Although the cost of living as a student in the United States can vary drastically between locations and institutions, it is possible to get a good idea of what you can expect your monthly expenses to be.
Tuition and Fees
You must first take into consideration the cost of tuition and fees for the institution you have chosen. A small, two-year college might cost $5,000 a year for an international student while a large metropolitan university could come with an annual price tag of $30,000.
Make sure that you know all of the institutional costs associated with your school before creating a personal budget. Books and materials—as well as student cards and parking passes where applicable—will also factor into your school-related fees. Check in advance with your school's office of international student affairs to find out about the fees that will apply to you.
Rural vs. Urban
As a rule of thumb, the more populated "urban" areas of the United States are pricier than those "rural" or sparsely populated areas. For example, an international student who is able to afford life in a small town in North Dakota could probably not survive on the same budget if he or she were living in New York City.
One way to estimate the cost of living for a particular U.S. region is to visit an online currency calculator (like http://www.xe.com/ucc/) that allows you to convert your expected yearly funds into American dollars. Then visit Sperling's Best Places at www.bestplaces.net and plug in your annual expendable income to find out how far those dollars will carry you in your chosen location.
After tuition and school-related fees, housing will be one of your biggest monthly expenses. In general, off-campus living is considerably less expensive than on-campus dorms and residence halls—especially if you choose to live with a roommate who will share expenses with you. Again, though, private rentals vary in cost from city to city depending how large the demand is for housing.
Try to secure housing that takes up no more than 20–25 percent of your budget. Then consider that you will need to pay utility bills and buy groceries. Avoiding eating out by keeping the kitchen stocked with food is one way that many college students in the United States are able to live economically.
Transportation will also be an expense that hinges on where you live in relation to your campus. Find out if you will be using public transportation, walking, or riding with a friend to class and factor the cost into your budget. Many students save money by walking or purchasing a secondhand bicycle to get around.