Step by Step: Cheapest Ways to Study in the US |


Step by Step: Cheapest Ways to Study in the US

The United States is a world-class study destination for millions of international students around the world. Do you know why? It’s because of the flexible curriculum, high-quality institutions, and easy access to astonishing views like the Golden Gate Bridge, Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park, and lots more. Studying here is expensive but can be affordable if you know the cheapest ways to study in the US.


According to a report, students may spend an average of $99,000 for their degree. However, a US degree can be much cheaper than that if you know how to go about it and what to focus on. Here, we will focus on the things you can do and the cheapest ways to study in the US.

These include choosing the right institution, picking the appropriate program, and knowing when it’s best to apply for your student visa, among other things. Read on as we highlight the 10 steps to study in the US without spending too much. Let’s get started!

Steps to Study in the US for Cheap

1. Check the Education Requirements 

If you are not from a country with English as its official language, you’ll need to pass an English language proficiency test. Listed below are the common tests that most US higher institutions accept. Scroll down!

  1. Cambridge Assessment English (CAE).
  2. International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
  3. Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

Each university has a specific score that they expect you to achieve from CAE, IELTS, or TOEFL tests. For instance, Adelphi University demands a minimum English proficiency test score of 80 for TOEFL and 6.5 for IELTS. Meanwhile, you must pass this test.

Without passing the test, you cannot apply for a study visa. One of the criteria for a visa is to first secure admission from an accredited US institution and no admission without an English proficiency test. Furthermore, don’t forget to complete and submit your SAT and ACT exams too.


2. Research Affordable Universities in the US and Choose Your Program 

All universities in the US do not charge the same price for every program. Also, each of these universities has their fee structure. We have researched and compiled two institutions that offer affordable options to international students. They include California State University and Southeast Missouri State University.

i. California State University

California State University’s campuses have been ranked among the top 100 “Best Bang for the Buck” universities in the West, according to Washington Monthly. Financial aid options here include grants, loans, scholarships, and lots more. 

i. Southeast Missouri State University

Southeast Missouri State University offers students a high-quality education at a very cheap price. Here, high quality doesn’t equate to a very high cost. Interestingly, International students pay as low as US$15,590 every year to pursue a bachelor’s degree. 

Furthermore, you can choose from over 160 degree programs, as well as over 120 undergraduate majors. These degrees include accounting, computer science, dance, and many more. Note that tuition fees will differ greatly depending on the course.

Therefore, choosing a professional bachelor’s degree in law, medicine, and engineering is more expensive compared to business, language, or physical education majors. Some states in the US also charge less tuition fees for community colleges compared to four-year colleges or universities. These states include Nebraska, Kansas, and Arkansas where tuition fees are around $4,000.

Moreover, after you have obtained your associate’s degree from a community college, you can then transfer to a university, with credits to get a bachelor’s degree. This is one of the cheapest ways to study in the US as it saves you the cost of up to two years in a college/university.

3. Research Scholarships and Financial Aid Services

Fortunately, getting a scholarship to study in the US is not a difficult task so far you have a strong academic record. Some scholarships cover only your tuition fees, while others cover your living and traveling expenses. You should also reach out to graduates from the college/university to inquire about student life and admission requirements. Obtaining a scholarship is one of the cheapest ways to study in the US.

4. Find Out the University’s Admission Requirements 

Now that you’ve picked your course and narrowed down your preferred institutions. It’s time to check the admission requirements for the college/university. Meanwhile, listed below is a sample of the checklist to follow. Scroll down!

  1. Your high school transcript.
  2. English language proficiency test.
  3. SAT or ACT scores.
  4. Your proof of funds.
  5. As well as your statements or essays.
  6. Letter of recommendation.
  7. A copy of your passport.
  8. Application fees.

5. Apply to Universities 

You can complete your application process online through the school’s website. However, you should keep in mind the documents we mentioned in the sample checklist above. Most universities will ask for proof of funds for international students.

6. Apply for Scholarships 

One of the major things that sets up US schools is the various scholarship options. There are academic, athletic, artistic, service-based scholarships or need-based financial aids. Therefore, you should not limit yourself to scholarships offered by an institution alone.

You should look out for external scholarships as well such as the Karsh International Scholarship. However, before submitting your application, ensure you’ve prepared your documents. Such documents include the following.

  1. Your statement.
  2. Admission offer letter.
  3. English language proficiency test scores.

Remember to check the scholarship application deadline and eligibility requirements. Only trust information sourced from the scholarship provider’s website.

7. Apply for Your Student Visa 

After obtaining your admission offer letter, check for any information that:

  1. Directs you to accept the offer.
  2. Inform you on how to receive the I-20 form.
  3. Indicates your arrival date on campus for the beginning of classes. 

When applying for your student visa, look out for the F-1 student visa. Interestingly, this visa allows your friends or family to sponsor you to study at any US university/college. You can also work part-time on campus for up to 20 hours per week when your academic term is in session.

The I-20 form allows you to apply for this visa. After receiving your form I-20 from your college or university, you must complete the following four steps.

  1. Pay your SEVIS I-901 fee of $350 online (and keep your electronic SEVIS fee receipt).
  2. Apply for your non-immigrant visa (online DS-160 form).
  3. Schedule your visa interview at the US embassy or consulate.
  4. Complete the interview.

8. Find Out More About the City and Housing Options 

Where you choose to live will be determined by your preference. If you decide to live minutes away from classes, want to join many student clubs, and have your wifi, electricity, Internet, and lots more sorted out for you, then you should opt for on-campus housing.

However, if you prefer to be more independent, love to live with the locals, and be closer to the local town or city, then you should go for off-campus housing. Do you want cool and proper off-campus housing? Consider using websites such as Uniplaces, Nestpick, and AmberStudent.

Furthermore, an off-campus, one-bedroom apartment might cost you around $1,500 to $2,000 per month. You can check with your friends if you can live as roommates to make your rent cheaper.

9. Plan Your Travel

Your college or university will state your arrival dates on your documents. Therefore we recommend that you arrive early to familiarize yourself with the new environment. This could mean that you will have to pay more rent but to save money, try Couchsurfing or arriving closer to the start of term.

Apart from booking your plane ticket, pay attention to two dates. Immigration regulations require you to arrive in the US no more than 30 days before your program start date stated in your I-20 form. You must also arrive before your program start date listed on the same document.

In addition, when your resumption date is nearer, you should set up price alerts through Kayak or Google Flights to get good deals emailed to you. Once you arrive in the Land of Liberty, there are a few ways to travel from the airport. Scroll down!

  1. Airport shuttle pick-up service: Some universities may provide a free airport shuttle service from the airport to your accommodation.
  2. Trains.
  3. Busses.
  4. Taxi: They are much more expensive, but the stress of carrying your luggage around is canceled.
  5. Uber: A popular ride-sharing app that is cheaper than a taxi.

10. Set Your Budget 

Setting a budget helps you to deal with the rising cost of living and manage your expenses. As well as not overspend (spending within your means). On average, you must be prepared to spend $15,000 to $20,000 per year on housing, food, textbooks, travel, weather-appropriate clothing, and entertainment.

However, if you reside in a bigger city, your cost of living will be much higher. You may decide to search for work on campus to support yourself financially. When you are in the US, we have compiled some cheap stores to look out for. 

  1. Dollar General: To buy a great selection of food and snacks.
  2. TJ Maxx: For cheap brand-name clothing, shoes, and handbags.
  3. Big Lots: Get a range of items for your college or university student’s needs for cheap.


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