Thinking About Your Finances

In this section you’ll find a general overview about all of the costs you will need to cover if you wish to study abroad. The total price will vary tremendously from country to country and even within countries. The tuition rate at public universities for students who are considered residents is much cheaper than for non-residents. If you are an international student, you will have to pay a much higher rate. Private (non-government funded) universities often charge the same rate for everyone, but they are much more expensive than public universities. The total amount you will have to pay each year can range from a few thousand dollars in Asia to tens of thousands of dollars in the West.

Quick Links:
What you need to pay for
What you are able to pay for
Finding other sources of money
Reducing your costs


What you need to pay for

Application costs:

Even applying to university and scholarships involves some costs. You will have to pay university application fees before sending your application and consider that sometimes universities require applicants to take an entrance written exam and/or to have an interview. In this case, you will have to travel to the university and stay there for one or two days and the university will neither cover your travel nor your accommodation costs there. Moreover, while searching for a university and a scholarship you will need to use Internet and make some phone calls as well. Finally, you’ll be required to attach a copy of your school documents in every application and you might need to pay to have an official English translation. Scholarship programs do not usually cover application costs.

Academic fees and tuition:

Generally cheaper at public universities, but it may be easier to get a scholarship at a private university. The tuition for each term or semester must be paid in full before classes begin. Academic fees are usually not easy to calculate, as they depend on the number of credits you take and involve many other side fees (such as air conditioning fees). Universities have registration deadlines by which you must pay your fees. You’ll be also required to pay registration and matriculation fees in addition to the first year tuition fees.

Books, materials, and uniform:

Books can cost several hundred dollars a year. You can keep costs down by buying some used books – at your university bookstore or other bookstores near the university. Most course books will also be on reserve in the library, so in some cases, you may want to just read the book or article in the library. Don’t forget you will also need to buy some other studying materials, such as pens, exercise books etc. Some universities will also require you to buy a uniform to wear in class. Some courses may require special equipment, such as cameras for photography courses.

Accommodation and living expenses:

If you live in a dorm (hostel) it will also come with a meal plan in the dining hall, so you don’t have to worry about cooking. However, you can often save money by renting a house or apartment with friends, sharing utilities, and phone and food costs. Note: housing costs are usually higher in cities than in rural areas. This is a wide area of costs that includes: rent, utilities costs, food and general supplies.

Travel:

First, you will have to travel from home to your university, and then you might need to travel from your house to go to classes every day, unless you live very close to university. If your classes require you to go somewhere to do research and assignments, remember that you will have to cover these travel costs as well.

Passport and visas:

As you are going to study abroad you will need to apply and pay for a passport and a visa to live and study in the country you’ve chosen.

Medical insurance:

Most universities require you to purchase medical insurance through the university’s hospital program. For an individual, the cost for a year will usually be a minimum of $700. For a family, it will be more. Medical insurance covers visits to the doctor, medicine, hospitalization and surgery. However it does not usually cover dental work, eye examinations, or eye glasses.

Miscellaneous:

You may need to buy a computer. Most professors will expect you to type your assignments on a computer and do research on the Internet. There will be computers you can use on campus, but sometimes it can be very crowded. You can probably buy a discounted computer at your university bookstore, or find a used computer through ads in the student newspaper or on bulletin boards around campus. Scholarships will not usually cover this. You will also need money for various personal needs. Note that the Student Support Service gathers information on this and can help you form a plan.


What you are able to pay for

As you’ve just seen, there is wide range of costs that need to be covered and you will probably have to combine money from several different sources including your savings, your income if you are working, scholarships if you get one, loans if you borrow money, and money from friends and family if they give you any. You will need to decide what things above you can pay for yourself and what you cannot pay. All of the things you cannot pay for, you must find other ways of paying.

If you don’t have any money now it is still possible to study, but you will have to arrange ways to get some money before you can study. Continue to read below.


Finding other sources of money

Fee waivers:

Some universities have special tuition fee waivers for students from Myanmar. Ask the Admissions and Financial offices at your university or check for fee waivers under the scholarship section of this website.

Full or part time work:

Sometimes working is possible. Generally student visas do not allow students to work legally. Still, many students will try to work part-time illegally. However, the money you can earn will only cover part of your expenses. Look on the bulletin boards around campuses if there are any offers for student jobs. Western countries may allow you to work a very limited number of hours on a student visa, but there may be harsh penalties for working more than this, including being forced to quit university and leave the country! Be careful and understand the law. In the West, teaching and research assistantships are available at some universities for graduate students who assist a teacher with specific tasks in exchange for financial assistance. Such assistantships are usually based on academic merit, or previous experience, background and training, not on financial need. Part-time work is usually tutoring (“providing tuition”) students who want extra help in particular subjects. Other part-time work is usually non-academic focused, such as working in a shop or doing manual labor. You must remember to balance work with your academic coursework—if you work too much and don’t study your marks will decrease and you may not get another scholarship.

Scholarships:

Colleges and universities accept money from scholarships, grants, loans, (and fellowships, although most are for graduate level students). Go to the website of the university in which you are interested and search for “financial aid”. You should be able to find out about scholarships and other financial assistance at that university. If you cannot access the web, call or write to the university’s financial aid office for information. Scholarships are also offered by some private organizations, foundations, international agencies, and government agencies. For more details, see the scholarships listed on this web site. To search for other scholarships online, use a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, or Wikipedia and type in the words “scholarships” and the name of the country you are interested in, such as, “scholarships Thailand”. You may also try other words including: “Myanmar”, “Burma”, your subject or major name, or the university where you want to study. First, have a look through this website because we have done much of the searching for you already.

Loans:

In many Western countries (Australia, Canada, US) citizens and eligible permanent residents (those with refugee status or asylum) can apply for low interest government-sponsored loans which are repaid in monthly installments after the student has graduated and begun working. Loans for international students are available from some commercial banks, but you must have approval from a school’s financial aid office and proof of the credit-worthiness of both the student and a co-borrower who must be a citizen or permanent resident. With interest, loans are expensive and should generally be a last resort for international students. In general, students should try to get ‘free’ money from scholarships, tuition fee waivers, and grants or even income from work before considering a loan.


Reducing your costs

To cut costs on books:
In Asia, you can buy used books or copied books or sections of books at a fraction of the cost of buying brand new books! You can find these in shops and market stalls near the university—ask other students where the best places to go are. In the West, you can buy used books at the campus bookstore or shops near campus but go early as the books will be sold quickly! Make sure of the version of the book that is needed by the class…if you buy the wrong version, it may not be updated with the correct text or assignments which will make it useless. You can also share books with your classmate or roommate. If you will only be reading a portion of the book, you can read it at the library, where it will be on reserve, instead of buying it.

To cut costs on computers, bikes, furniture, and household goods:

Look for signs on campus bulletin boards and in local papers for used goods for sale. If it is a computer or bike or electrical appliance, be sure to test it before buying it. Ask around for anyone who is graduating and who will not need things next semester.

To cut costs on housing:

Be sure to look around at all the options before you sign any contract. Generally, the farther away from campus you live, the cheaper the rent will be. Costs usually increase also for the amount of furniture that is included. Be sure to ask if the rent price includes the water, electric, Internet costs. You can either rent a room in a house or share an apartment with other students; most scholarships will only provide a minimum which may require you to share. You will improve your language skills and some “host” or “foster” families become your lifetime friends. You may even make a special arrangement to live with a family in exchange for teaching them a foreign language or for some other service such as teaching computer lessons. The Student Support Service can give you advice or may even be able to arrange this for you.

To cut costs on groceries:

Cook food for yourself – eating in restaurants, especially in the West, is very expensive. If you eat, go to the market. In the West, go to Asian markets – the prices are generally much cheaper. Supermarkets are often much more expensive.

For more tips on how to cut costs on accommodation, food, books, computers, and other expenses, see the Debt Free Guide at www.debtfreegrad.com.