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International Students: Explore a Sample College Budget

Tuition, textbooks, room and board – there are lots of expenses that come with studying at a U.S. college or university.

Prospective international students can get a better idea of just how much a U.S. undergraduate education will cost by creating a budget as part of their college search and planning process.

In order to create a realistic budget, students need to factor in educational costs, living expenses and personal expenses, says Alfred Boll, EducationUSA branch chief at the U.S. Department of State.

[Check out five questions to ask financial aid counselors at U.S. colleges.]

“For example, if a student is addicted to Netflix and wants to have that, they need to build that into a budget,” Boll says.

Students may also want to set aside a little money in their budget for unforeseen costs.

“Dozens of unexpected expenses arise on weekly basis,” said Misael Morales, a sophomore at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma who hails from Venezuela, via email. Examples he gave included electric bills and furniture for his on-campus apartment.

Students can tap several resources for advice during their budgeting process. For starters, EducationUSA advisers located all over the world can assist students who have questions regarding the cost of a U.S. education, says Boll.

Another great way to get advice is to reach out to current or former international students, says Judith Brooke, director of international student and scholar services at the Florida Institute of Technology. “That would be the best resource ever,” she says, “to speak directly to somebody who’s been through it, who’s lived here as a student and is aware of all the ins and outs.”

Also, there are ways international students can get help paying for college. Some U.S. schools offer robust financial aid packages to foreign students, though many institutions only award aid to U.S. citizens or legal residents. Scholarships for international students are out there too.

[Learn the dos and don’ts of applying for scholarships as an international student.]

Additionally, international students may be able to get part-time jobs on campus to earn a little extra spending money.

However, a position on campus is not guaranteed. At the Florida Institute of Technology – where 33 percent of the student body was international in 2015-2016 – the demand for on-campus jobs outweighs the supply, says Brooke.

Prospective international students can use the sample budget below as a starting point for their own financial planning. The budget includes average cost data for the 2016-2017 school year from the National Universities ranked within the top 100 by U.S. News. In all, 102 schools were included because of a four-way tie for the No. 99 spot.

The average cost of tuition and fees includes data from all schools ranked within the top 100. For public universities, the cost of tuition and fees for out-of-state students was used. The other expense categories include data from most, but not all of these schools.

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