The Real Cost of College Part 2

So you know how much you and/or your family can spend on college and you know about scholarship opportunities at the schools you are considering. That’s it…right? Wrong! The price of college is not tuition alone, and if you don’t plan accordingly, your dream school could end up discarded from your list like last night’s smelly left-overs.

Tuition ≠ cost of attending college. (For those of you having trouble recognizing that symbol, it is the does not equal sign). College costs far more than what the fliers advertise. So as you are researching where you would like to attend, don’t forget to look at the hidden costs of college. While many schools quote you a tuition that sounds reasonable, how much are the fees?

Schools tack on endless fees in everything from student government fees and facilities fees to computer lab fees and course-specific fees. Ask about them so you can get a better estimate of what you will really be spending.

  • And how much does that meal plan cost that they require you to purchase?
  • What about the tickets to student athletic games?
  • How much will it cost to live on campus if they require you to do so all four years?
  • Want to join a sorority or fraternity—it costs money.
  • If you want to bring a car on campus, that parking permit might not be free either.
  • Does the student health center charge fees for all the vaccinations and physicals you have to get to enroll?
  • Will you have to increase your cell phone minutes and text messaging plan in order to keep up with all your high school friends and place calls in a new city?
  • That laptop computer they tell all incoming students to get may not end up being covered by the school.
  • And you’ve probably never had to purchase twin extra-long bedding before either.
  • And don’t forget all those textbooks you have to buy.

Be creative and think of everything you can that goes into getting a college education beyond tuition. I am sure you can come up with more hidden costs than this list includes.

Once you have a list, do your best to estimate the cost per year of these things. Add that total to the tuition number the school gives you. Now you have a real idea of what college will cost. And remember—tuition is bound to go up a bit each year.

Be smart in how you research the costs of college. If you really do your homework, you won’t be stuck with surprises later. With the proper preparation, you won’t have to worry about the hidden costs of college and you can concentrate on achieving college success.

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