An international degree or post-graduate study is a good investment in your future career. But it can also be expensive and you need to organise your finances well in advance to ensure your visa application is approved.
Remember as well as tuition fees, you need to take into account the cost of living. This varies widely between countries and cities. As a rough guide, the annual cost of living in the USA ranges between US$12,000 and US$30,000. In the UK this figure is between £6,000 and £8,000 for a 9 month academic year. In Australia, expect to spend between AU$12,000 to AU$18,000 per year on living expenses.
These expenses cover accommodation, transport, food, utilities and books. You will also need to allow for your return airfare, personal travel during holidays, health insurance, entertainment/social expenses and clothing.
Plan early to ensure your funds are readily available in time for your visa application. For example, Indian students applying for an Australian student visa must show funds are in their bank account for three months prior to applying for a visa.
It is also worth checking whether your institution offers a discount for full tuition fee payment in advance – this can offer a substantial saving in the long term.
You should have a general plan of how you will fund your study before applying for courses and writing a budget is always a good idea.
Family and sponsors
Many students can use personal funds to pay for at least part of their tuition. If you have a sponsor, you may need to show proof of the total amount they are funding for your visa application.
International students can apply for scholarships offered by their own government, the government of the country they will study in, the institution they will study with, or various organisations (such as Rotary).
Most scholarships are only available for postgraduate study; they are limited and extremely competitive. You need to apply well in advance of your planned study, as some can take up to a year to approve. Be smart and apply now.
Australian Development Scholarships are available for students from certain countries, including Bangladesh, China, Indonesia and Kenya. The Endeavour programme offers scholarships to high achieving students and researchers, and the Australian Leadership Award offers assistance to students from the Asia-Pacific region.
University scholarships, for example ANU offer a range of undergraduate and PhD scholarships and merit awards with one-off payments ranging from AU$1000 to AU$10,000. You can find out more on your chosen institution website.
If you are planning on taking a PhD, it is worth considering New Zealand as international PhD students pay the same fees as local students. New Zealand’s tuition fees are generally very affordable, and universities such as the University of Canterbury also offer doctoral and masters scholarships.
In addition, the NZ government offers Undergraduate Degree Scholarships (NZUIFS) and Development Scholarships (NZDS).
The British Chevening Scholarships and Fellowships are prestigious postgraduate awards. 2000 are awarded each year to students from 150 countries, and vary from full tuition and a living allowance to partial fee payments. The Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP) is available to postgraduate students from Commonwealth countries. The Overseas Research Student Awards Scheme (ORSAS) is a one year part-fee payment plan for postgraduate students.
Most institutions offer some form of scholarship as well. For example, the Swansea University in Wales offers a number of scholarships for non-EU residents, providing a first year fee discount of £1000.
The University of Reading is part of the prestigious Felix Scholarship award. Sakthivel Vaiyapuri, a recent Felix scholar from Tamilnadu in southern India, was able to pursue his PhD in biotechnology through the scheme.
Only about 20% of international students are able to finance their study through some form of financial aid, as most grants and scholarships are designed for US citizens. The Fulbright Program is a prestigious award for postgraduate and PhD scholars. There are a large number of smaller awards, with payments ranging from US$1000 to US$16,000.
The University of Cincinnati offers a unique co-op program for international students, where they can alternate a quarter of classroom study with a quarter of paid work in their fields. They also have a Global Scholarship which contributes US$2000-7000 per year towards tuition fees.
Hult International Business School offers a scholarship for its MBA programme, as well as an internship programme which can help offset living expenses.
Remember, all scholarships are awarded on the basis of past performance and competition is tough. Most scholarships are not designed to cover all your tuition fees and living expenses, although they certainly can help.
Many international students to the USA will rely on some form of a student loan. Private loans are available to international students with a US (green-card holding) co-sponsor. Repayment can be deferred during your studies.
You may also be able to get a student loan in your own country for studying overseas.
You cannot rely on part-time work during your degree to finance your studies. However, it can help supplement your cost of living. Visa restrictions vary between countries – generally students can work up to 20 hours per week, but in the US they are restricted to on-campus work.
It is also worth checking if your institution offers an internship program. These will often be with local companies, relevant to your study, and can enhance you career prospects when you graduate.
There are many options available to international students for help with financing their study, but you need to plan ahead. You will probably find a combination of some, or all, of these options will allow you to pursue your ambitions.
Remember, a StudyLink counsellor can give you more specific advice for your preferred courses.
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