It is really common for international students to underestimate the true cost of going to college in the US. You soon realize that the money you’ve been budgeting for tuition does not include the cost of books, housing, food, and travel expenses, let alone funds to go out with your friends. So, as an international student, what are some of your options to cover the high cost of pursuing the American dream?
Get an On-Campus Job. As you probably already know, this is the easiest way for international students to find work, since your F1 visa automatically authorizes you to work on campus. Even though these jobs usually only pay minimum wage, they have flexible scheduling, don’t require a commute, and give you a chance to get involved with your school in a unique way.
We both held positions at Campus Security for long enough to be considered veterans, and even though we won’t ever work for $7.25 an hour again, it was an easy job that covered most of our extra expenses in about 15 hours a week. If you speak a foreign language, most schools will also have tutoring centers where you can get paid to help students with their Spanish, German, French or *insert other foreign language here* homework.
Get an Off-Campus Job. If you’ve been a student for over a year, you may qualify for CPT where you can work or intern at a company in your industry of study and get paid legally. This may be the more challenging route, but comes with the added bonus of gaining real-world career experience. For more info on CPT, click here.
Apply for Scholarships. There are two different types of scholarships for students that are already enrolled in school: scholarships granted by your university and scholarships granted by third parties or organization. All colleges have certain scholarships that they give out to students every year. Most of them are by academic program and you can usually find more information about them by asking your advisor or program director, or just looking on your school’s website. (Alessandra got about $7,000 one year through a school scholarship).
There are several organizations that aggregate different scholarships available to international students. For more information, click here. Most of them are specific to a major or program. If your major is very specific (we were both Music Business majors), the best way to find scholarships that you’re qualified for is by learnings about all the different trade organizations in your industry and do some research on their website and/or follow them on social media. Alessandra got an extra $3000 one semester by doing this, while Emilie (because she’s smarter) got about $10,000.
Take Classes From A Cheaper School. Yes, this is actually a legit option that does not affect your status (if you follow your school’s guidelines). As long as you maintain full-time status at your current school, you can enroll in additional classes at a community or online college for a lot less money.
Whether you choose to do this during the summer or during a semester in addition to your full-time load, this is a great money saver (Emilie saved over $15,000 taking classes online during the semester).
Your school probably has a limit on the number of times you can do this (for us we could only take 19 credit hours elsewhere), so check with your advisor if you’re not sure. Also MAKE SURE that your school will count the class towards your degree before enrolling (check with the Registrar’s office).
Moral of the story – there are options to make up for the crazy expensive cost of attending college in the US, but you have to be willing to work harder than all of your American friends and spend less hours partying and having fun. If you’re superhuman like Emilie, however, you can find plenty of time to do both. (We were both overachievers in school, but it paid off).