You are probably just like the thousands of students we have previously advised. You are bright, capable, enthusiastic, ambitious and progressive. Unfortunately, you are probably also financially limited. So how do we reconcile these two divergent quantities? We strategize.
How much money your need to study in the US depends heavily on which US university your select.
Select schools practically, if finance is your constraint. Remember you are likely to get a payoff that is just as rewarding from a small, lesser known school, as you would from the so-called “elite” school.
The payoff is largely contingent on the qualities that you possess, the qualities outlined above… than the perceived quality of your school. Therefore break school options down loosely like this:
- Dream school
- Realistic school
- School that wants me
Several schools might fit into each category. The final determination, however, should be the best combination of a desirable school, where you can realistically fit and succeed, and where you can get the best support package.
Show me the money! Remember that slogan and let it guide you. We are assuming that you are not independently wealthy, and that the availability of financial support plus the probability of a lower cost will impact on your decision.
Undergraduate education runs four years. How much should you expect to have in real money prior to leaving home?
As a general rule of thumb, using the university’s cost estimate for each year, the formula is as follows:
For Undergraduate Studies (4 years) = 2.5 x University’s Cost Estimate
For Graduate Studies (2 years) = 1.25 x University’s Cost Estimate
Always keep in mind that the money you secure from home prior to leaving is the most critical.
Scholarship DOES NOT mean “full ride”
In allocating money prior to leaving home, please recognize a critical semantic nuance—or rather, a clarification of terms. Most schools will give a scholarship to good students regardless of their national origin. However, be realistic about that term.
Our colleagues in admissions and International Services departments at US universities tell us of the many nice letters they receive from deserving students all over the developing world asking for a scholarship to attend their institution. However, these nice warm letters were asking for something impossible. They were asking for a “full ride… an all expense paid education adventure.” That is highly unlikely.
The term “scholarship” when used contextually in American higher education, can mean as little as $100 per year. It is any financial award.
So when schools post that scholarships are available, don’t be deluded.
American parents pay and take loans to educate their children. So it is unrealistic for international students to expect a full ride, especially at the undergraduate level, at an American university. We will explain the options and nuances for graduate education in a subsequent posting.
Scholarships are available, however, especially for developing world students. Entities such as
- The World Bank
- The Organization of American States
- The EducationUSA
- The Fulbright Commission
- Quasi-governmental and non governmental organizations
They all offer opportunities for financing students from the developing world. But these almost all require the participation and endorsement of your government. So in effect, you should first look at all the opportunities in your home country in order to compile that portion of the formula that is required prior to departure.
Respect the Bottom Line
While the opportunities are many and varied, it can be a nightmare to enter this country without the proper financing in place. We strongly urge against leaving home on hope, wishes and speculation.
At the same time, our 2.5 formula suggests that you can gamble a bit on the probability of earning about 40% of the cost of your education while in the USA, since you are only leaving home 60% secure. This is possible for several reasons that we will explore in other sections on My American Degree. However, your formula and methodology is set for prior to leaving home.
Check the resources that are available to your nation and circumstance, and use them as part of a formula to secure 60% of the cost of your four years of undergraduate education. But don’t leave home unless you can allocate or at least locate that sum.
So you know have a formula for estimating the financial cost of studying at a US University. Now read “Where Can I Find the Money to Study at US Univerity?” for practical ideas on obtaining money for University.