handful of U.S. states are now offering tuition waivers to international students in state institutions if students contribute to the local community – this means that students don’t pay for their tuition. Keep in mind, though, that this is generally awarded to graduate students.

Is there another phrase that you’ve come across and don’t understand? Our financial aid definitions are common phrases that you’ll run across in scholarships, grants and loans - but there are many others. We have our experts ready to help you navigate the complicated world of financial aid as you study overseas.