ISOA Health Insurance Review for International Students – Cheap and Cost Effective

In the above video, I interviewed a team member from ISO Health Insurance. From our talk, you can learn about their plans and some valuable information on how health insurance works.

If you are planning to buy health insurance for the first time, watching this video will help you a lot.

  • Cheapest plan offered by ISOA Health Insurance is at $31 per month.

You should be aware that medical costs are very expensive in the USA. And for personal security and health reasons, international students are strongly advised to have a Student Health Insurance coverage while pursuing their college or university studies in this country.

Normally, international students would be required by their university to buy the health insurance that they provide in-house. However, there are some universities and colleges that allow their students to buy insurance coverage from external providers that offer cheaper health insurance, such as those offered by ISOA.

It is a known fact that student health insurance coverage provided by colleges/universities is usually expensive. And this normally costs around $400 to $800 per semester.

  • Now, compare that with the $31 per month insurance for a 5-month period = $155

If your college or university gives you the option to get a waiver to buy medical insurance from external providers, then you must really consider buying one from ISOA.

Cheap International Students Health Insurance

There are so many health insurance providers in the US, but Happy Schools recommends ISOA Health Insurance for following reasons:

  • ISOA provides cheap insurance for foreign students
  • Great coverage options
  • Good customer service
  • Insurance Plans start at $31 per month.

ISOA Health Insurance Review

I personally know a number of students who purchased at ISOA Health Insurance. They were in F1 Visa attending school in Texas.

If you are 25 years old and below and your university allows purchasing health insurance from external providers, then you can opt to buy from ISOA Health Insurance for only $31 per month.

Let’s do the math for a 1 year insurance coverage by ISOA:

  • $31 x 12 = $372

vs. University Coverage:

  • $600 per semester x 2 – $1200

Which ISOA Health Insurance Plans to Buy

Here’s a comparison of the insurance plans offered by ISOA.

isoa health insurance review

Compass Plan

  • Silver
  • Gold


  • Med 1
  • Med 2


  • Shield 500
  • Shield 2000

ISOA’s website provides a good comparison of all its insurance plans. If you are someone who expect to visit the hospital frequently based on your medical history, then you should buy a plan that provides the most suitable coverage for your medical needs.


Every person’s medical needs vary from one individual to another, so you must buy your insurance based on your particular needs. ISOA offers some of the most price-friendly health insurance plans for international students.

Of course, if you’re generally a healthy person, then you can start with plans at the lowest rate.

Let me know if you have any further questions.


Click here to check out ISOA Student Health Insurance Plans.


Full Disclosure : HSB is an affiliate partner with ISOA. If you buy health insurance in ISO using the link, we will get a referral fee.

U.S. News Ranking : Is it a joke?

US news media is known to publish annual college ranking results. According to CNN:

  • Rankings include the “reputation survey,” which is filled out by college presidents.
  • This survey asks academic leaders to rate other colleges; results count for 25% of rankings.
  • Critics claim survey isn’t a valid basis for judging the quality of education.
  • A U.S. news editor says: “It is a way for students to get intangibles about colleges.”

I recently read a few articles about U.S. Colleges and Universities that do not participate in the U.S. News Ranking System. I have always told students, when short listing universities, not to depend too much on these surveys because they don’t give you an overview or in-depth information, such as on whether a current student would be given financial aid or part-time jobs, or about the average salary people get after graduating from these academic institutions.

How U.S. News ranks Colleges?

  • Peer assessment: 25% (the largest single factor).
  • Faculty Retention: 20%
  • Faculty resources: 20%
  • Student selectivity: 15%
  • Financial resources: 10%
  • Graduation rate performance: 5%
  • Alumni giving rate: 5%.

Let’s now deal with the practical issues/questions an International Student will have in mind and see how these percentages will be applicable/relevant to them.

Some important criteria that International Students must consider:

  • Availability Part Time/RA/TA: 50%
  • Cheap cost of Living: 20%
  • Quality Compared to Academic Performance: 30%.

The above applies to most of the students who are planning to study in U.S. This equation might apply to students with exceptional academic record. However, majority will not come under that category.

Typical Questions asked by a Student before Short Listing Universities:

  • Will I get admission for for my academic credentials (GRE, TOEFL, Academic %, Backlogs)?
  • How much are the fees per semester?
  • Will I get aid/part time jobs?
  • What is the cost of living per month?
  • What is the weather there like?

Making short lists of potential universities to apply to can be helpful, but it must be done very carefully. Based on my years-long experience, allow me to guess how most students make their own short lists of universities. They would typically include these considerations:

  • My friend(s) is(are) studying in a particular school.
  • My friend’s friend said that a school offers lots of part time jobs and aid.
  • Some relative/s live in nearby towns.
  • Universities applied by consultants.
  • I follow the U.S. news ranking system and random selection of colleges/universities.
  • I use the ranking system provided by

Let me ask you this important question: How many of you have short listed universities based on research interests? This is actually an important consideration because this concerns the actual focus of studies/research to be made. Considerations along this line will include: My final year project is on topic XYZ. Professor ABC from University of XYZ is doing research and has a few millions in funding and I want to do research under him.

Unfortunately, only a handful of students who do this kind of research and apply for school based on academic considerations.

How to find a part time job

Doing part time jobs would definitely make student life easier. It offers many benefits, but the most practical is that it will help augment your monthly living expenses. However, you must be aware of the fact that it must be among the least of priorities in your list of options for finding ways to meet your financial ends. The order of importance should be as follows:

1) Research Assistantship
2) Teaching Assistantship
3) Scholarship
4) Part Time job

In this article, I’m going to talk about part time jobs. As an International Student, you are allowed to work 20 hours per week within the University campus. Any work outside the campus — like in gas stations, restaurants, hotels, motels, etc. — is considered as illegal. It may even lead to your deportation from the U.S.

I once had a friend who was working in an restaurant near his university. Once day, an International Student Advisor went to that restaurant for lunch, and he chanced upon my friend who waited the advisor’s table. A couple of days later, he went to IO for some paper works, and the same International Officer happened to meet him. He advised him to quit working at that restaurant immediately, so as not to suffer any adverse consequence. This happened a few years back.

Simply put, there is very good chance of getting deported back to India if you will be found working outside your campus. But do student tend to take such risk? Yes, of course. However, weighing its advantages and disadvantages, I really feel it is not worth the risk to take on off-campus jobs.

Requirements for Part-Time job:

If you don’t have an RA/TA, start looking for part time jobs on-campus from Day 1 you reach the U.S. This is because it will help you in many ways, like:

1) Part Time jobs will get you an SSN.
2) That will indirectly, help to get credit cards, driver’s license and build credit and driving history.
3) And above all, it will help pay for your monthly expenses.

To apply for part-time jobs, you would need:

  • A concise one-page Resume.
  • Know where to look for jobs.
  • Know who is the right contact person for that job.
  • Know a few seniors who have part time jobs, who are willing to give helpful pointers.
  • Be proactive during job search.

In some schools, getting part time jobs is very difficult. This is the case especially when the number of International Students are high in a particular University. Also, not everyone will get an RA/TA. Likewise, the number of part-time jobs available tend to be very few. In situations where part-time jobs are scarce, you need to exert additional efforts in searching for all possible opportunities to find a job.

Some jobs will pay you like $10 per hour, whereas some offers a $6 per hour rate. You must look at all possible areas of part-time employment: Look for jobs in the University’s library, multimedia labs, computer labs, department offices, college cafe, football stadium, basketball grounds, administrative departments, registrar’s office, etc. I have heard that at Texas A&M @ College Station there is an RA position for feeding and observing research animals like pigs. Although this seems to be a dirty job, its salary is quite high: RAs are paid around $1,200 per month!

If you attend big schools in terms of students strength (> 35,000), you will have higher chances to find the part time job that you need. If there is a medical school in your campus, also try looking for jobs there, too.

I will be discussing more about the One Page Resume that I’ve mentioned in future posts. If you like this post, I would really appreciate if you could share some comments and suggestions. Thanks!

Airport Pickup

Most Indian students associations in universities across the U.S. typically make arrangements for airport pickup for new students, including temporary accommodation. To extend these help, these groups usually require incoming International Students to fill out a form that includes flight details, expected time and date of arrival, and other important student/travel data.

List of key information that you must have with you:

1) Name of person who will receive you at the airport.
2) Contact details (landline/mobile phone number) of that person.
3) Contact details (landline/mobile phone number) of a backup person.
4) Complete address of your temporary accommodation.

When you get cleared by the U.S. Customs and exit from the baggage section, you have to wait for your contact at the arrival area. Some students might hold a board bearing your university’s name, but some might not. However, it is always easier for the person coming to receive you to have some means to identify you.

What if no one comes to receive you?

There are some instances when the person assigned to fetch you couldn’t make it on time to pick you up. You must NOT PANIC. Patiently wait for 1-2 hours, traffic and other prior commitments might have held them up. However, if no one still turns up, that’s the time for you to phone them.

How to call them

1) Airports in the U.S. usually have public pay phones, find one and make a call. You will need $1 or $0.25 coins to make a call.
2) Look for someone who has a cell phone, briefly explain your situation, and politely ask him/her if you could make a quick call. Usually, you might be able to find some Indians at the airport. When there’s none, ask anyone who has a cell phone.

If that option doesn’t work out, walk out and get a cab and give the address to a cab driver and he will take you there.

Worst Case Scenario:

If you don’t have the address or phone number of your temporary accommodation, and if you arrive during day time, take a cab and ask the driver to take you to the International Office (address: I-20), and ask for help.

If you arrive during night time, hail a cab and ask the driver to take you to a nearby hotel and spend the night there. Take another cab to the university the next day.

So when no one picks you up at the airport, or when arrangements get delayed or don’t happen as scheduled, the important thing to remember is DON’T PANIC. The thing is, these could be the best experiences you will remember for the rest of the life. How can you forget the person who came to pick you up when you first came to America? The first apartment where you stayed. Your very first drive in American roads…In other words, just ENJOY your first experiences on American soil. In fact, I sometimes talk about those “first experiences” until today. I can still vividly remember these: “It was a rainy afternoon on Dec. 30 in the Dallas airport…”

I really appreciate some comments that you’ll share if you like the posts in my blog. That would give me an idea on what topics to write about. Just click on the comment link below this post and pen down your thoughts.

Timeline – Students’ Spending Habits in the US

How do students spend money in the U.S.?

It’s actually quite amazing when you think about how the spending habits of students change over time.

For the first 3 months of your stay in the U.S., you will be spending at the bare minimum for every expense.

But after 3 months, you could see changes in your spending habits.

Having a credit card in hand changes one’s perspectives of money.  Here’s a time line on how spending habits change over time in U.S.

The First 3 Weeks

Your mental calculator will be always at work.

Anytime you see some new products, you will be “automatically” multiplying by Rs.50.

Most likely, some of your seniors or friends will take you to Walmart or nearby major retailers for shopping.

When I went to Walmart for the second time, my roommates and I spent around $100.

I was amazed to see my grocery bill to cost so much!

For $100, we would already buy so many stuffs back in India.

If you don’t have a part-time job, financial aid or scholarship, for the first few months you must hold yourself back from spending.

So, the average monthly spending for the first 2-3 months will be at the very minimum.

Because you don’t have much cash at your disposal, you will likely think twice before making purchases.

After 3 Months

You will have SSN and probably a credit card with around $1,000 credit limit.

This will be the moment when you will start feeling comfortable with the U.S. Dollar.

Your mindset will then get adapted to the value of the U.S. Dollar.

You won’t feel any pain when paying the credit card until the statement comes.

Money becomes virtual.

You don’t carry cash in hand or in wallet.

It’s in the bank account.

You’re using credit card or debit card.

When the statement comes, money from your bank account is transferred to your credit card account.

You will start using credit cards everywhere you go.

  • $3 at McDonalds
  • $5 at Taco Bell
  • $7 to watch a movie

All these small expenses add up.

You will be surprised to see how much you have spent by the end of the month.

You will wonder, if I have a small part time job for 10 hours, I can earn from $200 to $300.

$300 is lots of money. You can pay for groceries and part of your living expenses.

That’s the phase when every student will become aware of the real value of money.

After the 1st Semester

By this time, you should have found a job (part time, financial aid, or research assistantship). Unless you control yourself with the excitement of getting a new job, your first pay check will be already be spent long before you actually receive it.

It is very simple. For many months, you will be living within a strict budget, consciously controlling how you spend your money. But after you get a job, the first thing you’ll experience will be to feel happy and relaxed. You will then make some mental calculations, such as on how much you will earn per week, per month, for 6 months. All those long awaited dreams will become more clearer mental pictures, like having a nice digital camera, once-a-week buffet at an Indian restaurant, an iPod, etc. Next thing you know you’d find yourself about to…

Buy a Cell Phone (nowadays, it had become an essential)

  • iPod and iPhone
  • Dine out in restaurants daily
  • Visit deals2buy and edealinfo daily looking for new gadgets
  • New pair of shoes every month
  • Subscription to Netflix
  • Buy X-box or Wii
  • Flat Screen TV sharing the cost with roommates
  • The “List” never ends

So that would be your first paycheck money already spent. Most of the students end up spending with their credit cards and are left with additional $20,000 in credit card debt. At times, this will reach around $45,000 in loans to be paid.

Now, having been used to little a lavish lifestyle, it will be little difficult to go back to the previous lifestyle. The next step would be to apply for a new credit card, and then what would happen next? Students will incur a large balance in credit cards debts, and lots of balance transfers will go on and on…

“How to avoid student credit debt” and “Some nice ways to keep students’ finances under control” will be discussed in the next posts.