Calculating College Costs

When calculating the annual cost of a USA education at a particular college or university, add at least $6,000 to the published cost of tuition, fees, and room and board. The College Board publishes college costs, required admissions tests, and other useful information in The International Student Handbook of USA Colleges.

When preparing a budget, you will need to account for the following costs:

  • Application fees average $50 to $75 per school.
  • Academic entrance examinations will cost you about $100 to $200 per examination, and most students take at least two tests. Assume that you will be spending at least $500 on tests.
  • Tuition and fees will cost between $5,000 and $30,000 per academic year (nine months), depending on the type and quality of institution.
  • Books and study materials will cost $500 to $1,000 per academic year.
  • Travel costs to the USA vary, but will be between $500 and $2,000. Travel costs within the USA will be between $300 and $700.
  • Room and Board will cost between $3,000 and $7,500 per academic year. Allow an extra $1,000 to $2,000 for vacation periods when the dormitory might be closed.
  • If you will be living off campus, the cost of renting an apartment will be between $300 and $600 a month, but could be substantially higher depending on the location of the school. Meals should cost about $2,500 a year, assuming that you do not eat in restaurants too frequently.
  • Clothing will cost $500 or more a year.
  • Health insurance will cost $300 to $500 a year for one person, $2,000 to $3,500 for a family.
  • Personal expenses will cost about $2,000 a year.

If you bring other family members with you, assume that your annual expenses will increase by about 15% or $5,000 for each additional family member.

If you intend to buy a car, assume that it will cost you about $4,000 a year.

If you will be traveling during the summer, assume a cost of $50 to $75 a day for tourist activities. If you will be continuing your education during the summer, add half the figure you calculated for the academic year.

Assume that your costs will increase by about 5% per year due to inflation. Don’t forget to include an allowance of about 10% to account for fluctuations in exchange rates.

Use the financial planning worksheet to estimate your costs for a year of study in the US. Be realistic when estimating costs for personal expenses.