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Budgeting as a First-Generation College Student

Headshot of Tracy Lin.
Tracy Lin
July 18, 2023

I am a first-generation college student.  I have known since I was in high school that I wanted to study abroad before I graduated; however, I wasn’t sure how I was going to afford it since it can be very expensive with tuition, flight costs, and room/board. 

After spending lots of time online and talking with my school’s financial aid department, here are some tips to apply for scholarships and budget while still enjoying your time abroad!

  1. Start Applying Early for Scholarships

There are lots of scholarships available for students studying abroad, whether it is through your school or online scholarships. If you are planning on studying abroad with a third party, most third parties also offer scholarships that you can apply for. Use your resources when applying for scholarships! I utilized my school’s writing center and had them read over my scholarship essays before I submitted them. For many study-abroad scholarships, the essay prompts are relatively similar, so you might be able to use similar essays for multiple scholarships. It is also very important to keep track of different scholarship deadlines, especially if you are applying for multiple. I found that Excel spreadsheets were helpful in keeping track of deadlines and different scholarships.

  1. Set a Budget

Before you start studying abroad, create a spreadsheet to keep track of your expenses, including room, board, food, and entertainment. Spend some time researching how much things will cost, and how much money you have to spend while you are abroad. Doing this before you leave will help with the stress of making sure you have enough money. It is also important to leave enough room in your budget for emergencies or unexpected expenses. I completely forgot to budget for things such as laundry and household necessities when I first moved in, so I spent a lot more money my first week in Cape Town on things such as reusable containers, toilet paper, and plastic wrap.

  1. Prioritizing 

When you study abroad, it is hard saying no to plans. I had a really hard time saying no every time someone invited me to anything because I was worried about missing out. However, sometimes it is better for your mental health and bank account to say no. It is really important prioritizing things that you know you want to do. Save up money for things that might cost more such as weekend trips and know when to say no to plans. 

Some last-minute tips! Bring your student ID. I didn’t, and I really regret it because although most places in Cape Town only take South African student IDs, the Table Mountain Cable Car student ticket discount is a lot! However, they did take a picture of my student ID, so it all worked out in the end!

Make plans that don’t require spending lots of money such as exploring the nature of Cape Town and packing a lunch to eat at the beach or watching the seals at V&A Waterfront!

Hope these tips helped, and you can still have the time of your life abroad while being conscious of your wallet!

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Headshot of Tracy Lin.

Tracy Lin

Hi! My name is Tracy, and I am currently a student at the University of Florida. I am studying Public Health and pursuing two minors in Medical Geography and Statistics. As a native Floridian, I love the beach and the ocean.

2023 Summer 1
Home University:
University of Florida
Winter Springs, FL
Public Health
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