Dealing with a new currency and cost of living is never easy. Many students and scholars find themselves converting dollar prices into their own currency (and are shocked at the results) when buying inexpensive, everyday items. It can be hard to get a sense of what Americans consider expensive. It makes sense, therefore, to make your initial purchases in the company of experienced international or American peers. Soon you will be thinking in dollars!
We recommend that you carry at least $1,000.00 in traveler’s checks to defray initial costs for arrival and travel in the U.S. Remember that the budget estimates provided to you by your school/department are only estimates. Your actual costs may be significantly higher (or lower), depending on the lifestyle you choose. It is very important to realize that your financial situation will not change substantially once you arrive. Make sure that you can afford to pay your fees and have sufficient funds for living expenses before you leave home. For undergraduate students, excellent academic work will not result in increased financial aid at Brandeis, and the money you make working on-campus should be thought of as incidental rather than a significant contribution to your educational or living expenses.
For graduate students, ask your department how many years of funding (if any) you will typically receive as a graduate student. For scholars, salaries are subject to modest (e.g. 2-3%) annual increases, if at all. Remember that assistantships, scholarships, and fellowships may be subject to income tax (see section on “Taxes”). If you are a graduate student with a teaching or research assistantship, find out in advance exactly what it will cover and how much you will be expected to provide from private funds. Also, ask when you can expect your first pay check and plan accordingly. In order to receive your first paycheck, you will need to apply for a Social Security Number (see section on “Social Security”).