You should decide and plan early as to what you can realistically afford. Carefully study the fee structure printed in most university catalogs, and incorporate into your calculations the cost of room, food, tuition, fees, travel, and other expenses for the full four years. You also need to consider that tuition costs may rise, as many universities increase their tuition every year. Also look at the payment plans of various institutions.
Since all colleges have different housing facilities and policies, find out if housing is available for all four years of enrollment or if students are required to find off-campus housing. Investigate the price difference between on-campus and off-campus housing. Check the living arrangements for on-campus housing; students living in dormitories may be required to share a room with one, two, or three other students. Yet living on campus, at least for the first year or two, may help you integrate into American university life more easily and quickly.
It can also save you the additional expense of buying a car or paying for daily public transportation, as well as the time needed to travel back and forth to campus each day. By your junior year, however, you may wish to move off-campus into your own apartment. Be sure to find out the university's policy on such a move, and also the cost and availability of local housing opportunities.
Most two-year colleges do not offer student housing but often provide assistance through local housing groups. Students usually commute to campus and live in local communities. This experience is very different from living in student dormitories on a four-year college campus, and it gives international students a wonderful opportunity to develop independence and observe American life.