It’s not a secret that college is a significant financial investment. Students and families plan and save for years before they ever even set foot on campus in order to meet tuition and living expenses for four years to come. With the cost of attending college on the rise, tuition alone can seem like a difficult mark to meet for families across the nation. Unfortunately, there are also several unexpected college expenses beyond enrollment that families fail to consider. In order to avoid unpleasant financial surprises once you’ve been accepted into a school, here are a few important expenses to take note of. Taking these expenses into account early on could be the key to making college planning manageable for students and their families alike.
1. The cost of simply applying
While it might seem obvious, it’s often overlooked. While many families are busy worrying about the cost of tuition, they forget that the application process itself comes with a price tag. Students can expect to pay a hefty application fee just for sending in their best work to the college or university of their dreams. These fees are normally non-refundable and should be taken into consideration when it comes to the overall cost of college.
2. Meal Plans
Instead of students buying their own groceries on a weekly basis, many colleges and universities offer meal plans that can be purchased weekly or monthly. While these may be time saving as well as convenient initiatives, they also have the potential to be very expensive if utilized over an extended period of time and should be worked into a college budget in advance.
3. Miscellaneous social outings
Having a budget when you get to school is ideal, but more often than not, social outings become a regular part of a college student’s social life and may not have a place on the monthly financial record. Before school starts, factor in an amount you are able to spend on movies, dinners and even dates. Social experiences are imperative, but can also be expensive!
4. Text books
While your school may send you a list of required books before classes begins, chances are that list is bound to change several times before it’s complete. Many professors alter or add to the list during the first week of classes. Text books are normally high priced, and alterations to the reading list and budget are often overlooked when it comes to financial planning.
5. Weekend and academic trips
College is not only about academics, but new life experiences as well. Often, the two will overlap and a bank account may suffer. It’s important to factor in weekend trips students may take with friends to explore their new city, or class sponsored trips that require payment. While these are an investment, they are also important experiences to have!
6. Fast and fun food
Even if you’ve planned for a meal plan, there are bound to be late night trips and spontaneous dinners with friends that will occur. Many families forget to account for the cost of simple food runs when it comes to college planning.
7. A semester abroad
While families are busy doing their financial planning for school on home soil, they often forget to take time abroad into consideration. Study abroad programs are incredible cultural experiences that students have the opportunity to take. However, they also come with monetary exchanges, travel expenses and potential temporary hikes in tuition. It’s important to consider where you may want to study abroad and the length of time you’re willing to invest before you call your financial plan complete.