Admission News

The Real Cost of College

Written by CB Experts

Tuition, Room and Board, and your Financial Aid Package – you’re trying to figure out how much money you and your parents will need for college. WAIT! It could be a lot more than these basic figures, as high as they are. It could be anywhere between $10,000 to $20,000 more over four years!

So, what are you missing? Some of the extras are in the fine print on the college website. Be sure to check that out.

Additional School Costs

  • Textbooks: be sure to look into the average textbook costs at your campus. This can be as much as $100 per course, or even more for some specific majors
  • Campus Health Center: Whether it’s for sniffles and other necessary visits, chances are you’ll need to use the health center at some point during your college career
  • Campus fees: These are almost always mandatory and can include technology fees, sports center fees, activity fees, and more that range anywhere from $50 to $1,000 a semester

Basic Living Costs

Then there are the others costs, which range from the necessary that you may not think about to the very silly day-to-day things you don’t want to think about.

  •  Food costs: Yes, there is a meal plan as part of Board, but there will be Friday nights out, Starbucks for energy and socializing, and snacks for the dorm room
  • Transportation: Yes, there will be costs to and from the campus, either by plane or by car. There will also be vacations and holidays, when plane fares are at their highest. If you have to fly, the experts say to plan on three round-trip tickets a year. Some students will want a car. That comes with its own set of expenses: maintenance, insurance, and gas. There will also be parking fees and probably a few parking tickets too. If there is no car, there may well be Uber rides, taxis, or bus fares off campus.
  • Dorm room: There will be expenses for linens, rugs, pictures, and appliances like curling rods, refrigerators, hot plates, and coffee makers.
  • omputer. The cost here is mentionable, about $2,000. Not only do you have to purchase the computer itself, but you will need to buy software, virus protection, and tech support. Don’t be surprised if other expenses pop up here either.


  • Spring Break: This will come once every four years. It’s expensive, but hard to say “no” to. With travel and hotels it could amount to over $2,000!
  • Course fees: Some courses require lab or supply fees such as art classes.
  • Tutoring: Whether you’re struggling in a particular class, or you’re just looking to keep your grades up, tutoring is an extra expense that a lot of students end up investing in
  • Greek Life: While Greek life can be a good part of the campus experience, dues alone can be as much as $1,000 to $1,500 persemester. On top of that buying the right clothes, socializing, and contributing to house decorating can add up
  • Studying Abroad: This might be a possibility in the junior year. These trips, while exciting and enriching, can average an extra $10,000
  • Internships: Not every college summer includes work. Some will include internships, with has students paying to gain experience and make connections instead of earning extra money

The Unexpected

  • Family visits with travel, accommodations, treating dorm mates to dinners, buying sweatshirts
  • Care packages
  • Emergencies
  • And just a lot of incidentals that all cost money.

Yes, sit down with a financial aid officer whenever you visit a campus to get the basic costs of that college ironed out. Be sure to also ask about all these hidden expenses for an estimate of the real cost.

About the author

CB Experts

Content created by retired College Admissions consultants.