You may have heard that you shouldn’t worry about financing until you get accepted.
And, to some extent that’s true; the first hurdle is achieving that admit. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the financing side of the admissions process – you’ll need to face it at some point, and the earlier you begin, the better.
That’s especially true for international students who need to prove they have access to a minimum amount of funds to secure an international study visa.
What is the Cost of Attendance? Is it accurate?
Cost of Attendance (CoA) is the amount a university expects that you’ll pay to attain your degree from their institution.
Apart from tuition, fees, and other services provided and invoiced by the school, CoA is an estimate, the minimum the school believes you can live on.
While CoA includes living expenses, the school can’t factor in your personal preferences, and you’re likely to find that the CoA is more a jumping off point for developing your budget than it is an actual representation of your expenses.
Many students find they need more than the school-provided CoA to thrive during their studies. But, even if you believe you need less than the school-provided CoA, you’ll still need to have this amount available to apply for your visa.
How does CoA affect my visa applications?
Many universities do their best to attract international students to their programmes and do so knowing that they’ll need to work closely with the relevant immigration department in their country.
Your responsibility lies in the demonstration of the funds necessary to cover the school-provided CoA. And, in many cases, you won’t be able to apply for your visa without having first proved to the university that you can pay.
Fortunately, the schools and their international student offices have experience and are there to assist you through the process. Still, it never hurts to know what’s coming up before crunch time.
[Save a spot at our upcoming webinar, How to Fund Your International Graduate Degree!]
United States: I-20 forms and the F-1 study visa
Most international students to the United States enter on an F-1 visa. To obtain one, you’ll need to have an I-20 form in hand before you submit your application.
The I-20 form is a document issued by your university which details the CoA for an academic year and, perhaps more importantly, how you intend to meet these financial obligations.
While your university will automatically include any school-sponsored financial aid, such as scholarships, you’ll have to show proof of funds through loan letters, bank statements, or sponsorship and scholarship documentation before you can get your I-20.
The length of time it takes to secure an I-20 form from your school depends on their policies and how long it takes you to provide them with the proof.
United Kingdom: Tier 4 student visa
Students headed to the UK must show they can pay the school’s fees and tuition as well as a minimum of £1015 per month in living expenses, for at least nine months. But there’s an added stipulation: the money must be in the student’s account for at least 28 consecutive days within the 31 days before their visa application.
This money can be held in a certificate of deposit (CD), but the time limits still apply. The same goes for anyone else that may be responsible for you financially during your studies.
There is some good news, however. If you’ve already paid the university their tuition and fees, you’ll just need to have the monthly maintenance amount available in your account (the 28-day rule still applies). And, if you’ve secured an international study loan, proof of this loan is sufficient for immigration officials- up to the amount specified on the loan letter.
France: Visa de long séjour études
To study in France, you’ll still need to provide documentation from your university to immigration officials, but it won’t necessarily provide your full CoA. Instead, universities offer a complete statement of their expenses, such as tuition and required fees; living expenses are usually based on a national minimum of €615 per month for the duration of your studies.
Demonstrating funding begins when you complete the online application. You’ll be asked whether you are supporting yourself, if someone else will be responsible for you financially, or if there’s some combination of the two.
If you select self-support, you’ll need to show that you have access to any shortfall between financial aid (such as scholarships from the school) and loans. This money needs to be available and documented in advance as immigration won’t count any non-guaranteed employment in France as a means of support.
However, if someone else will also act as a sponsor, you’ll need to demonstrate they’re capable of meeting the minimum monthly amount for the duration of your stay.
Similar practices, with different minimum living expense amounts, are prevalent throughout the EU. And, student visa application processes in just about every country meet some combination of these practices.
For example, to secure your student pass to study in Singapore, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have 8400 SGD in living expenses as well as the tuition fees in your account at least one day before application.
Using international student loans to prove finances to immigration officials
Visa applications take time- and you certainly don’t want to leave them to the very last minute. To ensure you have everything in order, you’ll want to apply for loans earlier rather than later, even if you’re hoping to secure scholarships to assist with financing.
You may also want to consider a loan provider, like Prodigy Finance, that disburses your fees directly to your university. This alleviates the time restrictions imposed by some countries and ensures you have your loan letter in plenty of time.
Prodigy Finance also allows borrowers to reduce the size of their loans almost up until they arrive on campus, which is especially helpful for students waiting to hear back on a scholarship but needing to apply for their visas in a hurry.
Want to know more about Prodigy Finance? Learn more on their website.
Not sure how you’ll gather the funds to pay for your international education? Attend our upcoming webinar, How to Fund Your International Graduate Degree, presented by the experts from Prodigy Finance, to learn the steps you need to take to make your graduate dreams financially feasible. Reserve your spot and mark your calendars for Wednesday, October 24 at 10AM PT / 1PM ET. Register now!
Katie studied human rights and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Kent State University while working with NGOs in Geneva, Switzerland. Although she has since settled in South Africa, with work towards a Masters in Forced Migration through the University of the Witswatersrand, nothing stops her from being a proud American. Although writing is often solitary work, Katie has been part of the Prodigy Finance Team as the Content Specialist since 2013. She also loves rugby, sloppy Mexican food and Tudor history which means you could find her in any section of a bookstore.
* This blog post is sponsored by our friends at Prodigy Finance