College Parents: Be Prepared for Some Extra College Costs

You know that the cost of college tuition is high.  Perhaps you have been preparing for years to be able to help finance your student’s education.  As your student progressed through the admissions process, you may have discovered some additional costs that you hadn’t anticipated: application fees, SAT prep courses, and the costs of visiting numerous campuses to find just the right one.

Now that your student has been accepted and is about to head off to school, you’ve received your first tuition bill.  The bottom line on the statement may have shocked you, but at least, you thought, you knew what was ahead.  However, there are often additional costs that may take parents and students by surprise.

Most parents and students know that there will be some initial costs as they prepare for that first year of college.  There will be dorm furnishings, and perhaps additional funds for food and gas (if your student is taking a car to school), clothing and supplies throughout the year. However, there may be some unexpected or hidden costs.  These will vary by school, of course, but here are a few to think about and possibly anticipate.

  • Many schools have Orientation sessions during the summer before freshman year.  If your student (and you) will be attending Orientation, take into consideration the costs of travelling to the school and possibly staying in a hotel and paying for some meals.  Some schools charge a fee for Orientation and others do not. (But don’t skip Orientation because of the costs.  It is well worth every penny.)
  • Many students and their families underestimate the costs of textbooks for classes.  Most courses will require one or more textbooks, and many textbooks may cost close to or well over $100.  If your student is taking 4-5 classes, these costs may add up quickly.  Make sure that your student is prepared to spend several hundred dollars per semester on books.  You do not want your student to “save” money by skipping the textbook – unless it is available in the school library.  Students may sell books back at the end of the semester, but at a fraction of the initial cost.
  • Your student will need a computer or laptop.  Although most schools have computer labs, and some students do their work there, this is often inconvenient as the hours of the labs may be limited.  Most students heading to college do so with their own computer.
  • Depending on your student’s classes, she may be required to pay lab fees, have special equipment, or purchase specialized software.  Your student may want to inquire about these additional costs when she registers for classes.
  • Some campuses charge extra for parking permits or stickers.  If your student is taking a car to campus, he should check about the costs.
  • If your student plans to join a fraternity or sorority or other social club, there are often fees or dues for membership.
  • If your student is attending college a distance from home, she will want to anticipate the costs of travelling home for breaks or vacations.  Often, students heading home at Thanksgiving or Christmas are travelling during the most expensive travel seasons and should plan accordingly.
  • If you will be visiting campus during Family Weekend or helping your student move in on Move-in Day, don’t forget to include the costs of travel and possibly hotel and restaurant costs.
  • If your student hopes to study abroad at some point during his college career, he should investigate early the potential additional costs.  Although some colleges charge the normal tuition, students are usually responsible for their transportation costs – as well as costs to travel while abroad.

Although the cost of college tuition is high, the cost of college does not end there.  It is important that you and your student plan early for the potential additional costs that may arise.  Being prepared will prevent “sticker shock” later.

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