How to Calculate the Cost of Studying Abroad as an African Student

by | May 3, 2022 | Finance

The cost of studying abroad is something you must consider if you desire to pursue your degree overseas.

Studying abroad is an attractive option for many African students. This is for good reason. Dozens of the top universities in the world are located outside the continent. From Harvard to Stanford, Oxford to Cambridge, there are a plethora of top-notch universities outside Africa that offer students exceptional academic and networking opportunities.

Besides accessing these opportunities, studying abroad as an African student has numerous benefits that include better job prospects and cultural exposure. 

But while it is an attractive option, studying abroad is not cheap. With total annual costs reaching up to $80,000 USD, universities in the West are among the most expensive in the world. 

To give you a clear picture, let’s explore the true cost of studying abroad.

Types of Study Abroad Expenses

Some of the key expenses that you need to keep in mind as you prepare to study abroad include the following: 

  • Tuition costs
  • Accommodation/Boarding costs
  • Visa costs
  • Flight and local transportation costs
  • Health insurance costs
  • Application fees
  • Testing and mailing fees
  • Miscellaneous expenses

Calculating Tuition Costs

Tuition costs constitute the bulk of the expenses that students have to spend while studying abroad. These costs are paid directly to the university to cater for the classes that the student is planning to take. 

Tuition costs vary depending on a few different factors. In the United States, for example, tuition costs tend to be higher in private universities compared to public universities. Harvard, a private university, charged $52,000 USD for undergraduate tuition in 2022 while University of Michigan, a public university, charged about $30,000 USD for the same. To view tuition costs for various universities in the United States, check out this net price calculator by the United States government. 

Tuition cost of studying abroad also vary by country. While universities in the United States tend to be quite expensive, those in the United Kingdom and Continental Europe tend to be cheaper. As an example, the annual tuition fees at the University of Edinburgh for international students are around 20,000 Euros (equal to about $21,000 USD. The fees at Ghent University in Belgium are even lower, at around 2,000 Euros for international students. 

With this in mind, it is up to you as a student to select a university that charges the amount of tuition that you feel is most affordable for you. 

Calculating Accommodation Cost of Studying Abroad

The second most important expense after tuition costs is the accommodation or boarding costs. This is simply the amount of money that you have to pay for the apartment or hostel that you are going to live in while you pursue your studies. 

The cost of accommodation varies depending on whether you are paying for a room provided by the university or whether you are renting a place outside the university. In general, universities allow students to choose whether they want to live in university hostels or whether they want to make their own accommodation arrangements. However, if you are a new student joining an undergraduate degree programme, some universities may require you to stay in a university residence for at least one year. 

In Harvard, for example, the cost of a room for one year is $12,000 USD. In addition to this, the majority of students sign up for a meal plan (board) that costs about 7,000 USD. In total, the costs of room and board at Harvard comes to around $20,000 USD. If you opt to rent a place in Boston (where Harvard is), the rental costs will range from $1000 to $4000 USD per month depending on the type of apartment you choose and its location. 

When calculating the costs of accommodation, you should take your time to research and compare the costs of paying for a university room versus renting one off-campus, the presence or absence of meal plans, and the commuting expenses in case you decide to rent a place on your own. 

Calculating Visa Costs

As an international student, you will be required to obtain a student visa to study in a foreign country. The amount you pay for a student visa depends on the country that you are going to. If you are planning to pursue your studies in the United States, you will be expected to pay $160 USD for your F-1 student visa. A student visa to the United Kingdom is twice as expensive, at around 360 British pounds. If you are going to a European country such as Belgium you can expect to pay around 200 Euros for the student visa. 

Calculating Flight and Transportation Costs

Once you have obtained your student visa, you will need to travel to the country where your university is located. For this, you will often need to purchase an airline ticket. The cost will depend on how far you are going and how well your country is served by major airlines. For example, if you are from Kenya and are planning to pursue your studies in the United Kingdom, the cost of one-way flight is about $500 USD. 

Besides the flight expenses, you must factor in local transportation costs once you arrive at your destination. You will most likely need to take a taxi or train from the airport. In addition, once you start your studies, you will most likely need to commute around. While these may seem like minor expenses, it is important to budget for them because they are recurring and can add up to a substantial amount. 

Calculating Health Insurance Cost of Studying Abroad

As an international student in a foreign country, you will need to have health insurance for the duration of your studies. In the United States, most universities will typically require international students to sign up for health insurance with a partner provider. The costs for this can vary depending on the university. In the University of Berkeley, for instance, students pay around $2,800 USD per year for health insurance. 

In the United Kingdom, international students have to pay 470 British pounds per year for the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS). In European countries such as Belgium, all students are required to have an insurance cover that amounts to about 100 Euros per year. 

Calculating Application Fees

This is the amount of money that you will need to spend on sending your applications to the universities that you want to attend. In general, most universities require students to pay an application fee or request an application fee waiver before their applications can be considered. 

The application fees vary depending on the university. If you are sending an undergraduate application to Yale University, for instance, you are required to pay $80 USD as the application fee. Students who are applying to universities in the United Kingdom via the UCAS platform are required to pay 22 British pounds for a single choice and 26 pounds for more than one choice. 

Calculating Testing and Mailing Fees

Some universities require you to take extra tests to demonstrate your competence in certain areas. For example, if you are applying for undergraduate programs in the United States, you may be required to take English proficiency and other standardized tests. The SAT exam costs 55 USD and the TOEFL exam costs about $200 USD. Sending your scores to particular institutions may also cost you additional money, with the SAT costing $12 USD for every school you send to. 

It is up to you to find out which particular exams you are required to take by the university that you are interested in and how much those exams cost. To save you costs, try also to find out whether some of these exams can be waived. For instance, if you have been studying at a school where English is the primary medium of instruction, you may be exempted from taking the English proficiency tests. 

Calculating Miscellaneous Expenses

While not as critical as the other expenses specified above, it is important for international students to have a small amount of funds they can use for miscellaneous expenses. These can include unexpected costs that arise when travelling, groceries shopping, student trips, etc. These will typically depend on the student and they can range from anything between $1000 to $4000 USD or more every year. Unless you have a large amount of discretionary funds, it is generally advisable to keep miscellaneous expenses low as an international student. 

Total Cost of Studying Abroad

Once you have factored all the expenses we have listed above, you now have an estimate of the total costs of studying abroad. As we have mentioned, the final cost will depend on the university you choose, its location, and your personal spending habits.

While the total costs can run up to $80,000 USD, African students should keep in mind that there are several ways to reduce these costs. There are dozens of internal and external scholarships that students can apply for to defray their expenses. 

8B provides a robust scholarship database that students can use to identify the scholarships they are best qualified for. We also provide the best lending marketplace for loans, where we connect you to lenders who can provide you with loans to pay for your international education. 

If you want to learn more about loans for studying abroad as an African student, get in touch with us today.

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