Show me the money!

By StudyLink

Working out where in the world you want to study is exciting. But working out how you can pay for it is often much harder work. In this article, we look at the different ways you can finance your international education – and top tips for working out your study budget.

First of all, be realistic. There is no such thing as free study abroad. Even if you are smart – and lucky – enough to win a university scholarship, it will probably only cover your tuition fees and (maybe) accommodation. Beyond that, you also have to allow for your return travel, food, books, health insurance, bills, phone calls, clothes, and entertainment.

Most international students use a combination of sources to pay for their education. These include:

A scholarship – this can come from your own country or the hosting country, it could be a private foundation scholarship or awarded by the university. You will need to prove your academic results, and also your motivation and commitment to study, to be eligible. There are no guaranteed scholarships, and they are very competitive.

A bursary or grant – these are like scholarships, but usually awarded to students who can also demonstrate financial need.

Family and friends – if your family can help you with the cost of your education, then this is one of the best ways to finance your dream.

A student loan – although they usually offer deferred repayment or better interest rates, this still leaves you with a debt at the end of your degree.

Your own savings – you may be able to work after school for a few years, and then apply for further study overseas.

Sponsorship – if you are already working, your employer may agree to help you with postgraduate study fees.

Step one: add it all up

To get started, use an online budgeting tool to help you work out exactly how much money you will need, and where you can get it from. This student calculator is very useful for working out how to fund your degree in the UK – but it may also work for other countries too. Remember to convert the currency, to get a realistic picture of how much you need!

Work this out before you make your application – there’s no point in wasting time and money on university application fees if you really can’t get there (yet).

Step two: Research your options

It’s easiest to start with your friends and family. Explain to them exactly what you hope to achieve with this degree, and how you can boost your career prospects when you graduate. Education is a very good investment – research shows that college graduates have nearly double the earning power of workers who don’t complete university.

But you can’t always expect them to fully fund your dreams. Check if the university you want to apply to offers any financial aid or scholarships. Every little bit helps – so even if they offer a small grant it’s worth applying for. Check with your local Ministry of Education as well. You can also look at a database of scholarships, to see which (if any) you might be eligible for.

Still need more money? The education department or consulate of your destination country, such as the British Council, can also advise you on the types of student loans available. It’s best to organise this in your home country. If you take out a loan in the US, for example, you will need to find a US resident willing to guarantee it on your behalf – and that’s not always easy.

Step three: avoid scholarship scams

While you’re looking into all these options, don’t be fooled by promises of ‘guaranteed’ scholarships from ‘official’ companies. There are some fraudulent organisations out there who will take your application fee and run. You should never have to pay in advance to apply for a scholarship.

Step four: allow enough time

Now that you know your study plans are affordable, you can finally apply for your course. This means you need to start thinking about finances at least 18 months before you hope to start studying.

You’ll need proof of funds to apply for your visa, so make sure you keep written sponsorship agreements, loan documents and bank account statements.

Step five: stretch your budget further

Find out ways to save money as a student, before you get to your new campus. There is so much to learn in a new country, and it will take you some time to work out exchange rates and bank accounts. So be prepared.

Here are some top student saver tips from current students:

  • Pay your tuition fees upfront if they offer a discount
  • Apply for a student discount card (such as the NUS card in the UK) so you can save money on travel, shopping and entertainment
  • Take advantage of cheaper transport fares for students, or weekly tickets if you commute regularly to your campus
  • Set up online banking so you can easily control your finances from your new country. Watch out for expensive money transfer fees
  • Use international phone cards to call home – or get skype on your computer for free calls anywhere in the world

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