The most popular destination for international students in the world, the USA is home to elite and globally-acknowledged universities. Over a million students across the globe travel to the USA to pursue higher education.

However, attending higher education in the US, especially in the Ivy League is extremely expensive. Tuition alone can cost up to a staggering $100,000 in total. Adding to that are other expenses like accommodation, transportation, and food. With the overall expenses, studying and living costs in the country can be overly challenging for an international student. It is advisable that before even planning your studies in the US, you should be well aware of the expenditures that you are expected to incur before and during your studies. So, here’s a rundown of expenses that every international student should know.

Cost of Studying in the United States

As mentioned above, the cost of studying in the US can be costly. While there are some variances between states and colleges, international students can expect to pay at least $10,000/year.

Here are some examples of tuition fees for international students in the USA:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 57,600 USD 57,600 USD
University of Portland 51,400 USD 15,900 USD
University of Chicago 61,200 USD 58,500 USD
Harvard University 52,000 USD 52,000 USD
University of San Francisco 53,000 USD 33,900 USD

To reduce the overall academic costs, international students are encouraged to apply for scholarships. Here are some of the scholarships offered by US institutions:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) MIT Scholarship (Bachelor’s)
Presidential Graduate Fellowship Program (Master’s, Ph.D.)
University of Chicago International Financial Aid (Bachelor’s)
Fellowships (Ph.D.)
Harvard University Financial Aid (Bachelor’s)
PhD Degree Funding (Ph.D.)
University of San Francisco Merit-Based Scholarships (Bachelor’s)
Need-Based Scholarships (Master’s)
Doctoral Fellowship for African Students (Ph.D.)

Cost of Living in the United States

1. Atlanta

One of the largest cities in the southern US, Atlanta has many museums and cultural centers. This is a good option for international students looking for affordability. The rent in Atlanta can cost less than $1,000 if you know where to look – a rarity in the US. While the average rent is around $1,700 in the city center, it is still relatively affordable compared to other US cities. As for utilities, it would cost around $180/month for water, electricity, and garbage bills. Childcare, which is a consideration for some students, usually costs above $1,100/month per child.

2. New York

Another city that is popular among international learners is New York City. The city is known for its tourist attractions such as the Statue of Liberty and Broadway. Though a popular study destination, students who want to study here should be well aware of the high spending costs in the city.

Rent in New York is perhaps the highest in the country, reaching to over $3,300/month for a small apartment. Even outside the city proper, prices rarely dip below $2,200/month. Groceries are also surprisingly expensive in the city – you can expect to spend nearly 500 dollars per month on groceries alone. While eating out is very popular in New York, it can also be quite costly. Even a regular cappuccino can cost nearly more than $5.

3. Washington D.C.

The capital of the United States, Washington D.C. is a hub of politics and business. Due to this fact, living in this place can also be costly. In fact, the capital is considered one of the most expensive cities in the world. Rent in Washington D.C. is expensive, especially for international students. An average one-bedroom apartment can cost over $2,200/month. Adding to that are the utility bills which can cost over 150 dollars per month. Even public transport can be expensive. For example, a monthly pass for public transport can cost over $100.

4. Portland

Portland, Oregon is regarded by many as one of the coolest cities in the US, with a thriving and eclectic music scene, this has easily become one of the top choices of international students. It is one of the best places in the country to explore the wilderness of America, as it is within walking distance of many great national parks.

While rent may not be as high as in other cities already mentioned, students can expect to pay between $1,300 to $1,700 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Internet access can cost up to $70 /month, while other utilities usually can go as high as $200+.

5. Austin

Austin is rapidly becoming one of the United States’ most important technology hubs. Some also compare the city to Portland, given its unique local culture. For international students, Austin is certainly an exciting city to live in.

Living in the city is still relatively affordable, at least when compared to other cities discussed. Rent can be as low as $1,100/month outside the city center. Within the city proper, rent averages around 2,000 dollars per month – about the average cost for major US cities. Transport is also much cheaper compared to other states, with a monthly pass for public options costing only around 40 dollars. Finally, students can eat at less costly restaurants, a mid-range meal would typically cost around $15.


Overall, while there are many fantastic universities in the United States to study at, the costs associated with studying and living at these universities can be a large barrier for many international students. When planning your studies in the US, aside from looking for universities, it is also imperative to be aware of the study and living costs where the school is located, whether one can afford it or not.


We hope this article gives you some insight into the challenges and opportunities that come with studying in the USA. To know more information on studying abroad, check out the Available Programs for International Students.

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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