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Finance 101 for International Students

Jim Hughes - March 25, 2021

Cost of Attendance (CoA)

New international students are often having to face a lot of “firsts” in life. Moving out of home, and living on your own or with a roommate, has some mental challenges. 

It’s also really difficult to have to budget for your living expenses and education in a different country. Paying the bills, and even making your own money to get by. There’s also the whole area of student finance and loans to get your head around.

In this guide, we’ll explore options to help you to manage your finances while studying abroad. 

Don’t let finances stop you from studying abroad

Financial literacy lessons should start long before students actually go to university. It’s important to consider finances when shortlisting schools.

You’ll also need to think about finding accommodation on or close to the university - this can help cut your costs hugely.

Although you can save thousands of dollars by going to a more affordable university, don’t let money be the reason you don’t attend your first-choice programme at the best school for you. After all, studying abroad is an investment in your future career.

To help you get financially prepared for your masters abroad, take a look at these funding options and how you can access them:


Scholarships

Another part of planning should be understanding and applying for scholarships.

Scholarships can be used to cover your tuition, living expenses associated with your studies, or both. It’s different from a loan, as it does not need to be repaid, as long as the scholarship’s requirements are met - such as maintaining excellent test scores.

Scholarships are awarded based on:

  • Merit - this could be academic, athletic ability, or creativity
  • Financial need
  • Topic of study or research area - such as STEM scholarships
  • Qualities such as leadership or public service
  • Gender or minority groups - including scholarships for women

There are many other types of scholarships that you can research and apply for.

However, a scholarship might not be a long-term solution, especially if it isn’t a full scholarship. Without a full scholarship, you will still have to pay for your living arrangements and more while you study.


Student loans

A lot of students have to get their heads around borrowing money for the first time. In fact, at college, it’s almost essential that you borrow money through student loans unless you are very lucky and have someone funding your studies.

This means that students need to understand how loans work - including interest rates, repayments, and other loan conditions. Interest rates dictate how much is paid back on top of the loan itself. A student loan will have some form of interest, but depending on the arrangement of the loan this might be a long time in the future, or when you are earning a certain amount.

Credit cards for students are another method of borrowing. While this is a suitable short term option, keeping debt on credit cards can be expensive.

Therefore, students should look for specific student funding, such as student loans, that defer payments to a later date - hopefully when money isn’t so tight. For instance, Prodigy Finance offers a 6-month grace period, meaning full-time students don’t make repayments until 6-months after classes end. This gives students the opportunity to concentrate on their studies without having to worry about finances.


Budgeting

There are a few problems students often have with budgeting. One of these is making money stretch over the time required. If a large sum of money from a loan gets issued into their bank account, some students will spend this quickly and find there is no money left towards the end of the academic year.

To budget, a student needs to work out how much money they have to last them the year and break this down into a weekly budget. Every expense needs to come out of this budget unless they are topping it up with an income (more on this later).

Understand expenses

This is an important lesson for anyone living independently for the first time. Ask yourself: “What do I need to pay for?”

Some college accommodation might make it simple, so there may just be a weekly or monthly fee. Other living spaces require expenses such as internet bills, and other recurring monthly payments.

On top of these expenses, a budget needs to be drawn up for food, and for learning materials that are needed by students. This is not always easy to start with, as a lot of students don’t know what food and drink is going to cost, or how much they’ll need to pay for the inevitable student social life. Prioritising what to spend money on isn’t much fun, but it is essential for students.

Making money

To take some of the financial strain off of university, a lot of people opt to earn some extra money with a job. Students find they have some time on evenings and weekends to do a job. Your first job can often be something that stays with you for the rest of your life. It can teach a lot of lessons about financial planning, including how to overcome financial challenges through work.

How to start a business on a budget for students

There’s no reason why you can’t make money through self-employment while you’re a student. The internet has made this easier than ever.

There are so many business ideas out there - hundreds that may be possible in your spare time. We’ve listed just some of the ideas below:

  • Offering tuition to younger students.
  • Reselling books and other second-hand items.
  • Making things to sell on creative marketplaces like Etsy.
  • Offering your skills on a service marketplace or freelancer website.
  • Use the skills you’re learning at university. You can offer your services on a freelance basis.
  • Start a website or YouTube channel. These take a lot of patience but can be a source of income.
  • Apply for internships. 

Getting off to a good start in your adult life is usually best achieved by learning about money from a young age. Students need to understand the ins and outs of money, bills, interest, and more before they go to live on their own and be in charge of their own money. 

The lessons aren’t always easy, but failing to deal with finances well can lead to long-term financial issues, so it’s worth taking the time to instil good habits from the start.


Jim Hughes is a content marketer who has significant experience covering technology, finance, economics, and business topics. He currently works as a content manager at OpenCashAdvance.com


Need a loan for your masters abroad?

Prodigy Finance can help you with that. We provide student loans for an international masters education.

Prodigy Finance Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. 


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