The United States offers some of the best Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the world, but it also comes with potentially high living costs. If you have your heart set on studying abroad in the USA, you will need to have a good plan about how to cover these costs.
Keep reading to discover key estimates about student living and accommodation costs, funding opportunities, and money-saving tips you’ll need to cover if you wish to study a degree at an American university or college.
Living costs in the United States
Living costs in the USA vary a lot because of the vast territory of the country. In general, living in urban areas (in or near a big city) is more expensive than living in smaller towns or suburban areas. To give you a clearer picture of the general living costs of studying in the USA, we have included some estimates for the major regions of the country.
As a rule, locations in the Midwest region have lower living costs, while those in the East and North-East have the highest. Living costs can vary significantly depending on the following factors:
Accommodation on-campus or renting apartments outside the campus
Meal plans, personal grocery shopping or eating out
Travelling by public transport or by car
Amounts spent on entertainment
Personal spending habits
Having a part-time job or not
Click on the cities to find out more about the student life and living costs of studying there.
Boston (Massachusetts) and Miami (Florida): 1,500 – 3,000 USD/month
Atlanta (Georgia): 2,500 – 5,500 USD/month
Philadelphia (Pennsylvania): 500 – 3,500 USD/month
Washington D.C., and New York City: 5,000 – 9,000 USD/month
Los Angeles (California): 2,500 – 5,500 USD/month
San Francisco (California): 3,300 – 6,000 USD/month
San Diego (California): 2,300 – 8,200 USD/month
New Orleans (Louisiana): 1,300 – 8,000 USD/month
Seattle (Washington): 1,800 – 9,800 USD/month
Chicago (Illinois): 2,200 – 2,800 USD/month
Detroit (Michigan): 2,000 – 3,200 USD/month
Dallas (Texas) and Houston (Texas): 2,000 – 3,000 USD/month
For more exact yearly costs, you can always contact the university where you plan to study and ask for an estimate. They will be more than happy to help.
Accommodation costs in the USA
In the US, accommodation costs are just as varied as general living costs. The average apartment can start at 600 USD (one-bedroom apartments in more rural areas) and go up to 3,000 USD or more (1 bedroom apartment in Boston).
Renting outside campus in America might be less expensive than living on campus – 450 USD/month for shared rooms. But take into account the distance to the university and the fact that you might need to commute daily.
Average room and board costs at universities amount to:
5,900 USD/academic year at public four-year colleges
15,500 USD/academic year at private four-year colleges
Utility costs that come with accommodation
The price may not include the utilities, so you should check the contract before signing it. Here are some of the most common prices you will see for different utilities:
Electricity: 20 – 300 USD/month, depending on the size of your apartment, and if your heating is electric, the overall price may go up to 100 USD/month
Heating: 80 – 200 USD/month
Internet: 25 – 90 USD/month
Phone subscription: 90 USD/month
Water, sewer, and trash — the landlord usually covers them, but if you have to pay, those will cost 50 – 75 USD/three months
Food costs in the United States
For one person, groceries amount to 200 – 900 USD per month. This depends on your dietary habits and if some meals are included with your accommodation at the university. Look for some of the cheapest supermarkets — Walmart, Target, Costco, Trader Joe’s — to do your shopping.
If you live in residence halls, you could select the on-campus meal plans, for which you would have to pay around 290 USD/month.
Examples of prices in restaurants
In Bowling Green, restaurants have affordable prices: a pizza will cost around 9 USD, and you can get a coffee for 3.90 USD.
In Chicago, you can grab a meal for around 22 USD, while one beer in a bar is 8 USD.
International and American restaurants in San Francisco serve meals that cost around 35 USD.
Transportation in the USA
A monthly public transportation pass is between 45 and 100 USD (some universities have discounts for students, but not all). For instance, in Cincinnati, a metro fare card for students is 83 USD/semester. In Nashville, a monthly public transportation pass is 55 USD.
The biggest transportation expense will probably be flying from and to your home country. Be careful to add your airplane tickets to the overall budget, as this can have a great impact on your plans.
Try to factor in vacation trips to popular tourist destinations and weekend getaways in the US. Depending on your location and the destination, you can spend as much as 900 USD per trip.
Books and other study materials: 300 – 3,000 USD/ academic year
Health insurance: 300 – 3,100 USD
Try to also have a yearly budget for other personal or unexpected expenses. 2,000 USD is a good start. You can also use a free tool like the Student Budget Calculator to keep track of your finances.
Financial aid for international students in the USA
Most universities offer financial assistance to international students focusing primarily on merit and rarely on need. Scholarships are easier to get for graduate studies. Study fields that usually receive more generous funding include Engineering, Physical Sciences and Biological sciences.
All universities in the USA are required to include fees and a financial aid calculator on their websites. You can find this and other useful resources on the official government website. Look for scholarships, grants, assistantships, work-study plans or consider student loans. for top schools like Harvard University Schools, Yale University, Princeton University of Phoenix or applying for a scholarship. Apply for financial aid the same time you submit your university application.
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