5.4 Financial Assistance in America
A research or teaching assistantship award in America typically, but not always, carries a tuition waiver. An assistantship with tuition waiver is sufficient amount of assistance to live on, without contributing out-of-pocket money. You will be poor by local standards, but you can survive reasonably well and follow your ambition.
Some colleges in America do occasionally offer partial or full tuition waiver as an outright reduction, without any assistantship offer.
As you know by now, opportunities beyond an assistantship are of an ad hoc nature. You can not count on such opportunities. You may or may not get them, and you won’t find out until you have arrived in America. Given the total cost of education, even the skilled jobs - should you be lucky enough to get them - would make only a minor contribution to your financial needs. Menial jobs, on the other hand, would not even make a dent in your financial needs.
If you have not been offered an assistantship, you must be prepared to finance your studies yourself, to the last penny. You must not arrive in America on a hope and a prayer. You must have adequate financing, before arrival. Doing anything to the contrary is irrational and foolish. Do not let your emotions and desires get the best of you. The risks are too high and the potential disappointment too great. The money situation will not resolve itself, at least not in most instances. You must prepare for the worst, and hope for the best, as the old saying goes. We can not emphasize this point enough.
We acknowledge that a few students do obtain assistantship upon arrival, and many do secure ad hoc positions. A handful of such stories, however, become mythical, through the legendary rumor mill in India. They take on a life of their own, recycled and distorted through the rumor mill, delivering the message that all you have to do is to arrive in America, and the money situation would resolve itself. In most instances, it will not. We have seen too many broken hearts and shattered dreams, or students resorting to illegal means such as obtaining unauthorized employment. You must believe us that money does not, in fact, grow on trees in America. We recognize that your hope and desires, reinforced by rumors, may overwhelm our advice, but consider yourself forewarned.
As an international student visa holder, you are legally authorized to work as a research assistant or teaching assistant, or take up ad hoc employment but only on your college campus and for only up to 20 hours per week. You do not need any additional permission or authorization from the immigration officials. Such is not the case in Canada, as we shall see next.