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About this blog: I post articles to offer timely and substantive college admission guidance on important topics and issues. Originally from New York, I have a B.S. from Hunter College in NYC and advanced professional degrees from the University of...  (More)

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Some Unexpected College Costs

Uploaded: Jul 29, 2013
The cost of a college education these days is soaring and out of pocket expenses for families range from costly to obscenely expensive. After accounting for tuition and fees, room and board, books, transportation and other expenses a top ranked state university could cost a family $100,000. And a private school can cost twice that or more. With these numbers in mind, it is easy to miss the lower costs associated with college admission. Here are some of the common expenses that arise when applying to college and then getting situated once the student is accepted.

1. Standardized Testing Fees—Most competitive four-year colleges require students to submit SAT or ACT Scores. Some require or recommend SAT Subject Tests (one hour academic tests that assess the student's content knowledge in various subjects). A few dozen highly selective, top tier schools also require Advanced Placement exams. To do well on these testing hurdles, students should prepare. Costs range from self-study guides available for the cost of a medium sized soft cover book to group courses and private tutoring. Classes can easily cost a family $1500 or more while private tutoring can cost several thousand dollars, depending on the number of hours and size of class. Registration for the SAT or ACT runs about $40 - $50 and AP exams cost about $90 for each subject.

2. College Visits—Families often hear that visiting campuses is the best way for a student to learn about colleges and make an informed decision about where he or she will apply. Even if a student waits to be accepted to schools before visiting, touring the colleges that have offered acceptance before making a decision is a sound idea. After all, the student is going to be living there for the next four years. Careful planning of regional tours can save some money, as can folding college visits into vacation plans over the course of the junior year and summer months.

3. Application Fees—These are fees that normally range between $35 - $100 per school. The average student applies to six colleges and many students these days apply to ten or more schools. Do the math to see the large chunk of change involved.

4. Matriculation Fees—Once a student is accepted and decides to attend a particular college, a registration deposit is paid to hold his or her spot in the entering freshman class. If the student plans to house on campus, a housing deposit must be paid. Fees range widely between colleges, but plan on about $500, depending on the school.

5. Moving into College—If your student is moving away to college, moving costs must be paid. For some it's a matter of loading up the car for a drive and for others there is plane travel involved both for the student and one or both parents. Students need 'stuff' to get their first year off the ground, including sheets, towels, desk lamps and so much more. Research lists of what to bring to college and try to minimize the costs by stretching purchases over a longer period of time and purchasing pre-owned items when possible. For example, seniors moving out of college dorms will often want to sell their mini-fridge or microwave. Just make sure what you purchase works.

6. Entertainment—Just like your student enjoyed going to the movies and eating out with friends when living at home, these activities continue and may escalate in college. Students don't study all the time (although we parents can dream that's the case!). A part-time job can take the sting out of these additional expenses and the student can learn to balance studying and working—many experts agree that working eight hours a week is the magic number that suits most teens.

These are just some of the expenses associated with college admission today. Be prepared because unexpected expenses can sneak up on you. Planning ahead can help.

College advisor, Elizabeth LaScala, guides students and their families through the complex world of college and graduate school admissions. She develops college lists, supports college essay writing and offers tools and strategies to help students tackle each step of the admissions process with confidence and success. Elizabeth serves clients in Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda and throughout California. Visit Elizabethat her website address, write her at or call (925) 891-4491.

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