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Creating a Budget


You will be required to prove to the university and the consular officer (the person at the U.S Consulate who issues visa stamps) that you have sufficient funds to cover your living expenses. Take a close look at the budget you prepared for yourself based on estimated expenses.

Use this list to help you think about all the possible expenses you may have:
  • Tuition
  • Rent/housing
  • Meals (board)
  • Health insurance
  • Books/technology fees
  • Transportation
  • Communications
  • Clothing/personal items
  • Family expenses
  • Personal expenses
  • Recreation and travel
  • Taxes

The estimates that appear on the I-20 or ISAP-66 are usually accurate, and international students are expected to have funds to cover the full amount shown. It is not possible to arrange for more financial aid once you arrive at a school. If you are a graduate student and are awarded an assistantship, be sure that you understand what it will include and what you will be expected to pay for out of your own pocket. If you will receive a scholarship or fellowship, determine ahead of time what portion is taxable and include the necessary taxes in your budget.

A Note About Financial Aid Awards

Financial aid awards are typically paid to you via check and your U.S. bank account will have to be established before you will be able to cash a check. If you are receiving a scholarship or assistantship from your U.S. university, keep in mind that these awards are usually taxed. It is particularly important for you to realize that if you do get an assistantship you will not be paid for your first month's work until you have completed the month. Be sure you have enough money to support yourself for at least the first month until you receive your check.

How Much Money Will You Need?

You can get a general idea about school-related expenses by looking at catalogs or application information provided by the university. There are some factors to consider when determining the things for which you need to budget.

Public vs. private schools

Tuition rates vary tremendously from school to school. Public schools (also called state colleges or universities) are generally, but not always, less expensive than private institutions. Some private schools, however, may be able to offer scholarships to international students that state schools can not. Two-year or community colleges are typically less expensive than colleges and universities offering bachelor’s and graduate degrees.

Urban vs. rural environments

The cost of the living in different parts of the United States can vary tremendously. In general, living in urban areas (in or near a big city) is more expensive than living in smaller towns or rural areas. Renting an apartment in a big city can cost twice as much as it does in a smaller town because there is such a high demand for housing in large U.S. cities. Likewise, food, transportation, clothing, entertainment and other living expenses may be more expensive in a city.

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