How to Study in the US on a Budget?

Ashwini Jain
5 min readDec 18, 2020


Pursuing a course at an international university can be slightly severe on your pocket, especially if you study in the US. However, a well-devised budget plan can undoubtedly sort things out for you. You need to take care of a few things, and then you are good to study in the US on a budget. Let’s have a look at these things:

1. Organize your budget

As a student, you must organize your budget to include all possible expenditures. In the US, the education costs at a public/state university are comparatively lesser than those of a private institution. Your expense on the course fee depends on the type of qualification and the university you choose. Usually, Humanities and Art courses are less costly as compared to courses such as medicine and engineering. Moreover, if you wish to continue your education at the postgraduate level, the tuition fee is higher, and the amount varies depending on the program. Like most other countries, MBA programs in the US are the most expensive.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

2. Scholarships

A great way of bringing down the total cost is to research and apply for the scholarships you are eligible for. Most institutions offer financial assistance to international students primarily based on merit and need. Obtaining scholarships for graduate studies is more comfortable than others. Study fields that usually receive generous funds include Engineering, Biological Sciences, and Physical Sciences. This can help lower the cost of studying abroad to a great extent.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Also Read: How to Save Money as a Student in the USA

3. Accommodation

Apart from the course, you will be spending on basic necessities including accommodation and food. Most US institutions are residential, and staying as a resident on-campus is an affordable option. Do note that you need to apply for it separately and well ahead in time to secure yourself a slot. You also can choose off-campus accommodation where you would share the apartment with other candidates from India or live in a homestay with some residents. For this, you would have to be open to adjusting to a different lifestyle than your home. The rental costs vary based on the city.

Photo by Mihály Köles on Unsplash

Alternatively, you could rent an apartment where you would have to pay utility bills like internet, electricity, water usage, and insurance. In most cases, the institute will help you find accommodation, both on-campus as well as off-campus.

4. Financial Aids

You will also have to consider the costs involved in securing a visa. You may consult a counselor for any guidance on the process for the same. Applying for financial aid like loans and tuition waivers is another way you can sustain the expenses. It requires proof of the student’s family income as part of the application. Students must submit their bank statements, tax documents, and other official financial records. Though most financial aid in the US is only for US citizens, green card holders, and legal residents, international students still have opportunities. It is advisable to begin researching early and contacting institutions in case of any questions or doubts.

Photo by 金 运 on Unsplash

5. Living Expenses

Don’t forget to set an amount aside to include your living expenses during your stay. It is advisable to keep regular tabs on your expenditure to avoid overspending at any point. You will be spending on travel, food, academic requirements, and other miscellaneous entities. You can save your money through student discounts during shopping in malls, supermarkets, theatres, and food joints. Discount cards such as ISIC cards are available for purchase. Keeping an eye on the exchange rates can help you save an appreciable amount of money.

If your university permits students to buy their own study material, it is suggested to buy a used book or rent it as this may save you cost. You can even sell the books you have and use the university library for a photocopy.

6. Type and Location of University

Your expenses also depend on the type of institution you apply to. Tuition costs vary significantly from college to college. Public schools are often, but not always, less expensive than private institutions. Nevertheless, some private schools may offer scholarships to international students. Two-year or community colleges are generally less costly than universities offering bachelor's and graduate degrees. In addition to this, the price of living in different parts of the country can vary tremendously. In general, living in or near urban areas is more expensive than living in rural areas.

7. Insurance

Always save some money for an emergency. It is compulsory for all Indian students traveling to the US to get medical insurance before their program’s commencement. Several American institutions have initiated comprehensive health insurance plans for international students, but this is applicable as long as your program is ongoing and ceases upon completion. Check with your counselor to ensure that you have arranged for medical insurance.

Photo by Daniel Tausis on Unsplash

8. Part-time Jobs

Many students opt to work parallel to their academics. Indian students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during academic sessions and full-time during vacations in the US. Students who choose to work beside their studies need to remember that the earned income may be taxable.

[Bonus] Some affordable institutions in the US are mentioned below:

  • California State University-Long Beach
  • CUNY Brooklyn College
  • Indiana University-Bloomington
  • Oklahoma State University
  • Purdue University
  • University of Florida
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Washington

For more details, please read: Budget-Friendly Masters in the USA



Ashwini Jain

I am a career counselor, and a study abroad mentor.