Beware of Hidden College Costs

Paying for college involves more than covering the costs for tuition and required fees. Some college costs are included in the college’s published cost of attendance, but actual costs may be higher than the official estimates. For example, textbooks and transportation costs are especially likely to be underestimated.

Some fees are not included in the list of required fees. For example, class-specific fees may include charges for materials (e.g., art, chemistry, biology, physics, etc.), studio or practice room time and laboratory fees. The same is true for per-use fees (such as the athletic facility or pool or weight rooms). Unfortunately, even when a college has a “comprehensive” fee, the fee usually isn’t all-inclusive.

Some colleges have differential tuition and fees, where specific academic majors cost more. Some charge more if a student takes more classes.

There are also some costs that are not eligible for student financial aid, such as costs that occur before enrollment and fees for graduate admissions tests, test prep and application fees. Also, the cost of licensing exams and post-undergraduate campus visits are not covered by financial aid.

There are many other hidden expenses students encounter while attending college. These costs can vary from a few dollars to several thousand over the student’s college career. Most students will spend $250 to $500 per month on these hidden costs.

This checklist covers many of the unanticipated college costs:

Adobe Acrobat PDF Download the PDF: Hidden College Costs Checklist
Fees for paying college bills (e.g., direct charges, such as tuition and fees) with a credit card, typically a 3% add-on $
Interest and fees on student loans and credit cards $
Various college fees $
Student health center fees
$
Student health insurance
$
Athletic center fees
$
Student activity fees
$
Orientation fee
$
Matriculation fees (new student fees)
$
Graduation/Commencement fees
$
Academic transcript fees
$
Technology fee, such as a printing fee
$
Money management costs $
Bank account/debit card fees
$
Taxes (especially differences in sales tax rates)
$
Study Abroad $
Tutoring $
Books and media $
Required vs. recommended texts
$
Renting vs. buying vs. borrowing texts
$
Newspapers and magazines
$
Library fines
$
Computer $
Purchase
$
Peripherals/Accessories
$
Software
$
Photocopying costs $
Outfitting a dorm room: Needs vs. wants $
Cable/satellite TV vs. on-line streaming
$
Cost of telephone service, network drop, Cable/Satellite fees
$
Furnishings
$
Bedding (extra-long sheets)
$
Lamps
$
Towels
$
Decorations (posters and prints)
$
Furniture
$
Laundry baskets
$
Waste baskets
$
Bulletin boards
$
Hair dryers
$
Appliances (Dorm-sized Refrigerator, Microwave Oven, Toaster Oven)
$
Sundries
$
Electronics 
$
Non-essentials (video game systems, PDAs, flat-screen TVs)
$
Personal hygiene $
Laundry detergent
$
Quarters for laundry machine
$
Soap and shampoo
$
Hair care
$
Cosmetics
$
Cost of an off-campus apartment $
Rent
$
Security Deposit
$
Utility Deposit
$
Renter's Insurance
$
Utilities
$
Parking Space
$
Housing costs during the summer and/or academic breaks for students who stay on campus or rent an apartment $
Summer Storage fees $
Eating out for meals and snacks beyond a meal plan $
Late night food
$
Beverages (Starbucks, Jamba Juice, soda/juice/water from vending machines)
$
Spending $10 a week on pizza adds up to $2,000 over the course of a four-year college career, so even small expenses can add up.
$
Insurance for the student's belongings $
Cost of replacing damaged, lost or stolen property $
Travel to and from home $
Fall Break (Thanksgiving)
$
Winter Break (Christmas, Chanukah)
$
Spring Break
$
Summer Break
$
Car $
Auto insurance
$
Fuel
$
Maintenance
$
Parking fees
$
Parking tickets, traffic violations
$
Other travel-related costs $
Bus Passes
$
Uber and Zipcars
$
Wardrobe $
Climate differences
$
Formal attire for job interviews and internships
$
Fashionable clothing
$
Cell-phone $
Cost of smart phone
$
Cost of phone service and charges
$
Joining campus clubs and organizations (extracurricular activities) $
Dues for Greek membership
$
Dorm "tax"
$
Sponsored vs. free activities
$
Entertainment $
Athletic events
$
Movies
$
Concerts
$
Music
$
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