When your teenager receives their letter of acceptance into a university, you’re undoubtedly filled with pride and excitement as you join your child in rejoicing. However, as the thrill of it all begins to fade, financial fear may begin to creep into your mind. In order to best prepare yourself and your child for the costly road ahead, it’s best to set aside a budget. Tuition, textbooks, and room and board are the obvious expenses at the start of a semester, but the true cost of college is then just the educational materials. Here are some of the other expenses that many parents tend to forget about when looking ahead.
The Costs of College
Even before your child is enrolled, there are significant costs. Parents wanting their children to have the best chance of getting into top schools typically enroll them in SAT prep courses. These instructor-led courses, which are above and beyond any test prep offered by the child’s high school, can vary widely in cost from $75 on the low end, to upwards of $1,000+. For example, a popular course offered by Princeton Review, “SAT Classroom”, is an 18-hour course and costs about $600. Beyond test payments, there are also the college application fees, typically $25-50, as well as various costs associated with campus visits. These costs are largely dependent on the distance that must be traveled, and the amount of time needed. Some research has found that the average family spends approximately $3,500 on these pre-college costs alone.
Once an acceptance letter has been extended and the decision has been made, the additional costs continue to pile on. Just to get your child on campus can cost $20 in gas or up to $1,000 for a plane ticket. When your child arrives at their college, they will want to furnish their on-campus home with all the basics, which can be a fairly expensive process. Since dorm beds typically run bigger than normal twin beds, your child will need specialized linens, sheets, and comforters. Instead of relying on big box stores or the university bookstore, consider buying from companies that specialize in dorm bedding so you can be sure your kid is sleeping on the appropriate sheets and you won’t pay more than you need to. Other basic dorm room accouterments such as a mini-refrigerator, microwave, television, DVD player, and stereo can cost between $300 and $600.Assuming your newly minted college student will be rooming with a stranger, suggest that the two of them email one another to determine who will bring what; after all, there’s no need for two cleaners. Toiletries may cost an additional $50, and a safe assumption for laundry costs is about $10 per week. Most students will also want to keep an ample supply of snacks in their room, as they may not be able to depend on the dining hall being open during off hours or late at night when they are studying for exams.
Outside of the dorm room, your child is going to need more than basic college supplies. Gone are the days of needing just a few pencils, a notebook, and a planner, as modern university students should have a laptop and printer to work on papers and projects. Depending on their major, many courses require additional items. For example, if your child is studying art courses, they will need additional supplies that won’t be given by the university. As a business major, financial calculators are commonly mandatory in economics and accounting courses. Specified programs or course websites are consistently becoming more popular among professors. These additional costs are often mandatory and can cost up to $100 per class.
Of course, it is likely that your child is going to want to do more than go to class. Socializing at parties, events, and trips is all part of the college experience. Not only is this a way to meet new people and make friends, but blowing off steam does wonders for a student’s mental health. However, little by little, these excursions will add up quickly. One way some parents plan for these additional costs is by giving their child a set monthly budget for additional or fun items. This not only gives the parents a consistent dollar amount they can budget for, it also instills a sense of responsibility in their child. Another way to encourage accountability is to encourage him or her to get a part-time job, and offer to match every dollar earned.
Education can get expensive, and as seen by the additional costs above, includes much more than room and board. It is important to set a budget and do your best to stick to it. Extra costs will always sneak up, but try to roll with the punches and share in this exciting time for your young scholar!