When it comes to choosing a study abroad destination, most students’ consider three countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. These three countries consistently rank as top locations for international students studying abroad… and for good reason! They are home to a number of the world’s best universities and offer an enormous range of choices, from small liberal arts colleges to the hallowed halls of the Ivy League. Of course, when you consider studying abroad, you also have to think about how much it will cost to move to a different country for three or four years in addition to paying your tuition costs. It can be overwhelming and many students have no idea where to begin with making this life-changing decision. SchoolApply can help you select a country that is home to a university that is right for you and your budget. Based on your preferences and budget, we can support you in selecting a program in the US, UK, or Canada.

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Note that the following amounts are in US dollars and represent the average cost per year.

When you’re thinking about where you want to study and how much it will cost you, the cost of tuition, the cost of living, and future salary are all financial aspects you should consider. 

Cost of tuition 

The cost of tuition is one of the most important factors that international students consider when choosing a destination to study abroad. The difference between public and private university tuition fees can vary significantly, and in some countries, the cost of tuition can be fairly high. When it comes to global standards, the US has a reputation of having the highest average cost of tuition. Tuition in the US averages $24,000 a year, but it can easily go up to $50,000 per year. In the UK, the average tuition is slightly lower at just under $18,000. But if you really want a good deal, you'll need to head to Canada where the average annual cost of tuition is just over $10,000.

  • US average tuition per year: $24,000
  • UK average tuition per year: $17,860
  • Canada average tuition per year: $10,730

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Cost of living

After considering the cost of your undergraduate and/or graduate tuition, the next factor to consider is the cost of living. The cost of living varies from country to country, and largely from city to city. But on the whole, calculating the average cost of living by country gives you a glimpse into how expensive it might be to live and study abroad. For instance, in the UK you'll need almost $20,000 a year to live abroad. In the US, that cost runs just under $15,000 per year – a pretty noticeable difference. But if you really want to save your cash while living abroad, you'll get the most bang for your buck in Canada. The cost of living in Canada for students averages $9,000 per year, although it can be as low as $7,550 or go up to over $11,000.

  • UK average cost of living per year: $19,490
  • US average cost of living per year: $14,651
  • Canada average cost of living per year: $7,550 - $11,300

Salary after graduation

Finally, you shouldn't overlook the average salary you can expect when you start your career after graduation. And while individual schools, along with the type of degree, can cause your post-graduation salary range to differ, some countries offer an overall higher average starting salary for new grads. Take the UK, where even though the cost of living and the cost of tuition is fairly high, the average starting salary hovers around $37,000 per year. Canada fares better with a post-graduation annual salary of almost $40,000. And, to compensate for higher tuition costs and costs of living, at $50,000 the US offers a much higher annual salary for new grads starting their careers.

  • US average annual salary after graduation: $50,556
  • Canada average annual salary after graduation: $40,108
  • UK average annual salary after graduation: $37,278
Country Cost National Marketing Strategy Path to Immigration Work Permits
US Button Flag Icon Highest No No

On-campus work for up to 20 hrs/week: 12 months total curricular practical training(CPT) during the study.

Post-study: 12 months optional practical training(OPT); STEM majors can extend the period to 36 months

Canada Button Flag Icon High

Yes

Int’l Education Strategy

Yes

Extra points for immigration applicants with Canadian credentials

Work Permit not required: during the study for up to 20 hrs/week

Post-Study work-permit: for up to 3 years

UK Button Flag Icon High

Yes

Int’l Education: Global Growth Prosperity

No

20 hrs/week: if you are in a degree programme or above at a higher education institution

Post-study work permit: In the process of being reinstated.

Doctorate graduates: get one-year extension

Studying abroad in the US

Now that you know a little more about what the cost of overseas education in the US might look like, there are some important details to keep in mind when you’re thinking about exploring your options for study abroad programs in America. These details will most likely have an impact on your cost of living. 

  • The typical undergraduate program in the United States lasts four years and a master’s program takes two years to complete. The education system in America has a wider scope – students often have to complete courses across a variety of subjects outside of their main field of study.
  • In the US, student accommodation on campus is typically an option throughout your time at the university. In fact, many schools mandate that international students use university-provided accommodation for their first year. Most rooms are shared with one to three roommates and food plans are also provided.
  • Continuous assessments are given at American universities in the form of homework, quizzes, tests, projects, finals, and more. Your final grade is based on how well you do in all this and at times, even on attendance and group participation.
  • Though the US schools have higher tuition fees, it is important to note that there are many financial aid and scholarship options available to students studying in the United States. Just make sure that the ones you are interested in are applicable to non-American students. 

Studying abroad in the UK

The tuition costs as well as the cost of living in the UK is lower when compared to the US and this is a result of several factors.

  • Earning a Bachelor’s Degree in the UK will take you three years and a Master’s Degree will take you one year (except in Scotland, where the higher education structure is similar to the US). In the UK, the focus is on completing core subjects, which results in a shorter college program.
  • Students in the UK are usually not provided with a food plan; university housing is generally self-catered, which means you are responsible for buying your own groceries and making your own meals and snacks. You are, however, awarded more privacy at a UK school as it is unlikely that you would share a room with another student.
  • Classes in the UK are lecture-based; you may be assigned the odd presentation or essay, however, your entire grade is usually based on your end-of-term finals.  
  • The UK government sets limits for tuition and each university can establish fees up to that limit.

Studying abroad in Canada

More international students choose to study in the US than in any other country in the world. However, just north of the US is Canada, and this expansive countries is becoming more and more attractive to international students for a number of reasons including lower tuition fees and the opportunity to work while studying with a student visa. 

  • It is easier to gain Canadian citizenship compared to US citizenship, which also accounts for Canada’s very diverse population. Canada makes it easy for students to become citizens, and this has made it a popular study abroad destination.
  • Canada has a high number of students who leave college with a lower amount of debt compared to students in America.
  • There are some universities in Canada that offer three-year Bachelor's Degree programs, which means you have one year less of tuition compared to programs in the US.
  • Canada has three very prestigious universities that feature among the top 50 universities in the QS World University Rankings: McGill University, University of Toronto, and the University of British Columbia. Other great universities in Canada include: Carleton University, Centennial College, and Nipissing University.
  • In Canada, you are able to get a job both on campus as well as off-campus with your student visa. Working while you study will definitely help your financial situation. Additionally, you could be eligible for a post-graduate work visa (PGWPP), meaning that after you graduate from university, you could stay and work in Canada.

Improve your English skills

No matter what, studying abroad in an English-speaking country will help you improve your English grammar as you communicate and speak with locals and engage in social activities with your classmates. Even if you start with just the basic skills, over the course of your studies, you will drastically improve and your language proficiency will benefit you as a professional anywhere in the world, possibly even raising your starting salary after you graduate. 

If you're considering studying in the US, UK, or Canada, SchoolApply's expert education advisors will guide you to a selection of schools in line with your budget, show you resources that can help with financial aid, and guide you through every step of your university application.

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