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Preparing for the US
Before you leave
Packing your Bags
Traveling to the US
Arriving at NC State
Living at NC State
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Money to bring

There is no limit on the total amount of monetary instruments that may be brought into or taken out of the United States, nor is it illegal to do so. However, if you transport or cause to be transported (including by mail or other means) more than $10,000 in negotiable monetary instruments on any occasion into or out of the United States or if you receive more than $10,000, you must file a Report of International Transportation of International Currency or Monetary Instruments (FinCen 105) with U.S. Customs and Border Protection denoted in the Currency and Foreign Transactions Reporting Act, 31 U.S.C. 1101, et. seq. Failure to comply can result in civil and criminal penalties, including seizure of the currency or monetary instruments. Monetary instruments include U.S. or foreign coin, currency, travelers’ checks, money orders, and negotiable instruments or investment securities in bearer form.
Source: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The FinCen 105 form is available online and you might want to print it out and bring it along with you. It will also be available with U.S. Customs officials at the airport.

Remember to enter the total amount in US Dollars of financial intruments (Demand Drafts, Currency, Travellers' Checks) that you are carrying in the I-94 form that will be provided to you in your flight before landing at the Port of Entry into US. The Port of Entry is the first place in US where you will land. These include New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Cincinnatti, Atlanta, etc. For example, if your flight is Mumbai-Frankfurt-Philadelphia-Raleigh, then your first port of entry is Philadelphia.

A major component of the money you bring will be for the first semester fees. The college is fairly flexible about the deadline to pay your fees for the first semester but not for later semesters. Generally, fees are brought as a Demand Draft (Certified Check/ Banker's Check) in US Dollars payable at a bank in the US. For other payment options like Wire Transfer, please refer to the NCSU Cashier's Office website. Approximate fees per semester are $8500 (excluding student health insurance).

Beyond that, students should bring around $3000. The amount you bring along may generally include $300 in cash and rest of the amount in the form of travellers' cheques. Make sure to carry handful of quarters (25 cent coins) to be able to make phone calls from airports during your journey, should the need arise. The cash should be in denominations of $10 and $20. It is not advisable to carry $100 currency notes since they are not used in commonly in everyday affairs.

The approximate split-up for the $3000 is as below:

  • Apartment Deposit ($100 - $200)
  • Semi-annual premium of student health insurance ($645)
  • Telephone Deposit (Landline or Cell Phone) ($200 max.)
  • Electricity Deposit ($100 approx.)
  • First Month's Living Expenses ($300 max.)
  • First Month's Rent ($200 max.)
  • Furniture and other items for the apartment ($100)
  • Miscellaneous Expenses (Trolley at airport, taxi ride, stationary, tips, etc.) ($100)

The list given above adds up to around $2000, the remaining $1000 is for emergencies and as a buffer till you get an on-campus job. If you don't plan on doing an on-campus job please bring an additional $500 per month of stay in the US.

Student Health Insurance is to be paid separately on annual or semi-annual basis. Semi-annual insurance costs around $645 whereas the annual version amounts to $1200. The choice is individual but most of the students prefer the semi-annual insurance premium.

General Expenses

These are monthly expenses and if you have planned to share an apartment with n number of people, then divide the given amount by n to get your approximate share. For example, an apartment rent of $575, that is shared by 4 people will cost you $143.75 per head per month.

The primary expenses cover the following:

  • Apartment Rent: $550 to $750 depending on the apartment complex
  • Water Bill: approximately $50 per month (sometimes included in the rent)
    • Make sure that your apartment is not experiencing a water leakage. Otherwise, the water bill may shoot up within no time and can go as high as $300 per month.
    • Check your water outlets and make sure that all taps are tightly closed when you are outside your house in lectures, labs, vacations, parties etc. i.e. leaving apartment for a longer duration.
  • Electricity Bill: Approximately $50-$100 per month. May shoot up in winters when heaters are on. It can go up to as high as $160.
    • Make sure that all lights and electronic equipments are switched off before leaving your apartment for a longer duration that normal as explained in case of water saving.
    • It is important to have double-paned windows for your apartment. Please verify while signing the lease. It isn't unheard of to get electricity bills of over $400 a month in winter due to improper insulation of the windows.
  • Food
    • Groceries: These expenses may vary depending upon your lifestyle, but you can expect them to be approximately $200-$400 per month for 4 people living together.
    • Eating Out: Since this is an individual expense, it would vary wildly from person to person. A meal at a fast food joint cost around $5. Expect to spend $10 and upwards per meal at a proper restaurant.
  • Commuting: No expenses. FREE. See Transportation section for details on travelling expenses.
    • Those planning to buy a car need to factor in the cost of gas and insurance. The gas prices are currently $3/gallon and a car gives about 25-30 miles to the gallon. Insurance rates vary from $250 for liability (third party insurance) to $600 comprehensive insurance.
  • Telephone Bill: If you have a landline connection, then depending upon your service provider and the plan that you have gone for, the monthly bill can be expected to be around $45-$50. If you have opted for a cell phone though, the same amount may be counted on per head basis.

So in all, the total expenses to expect would be about $300-$500 per month. If you manage to get an on-campus job, you can easily earn much more than $300 per month.

Financial Aid

"Will I get Financial Aid or not ?", is probably one of the most asked questions of new students. This is a question, no student here can confidently answer except rattle off a bunch of depressing sounding statistics.

The fact remains that chances of getting financial aid here are slim, so don't count on it. In certain programs, financial aid seems to flow more freely but this trend hardly ever continues for more than a year.

Generally the aid scene is pretty good in departments like Industrial Engg, Civil Engg., Mech. Engg., IMSE compared to Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Computer Science (CSC) and Computer Networking (CNC). However, this does not mean that there is no opportunity for aid. A brief, superficial algorithm for obtaining an aid can be stated as follows:

  • After landing here, mail a professor whose research interests fascinate you the most/match with those of yours. Mention about your educational background, basic qualifications, work experience (if any), interests etc. Attach a resume with this mail.
  • Be sure that you state the particualr project/research of that professor in which you are most interested. Let them know that you have gone through their research group postings or general information on web. Most of the professors who are ready to fund MS students (and not only PhD students) require you to take an independent study under him/her and/or his/her course. You are expected to perform exceptionally well in both independent study as well as course.
  • Once you have been called to talk personally by that professor, make sure that you are confident in answering whatever he/she asks and do not think that you will work for him/her and then will ask him/her for funding. Be sure to make a point that on completion of your independent study you do expect funds from him/her for your future research and coursework.
  • If at the end of such study you do not get any funds, go to step 1 and repeat.

If you have been awarded an aid before you come here, the university will be communicating with you regarding your stipend, duties, rights & responsibilities and every necessary information you require.However, general things to be known include the facts that

  • RA ship is awarded by professor himself/herself mostly out of his/her own pocket and hence for that you really need to prove your mettle to them.
  • RA stipend ranges from $670(quarter pay) to $1500(half pay) per month along with a full or partial tution waiver. RA stipend may be decided by the professor and hence may vary a lot, depending on the available funds. Usually a full RA is given a full tution waiver and $1350 - $1500 stipend (ECE & CS depts).
  • TA ship includes a monthly stipend of $1250-$1400 per month along with a full tution waiver. TA stipend is paid by the department and is $1350 for CS & ECE departments.
  • Both of these forms of aid cover your student health insurance as well.

Part-Time Jobs on Campus

International students on F-1 student visa status are allowed to work on-campus for a maximum of 20 hours per week when enrolled in classes for a semester. The paycheck for such a job has to come from the University Payroll office.

  • Please note that it is in violation of your visa status to work more than 20 hours/week or work at a job not paid from the University Payroll office.
  • If you are in violation of your visa status you may be deported back to your home country.
  • The University Payroll system is centralized and hence if you try to work for more than 20 hours/week you will be caught.

The pay rate for these jobs ranges from $6-$8 per hour ($10-$15 per hour in rare cases). Such jobs are usually sufficient to pay off your monthly expenses. Depending on your spending habits it is possible to save some money every month.

The job opportunities arise at

  • University Dining
  • Residence Halls
  • EOS and Unity Computing Labs
  • Carmichael Gymnasium
  • Case Athletics Center
  • Talley Students' Center
  • Libraries
  • University Cashier's office

Jobs also open up in various departments in the university for specific work. Such jobs have mostly to do with web development or some kind of software project.

Another option which some students prefer is tutoring. This involves registering for a mandatory 1 credit course and tutoring undergraduate students.


See here for how this works


{Clockwise from top left} : Cent(Penny), Quarter(25 cents), Cent(Penny), Quarter(25 cents), Nickel(5 cents), Nickel(5 cents), Dime (10 cents), Dime (10 cents)


Understanding Checks

Your checks are a way of making payments and are often considered to be the equivalent of paying with a credit card. Any checks you issue are taken out from your checking account. Your rent payments for example, will be made in a check form.

You must remember that once you issue a check to someone, you must keep atleast that amount of money in your checking account. If you do not, the check will bounce adversely affecting your credit history. Wachovia bank has a system of instead of bouncing your check, it pays off the check by automatically loaning you the amount of the check at a high rate of interest. If you link your checking and savings account, it will draw this money from savings but will charge you a transaction fee. Check your account often online so that you know how much money you have in your checking account.

The bank you open your account with will give you five or six checks to begin with. You need more checks after this and you can get them either from Wachovia or from external agencies like DesignerChecks.com.

Every check has two important identification pieces. The first is the Routing Number. Bank routing numbers identify the financial institution where the funds to be transferred by a check are held. These numbers are printed on the MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) line located on the bottom of a check. Bank routing numbers always have nine digits and always appear between two transit routing symbols (). This number appears on the bottom left side of the check.

The other number is your account number and is unique to you. The other number on the line is the check number and is used for you to track your checks.

Parts of a check

Ordering Checks

Unlike in India where only banks can issue you checks, here you can order checks from outside agencies with your own custom designs for cheaper than it will cost you to get plain-looking checks from Wachovia. You can do this all online by providing the company with your routing and bank account number.

There is a special offer running at DesignerChecks.com which involves putting in an offer code (currently JL35) while checking out. You get two boxes of checks for very cheap. Browse the different designs here at DesignerChecks.com

Writing a check

1) Fill in today's date.

2) Fill in the name of the individual or company you are writing the check to.

3) Fill in the amount of the check in numerals, with cents after the decimal.

4) Fill in the amount of the check in words, except for cents, which is written in cents/100.

5) This is an optional field to describe the reason for the check. For example, groceries.

6) Sign your name.

Writing a check

Credit History & Credit Cards

Credit History is one the the most important yet least understood aspects of life in America. Many students underestimate the damage that can be done by relatively small incidents. Unlike in India, where we are used to generally buying everything with cash, the feeling here is that unless you can prove that you can borrow a small amount of money and pay it back, you cannot be trusted with larger amounts. This may seem trivial on first glance but credit history and your credit score is the fundamental indicator of whether you can be trusted in banks, loans and the list goes on.

What is credit ? People generally buy things on credit with the intention of paying it off later. The only way stores and banks can ensure that they will receive the money due to them is by examining how you've behaved financially in the past. If you have successfully borrowed money and paid it back successfully in the given period in the past, you are said to have ' good credit history' or 'be in good standing'

All credit history is indexed with the help of the social security number (SSN) which you will be eligible for when you get a valid job. International students with on-campus jobs are hence eligible for an SSN.

How do I build my credit history ? This is one of the most often asked questions and very difficult to answer. International students do not have a credit history in the US. This means that the credit card issuing companies have no way to verify your ability to pay back a credit card bill. From the time you open your bank account, your credit history begins. Regular payments via your job income are a good sign which is why you cannot apply for a credit card before you have a job. When you make a request for a credit card or loan, your social security number is used to check the three major credit databases, known as Credit Bureaus - Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Any late payment of bills or defaulted payments will show up on your credit history for a period of 7 years from event. Using these records, the credit card company decides to give you a line of credit or not.

If you make a payment by check to someone, you have to maintain that money in your checking account till the check is cashed. If you do not your check may bounce and this is a serious infraction as far as your credit history is concerned.

After you have received your social security number, you can apply for a Student Credit Card from the bank which holds your Checking and Savings accounts. Another method for building a credit history is to go in for a secured credit card which holds funds in your bank accounts against your credit limit. Such secured credit cards are relatively easy to obtain.

More information on your credit history is available here

Here's information on saving money

Choosing a credit card

Credit card jargon

Credit Center Mainpage from MotleyFool.com

Fixes for your Credit Score

Paying your bills on time - utility, telephone, internet, etc. builds good credit history. A good rule of thumb is pay your bills on time and don't spend more than you have !

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This page was last modified on 12 February 2008, at 21:16.
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