Whether you're paying out-of-pocket, with financial aid, or a mix of both, it's important to prepare for the FULL expense.
Everyone knows that tuition is the primary cost of college, but there are a variety of others that can add up significantly.
It’s important that these costs are understood by students—from those whose families are able to fully finance their educations to those on financial aid. Actually, it’s especially important for the latter, since you can’t get grant, scholarship, or loan money to cover many of these expenses.
1. Dorm Room Amenities
Sometimes it’s a surprise to walk into an empty dorm room to see a couple of twin beds, maybe a desk… and that’s it. You and your roommates will often want to supplement this furniture (or lack thereof) with a futon, a few beanbag chairs, and a TV with stand.
2. Text Books
This is an obvious expense, but what’s less obvious is exactly how expensive books can be. It’s not unusual to pay a couple hundred dollars for a huge textbook or some rare, out-of-print edition of a centuries-old novel. Oftentimes, libraries will keep books like this on reserve, but they’re usually in high demand.
If your school is in a city, you’ll probably need to use public transit—buses, subways, and trains. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, you might need to rent a car if you want to take a local daytrip. The biggest expense is traveling home, especially once air travel comes into the picture.
4. Food and Meal Plans
There are going to be times when the incessant heartburn from dining hall chickwiches will make you say, “Enough!” Take a deep breath and go grab some Chipotle. Or take a date to decent dinner—a place with tablecloths even! Maybe head to Whole Foods for some fresh veggies and hummus. But just keep in mind that many trips like this over the school year will add up.
5. Leisure Activities
Sometimes, you need to treat yourself. Just finished up finals and Arcade Fire’s in town? Let loose and catch that show. It’s important to keep track of your budget and costs for leisure activities, though, since this is one tally that can get unruly and fast.
Some colleges guarantee four years of on-campus housing, but many schools do not. This means you’ll have to spend on rent, which can vary dramatically based on the location of your school. If you’re in a big, crazy city like Manhattan, you need to take into account extra costs, like broker fees, in your apartment search.
7. Clothes and Gear
This expense can be significant especially if you’re going to school somewhere with a contrasting climate from your home. If you’re at school in Hanover, New Hampshire but hail from San Diego, you might be surprised at how expensive good snow boots and a sturdy winter coat are. If you’re making the reverse trip, you’ll need to invest in board shorts, quality sunglasses, and plenty of sunblock. Lucky you.
The costs here mainly come from the search. You’ll want to get a nice interview outfit, and you also may need to travel to interviews. If you land an unpaid internship that’s in a big city, you’ll have to factor in significantly higher expenses—rent, transportation, and food (if your company won’t even spring for lunch).
9. Graduate Exams
This is an expense that can really sneak up on you. Registration fees alone can be hundreds of dollars, and let’s say you take the test—GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, GRE, or others—and you’re not happy with your score. Your best bet is to hire a test prep company, whether you take group classes or work with a tutor. It’s expensive, but it’s a relatively small price to pay considering the leg up a great score can give you.
So… now what?
We’ve got some helpful information about tackling a few of the things in this list (including transportation and text books) in our blog post about underutilized college resources.
We’ve also got a FAFSA action plan for parents and students if you’re ready to stat thinking about federal student aid.
Have additional questions? Get in touch with us!
Need some help with a college application? That’s what we’re here for!