So you have your acceptance letter! (Or plan to, soon...) It’s hanging happily on your refrigerator, posted proudly on your bulletin board, or safely tucked away with your first place ribbons, varsity letters, and other memories of accomplishments. This is a good feeling.
You may have also sat down with your family and talked tuition. You’ve done the college cost math, filed your FAFSA, and you’ve calculated your net price to know what the next four years will cost, but don’t forget these sneaky fees you may not have considered.
Will you have a campus meal plan? Will you be commuting and brown baggin’ it? On Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, food can reign supreme in college. Many colleges offer meal plans ranging from unlimited to 10-meals-per-week. Think about how often you will be on campus and what your schedule will look like. Still living at home? Pack lunch and bring it with you to campus. Student-athlete living in the dorms? Maybe the unlimited will work for you if you have long days. Pick the plan that’s right for you, but don’t forget to count the cost!
Average Cost: $7-$11 per meal (with a college meal plan.)
In high school textbooks, novels, and resources are passed down from generation to generation free of cost (in most cases). You smiled when you found a highlighted passages from Seniors Past and covered the outside with paper shopping bags from Trader Joes or Shop Rite. College requires you to purchase your own books and the cost per semester can range from $500- $1000 depending on your major, number of classes, etc. Although you don’t want to skimp and buy last year’s edition, you can find ways to save money by buying books used, renting, searching online, or sharing with your peers.
Average Cost: $1200(ish) per year for books and supplies.
3) Parking and Transportation.
If you are planning on commuting, or bringing your car with you to college, this expense can really hit hard. Whether it is public transportation or filling your own tank – this cost adds up. This is a great time to consider car-pooling with friends or checking for student discounts on various bus and train lines. Depending on the school’s location, you may also be asked to purchase a parking pass as well.
Average Cost: $900-$1700 per year. Transportation tends to cost more for commuters (but housing expenses are less.)
Want to study abroad or visit your best friend at school a few states over? Visiting mom and pop on the weekends, or going somewhere for spring break? Want to explore a city on your own and discover something about yourself? This special category of transportation is well worth blocking out as it’s own expense. Commuting 25 minutes is one thing, but flying home for holidays is something else entirely. Make sure you and your family have clear expectations on how often you will be coming home. If international travel is in your future, you may want to start saving early and consider opportunities within a certain budget before you start packing your bags.
Average Cost: Too specific to know! This one’s all about your own travel choices and needs.
5) Clubs and Organizations.
Clubs and orgs can help you find passions and face down fears. But some clubs ask students to pay a fee. As a member of the women’s rugby team, I paid about $50 a semester for transportation, uniform cleaning, and food/water at games. Not a bad deal; however other organizations – such as Greek Life – can be a little more expensive (sometimes $600 per semester). Although it might not be the coolest thing to ask up front, knowing fees associated with social groups might help decide where you sign up.
Average Cost: Could be anywhere from $50 to $1200 per year! Some sports, and Greek Life, tend to be more expensive.
6) Class Fees.
Yep, sometimes tuition doesn’t cover everything. In the scheme of things, this may be one of the smaller hidden costs, unless you’re pursuing a major or a lot of electives that have these fees associated. When I took ceramics in college, I had to pay an additional $40.00 for materials. Fees such as this are often associated with art, science, and studio classes. This can also include technology as well if your class requires the latest i-gadget or special software in lieu of traditional textbooks.
Average Cost: Fees are always reported bundled up in “tuition & fees,” so they’re hard to tease out. Only your school will know!