In order to study in the USA, a large part of the application process will be showing the consular officer at your visa interview your finances. You will need to show proof that you have the necessary funds available to cover the time you spend in the USA studying.
Your I-20 form, given to you by your school when you have been accepted, will include most of the information you need concerning your estimated cost of attendance at that school, and they are often very accurate. During your visa interview you will need to show the consular officer that you have enough funds to cover this amount.
However, the I-20 Form only shows the main lines (Tuition and Living Expenses) and does not provide any further clarification. Although these amounts are usually accurate, it is always advisable to create your own budget where you list out all the main items you think you will need. Its much better to do this before you come to the USA, so you can make sure you do not run short of cash once stateside.
To get started, here are a few things you will need to consider in your budget:
- Tuition – set by your school
- Rent/housing – can you find off campus housing cheaper?
- Meals (board) – can you cook for yourself, or use the school facilities?
- Health insurance – if you can shop around and find a cheaper alternative (if your school allows)
- Books/technology fees – do you really need that new iPad? But think about what you will need computing wise
- Transportation – if you live off campus, will you need to travel to school?
- Communications – use skype, or low cost sim cards to lower your costs
- Clothing/personal items – try and get new clothes before you leave for the USA
- Family expenses – do you need to support your family?
- Personal expenses – personal hygiene products, etc…
- Recreation and travel – cinema tickets, days and nights out, etc…
- Taxes – make sure you are paying your taxes correctly (if you are earning)
You can also download the InternationalStudent.com Budget Help Sheet, which will guide you through some of the more common budget items you will need to think about. Of course, not all the items on the sheet will apply to you – but it will get you started:
Your school will also help you with finding out a lot of the information you need about their local area. Things like housing, electricity, etc.. will vary depending on where you will be based in the USA – so be sure to ask for guidance from your school when creating a realistic budget. They should be more than happy to help you with that type of information.
Hopefully this will give you a good starting point to get your budget up and running. If you need further help or advice, please be sure to visit our Study in the USA Budgeting Help Center for more information.