What is the total cost of studying abroad?

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The cost of studying abroad in the U.S. goes beyond flight tickets and program fees. Once arriving here, you’ll have additional student living costs to consider.

The United States offers some of the most highly-rated high schools and colleges in the world, attracting students from all over to experience American education and lifestyle.

The U.S. also has some of the most exciting attractions on the planet. National wonders like the Grand Canyon let you stand 6,000 feet (1,800m) above a rushing river. There are more thrilling theme parks than you can count, and some amazing beaches that will leave you breathless.

There will never be a shortage of memorable experiences to be had in the USA, so it’s important to plan for your costs. This is where we come in. In this article, we will provide estimates for student living costs and advice on how to prepare financially.

How Much Do Foreign Exchange Programs Cost?

Foreign exchange student costs vary greatly depending on your location, college, and length of study. Costs range from $12,000 - $65,000 per year.

Average annual fees for U.S. high schools and universities for 2017-18 were:

  • Public high school - $11,500
  • Private high school - $19,865
  • Public college - $25,620
  • Private college - $34,740

While these figures provide a helpful overview, it’s worth remembering that costs can vary greatly, as we mentioned above.


To support the cost of studying abroad in the U.S. a wide range of scholarships are available for international students. It’s actually quite rare for students to pay the full tuition amount, as 84% of full-time undergraduate students receive some sort of financial aid.

International students graduating

Scholarships for international students will be different for individual schools. Once you have a ‘wish list’ of colleges, check their websites for funding information. If you are already in the process of applying for colleges you should ideally submit your financial aid application at the same time.

Top Universities have a list of ‘International Scholarships to Study in the U.S.’. It includes scholarship opportunities for students from all over the world, university-specific scholarships, and both governmental and non-governmental scholarships.

Outside of tuition fees, a major cost to consider will be your accommodation, and again this varies depending on location and accommodation type.

Living with a host family is the most immersive way to fully experience U.S. culture while studying here. You have the opportunity to build lifelong friendships, improve your English, and live with an American family.

Host family at baseball game

Your accommodation can impact your overall experience, therefore choosing a homestay provider that has your best interest at heart is important.

At AmeriStudent we provide a comprehensive homestay service that’s dedicated to providing a positive experience for our students. We’ve helped thousands of students find their home away from home with our all-inclusive program, which includes:

  • School selection
  • Admission and I-20 support
  • Airport pickup
  • Orientation
  • Guardianship
  • Emergency and routine support with monthly reporting
  • Medical and liability insurance coverage
  • Financial services for tuition
  • Homestay placement and payments

What Additional Foreign Exchange Student Costs Should I Consider?

To make the most out of your time in the U.S. it will be important for you to be financially responsible while you’re here. Compared to what you may currently spend in a month at home, going on a student exchange may require a larger budget.

Female exchange student working on laptp

Try to establish a monthly budget which covers the cost of necessary items (cell phone bills, books, transportation, toiletries, etc), as well as money to be used for shopping, hanging out with friends, and those awesome side trips to exciting places.

It’s quite likely with up to a year in the United States, that you’ll want to go out more than while at home.

Living Costs

As you may imagine at this point, living costs vary depending on where you choose to live. In general, living in or near big cities is more expensive than smaller towns.

Below we have gathered some general living costs for major regions of the country:

 

Location Average Monthly Living Costs ($)
Boston & Miami 1,500 - 2,000
Atlanta 1,200 - 2,000
Washington DC & New York City 1,700 - 2,500
Los Angeles 1,500 - 2,500
San Francisco 1,800 - 3,000
San Diego 1,400 - 2,400
Seattle 1,500 - 2,000
Chicago 1,300 - 2,300
Dallas 1,000 - 2,000

 

Food Costs

Groceries for a single person will cost around $400 - $600 per month, depending on your dietary requirements and if meals will be included with your homestay and university. With our homestay services here at AmeriStudent we offer daily meals in most cases.

When shopping, look for the cheaper supermarkets, like Wal-Mart, Target, or Costco. And if you’re eating out, expect meals to costs between $7 - $20.

Transportation Costs

You can get your hands on a public transportation monthly pass for $45 - $100.

If you are using AmeriStudent homestay services for high school, we include transportation in most of our packages.

The biggest transportation cost you will probably incur are the flights to and from your home country. Remember to plan this into your overall budget.

Also, try to make a plan for vacations, trips, or weekend getaways. It’s easy to spend as much as $500 depending on where you go and for how long.

Foreign exchange students overlooking canyon

You can use this student budget calculator to help you create your new budget.

Our Advice for Foreign Exchange Students

Your host parents will provide you with some meals and (of course) pay the bills to keep the house running. However, host parents are not to pay for all the things that you need. If you make a solid budget, you will be able to get the most out of your experience and develop greater independence in the process.

Plan for Excursions

If your host family takes you out for a meal, typically they cover the costs, as providing you with meals is something they agreed to. Though, it’s always worth asking questions at the beginning.

If your family offers you to join them on a trip to somewhere like Disneyland, you will likely be expected to pay. You may also want to go on trips with your school or friends. With so many awesome places to go and visit, you‘ll want to see and experience as much as possible.

Female exchange student canoeing

A two week trip in the U.S. could cost up to $1,200. When you’re planning your budget, list the places you want to visit, and research costs such as transportation, entry fees, accommodation, and meals.

Stick to Your Budget

While you’re living and studying in the U.S. you can have a lot of fun, but you don’t want to run out of funds before your exchange program finishes.

Budgeting can feel like a tedious task, but it can help you towards greater independence. And if you can stick to your budget, and not run out of money, you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience.

Prepare for Emergencies

Make a plan for unexpected situations and emergencies. You should carry an emergency fund in US dollars. This is the money you’ll use to cover medical expenses (insurance usually reimburses for this), repairs to laptop, or other unforeseen scenarios.

It’s also a good idea to bring some funds with you to set up a bank account. This is something that your host parents should be able to help you with.

Our Final Words

Choosing to live and study in the U.S. can be a life changing experience, from making new friends and immersing with an American family, to experiencing a whole new culture.

As you’ve seen in this article, costs vary throughout the United States. While planning your exchange program, researching some of the costs we have mentioned here for your chosen location will help you prepare your budget.

Having (and keeping) a budget will help you to plan out your stay here, and ensure you can experience everything on your ‘wish list’.

Ameristudent is here to support you on every step of your journey. If you have any questions about budgeting, finding a host family, or life in the U.S., fill out our form and a member of our team will get back to you with an answer.

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