5 Unexpected College Costs International Students Must Prepare For

by | Jul 11, 2023 | Finance, Student Life

It’s a no-brainer – studying abroad is expensive. Tuition and housing, as expected, are likely to make up a huge chunk of your college costs. However, they’re far from being the only expenses you’ll have to worry about.

As an international student, it’s prudent to factor in all the costs that may come up during your time abroad. Doing so will help you plan accordingly to avoid financial difficulties.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some unexpected costs international students must prepare for:


Technology and Electronics

You’ll need to buy a laptop and a smartphone for your studies abroad, which you should factor into your college costs. These devices will help you to not only communicate with your family back home, but they’re also essential for researching and completing your assignments.

If you don’t have your own laptop, you can use the devices provided in your college’s computer lab. That said, the convenience of having your own devices cannot be overemphasized. Other than a laptop and a smartphone, you may also need other devices such as a TV for your dorm room, storage drives, power banks, and cables.


Student Club Memberships

To make the most of your studies abroad, it’s important to join student clubs and associations. Many international students are not aware that these clubs and associations charge joining fees -which also form part of your college costs.

Some student-run clubs may require members to pay monthly or semester dues. For instance, Greek life membership can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year.

Club and associations’ fees usually cover social events, insurance, branding, and dues to the national chapter and other operational expenses.


Transportation Costs

Most colleges and universities in the U.S require freshmen to live on-campus, which might help you minimize transportation expenses.

However, if you’ll be living off-campus, you will probably be commuting for your college classes. You may have to purchase a bus or rail transit pass. Some students may opt to buy a car – which comes with additional maintenance costs including insurance, parking, and fuel.  

As an international student, you also have to factor in airfare costs. You’ll need to purchase a flight ticket to your host country. You might also decide to fly back home during your semester breaks – which can be quite expensive. Don’t forget to include these college costs in your budget.


Books and Supplies

Books and other education-related supplies can make up a significant part of your college costs. A report by College Board found that full-time undergraduate students at a four-year university can spend as much as $1,240 per year on books and supplies. It’s therefore important to factor in the cost of books and other supplies in your student budget.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to cut down the cost of textbooks while studying abroad. For instance, digital versions of textbooks can be cheaper as they don’t require printing and shipping. You can also rent your textbooks, buy them second-hand, or borrow the required books from the library.


Health Insurance

Most colleges and universities in the U.S require international students to have health insurance. It’s strongly advised to obtain sufficient health coverage, even if your school does not make it mandatory. Healthcare costs can be particularly high in the United States.

The American healthcare system can be bewildering for many international students, with complex terms like co-pay, deductible, claims, in-network, and out-of-network. Fortunately, numerous colleges and universities in the U.S offer their own health insurance options.

They either require international students to enroll in these school-sponsored plans or allow students to waive the requirement by providing proof of their existing coverage.

Once you’ve been accepted into a university in the U.S, check whether the institution has a mandatory group health insurance plan. If it does, ask whether the cost is included in the tuition bills or you have to pay it separately. If the health insurance costs are too high, find out if you can qualify for a waiver.

If you opt to purchase health insurance on your own, be sure to compare offerings from different companies to get the best cover for your needs.


Health Services

Even with health insurance, you may have to pay for health services that aren’t included in your cover. For instance, you may have to pay for dental care out of pocket. These health services will also contribute to your college costs abroad. 

While some campuses offer free or low-cost health services, there may be fees for certain treatments, medications, or specialized care.

It’s important to factor in potential medical expenses, including routine check-ups, prescriptions, vaccinations, or counseling services.


Graduation Fees

As you get near the end of your study abroad journey, you have to start thinking about graduation expenses. These costs may include:

  • Graduation regalia (cap and gown)
  • Professional photos
  • Announcements and invitations
  • Graduation party or ceremony
  • Thank you cards or gifts

Potential travel or accommodations for family and friends attending the ceremony

To manage graduation expenses, consider creating a budget specifically for these college costs. You can also explore cost-saving measures, such as borrowing or renting graduation attire, opting for DIY invitations or decorations, or organizing a potluck-style celebration to share the expenses with friends and family.

Reach out to your college or university’s graduation office or student services department for information about specific graduation requirements and any available financial resources or assistance programs.


Final Word from 8B

In conclusion, college costs can extend far beyond tuition and basic living expenses. It’s crucial for international students to be aware of the potential unexpected costs that can arise throughout their college journey.

From textbooks and technology to housing, transportation, and healthcare, these additional costs can quickly accumulate and strain your budget.

To navigate these unexpected expenses, it’s important to plan ahead and budget accordingly. Researching and exploring financial aid options, scholarships, and part-time job opportunities can help alleviate the financial burden.

It’s advisable to prioritize your needs and make informed decisions when it comes to discretionary spending on activities, meals, and extracurricular involvement. 

By staying organized, tracking expenses, and seeking financial advice when needed, you can prepare yourself for the financial challenges that may arise during your study abroad journey.

If you’re looking for student loans to cover funding gaps, 8B is here for you. Apply for an affordable, no-cosigner student loan from 8B today.

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