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Understanding the Cost of College

Unfortunately, the cost of education increases every year. Before you head to campus, prepare for some upfront costs that you may face. The cost of college may seem overwhelming, but a college education comes at many different price levels, and financial aid can reduce the total cost. One of the many mysteries of college, especially freshman year, is what it actually is going to cost. Sure, you know there’s tuition, but have you considered the other expenses.



To take the SAT and ACT tests, you will have to pay a fee. For both tests, you are able to send your scores to up to four colleges. Either the ACT and SAT is typically required in order to attend. However, if you’re applying to more than four schools, you will need to pay an additional fee for the additional colleges.


The majority of colleges and universities ask for an application fee. According to the U.S. News & World Report, the average college application fee in 2016 was $43, while $50 was the most common application fee amount. The most expensive schools have fees around $80 to $90 (, April 15, 2021).


You will need to send your high school transcript to the schools you are applying to. The cost of the transcript is dependent on your high school.


Tuition at your local college or university typically is substantially less expensive for legal residents than it would be if you go to an out-of-state college. Overall, tuition is usually the cost of the actual classes you take at the college and can vary dependent on the school you attend and the number of classes (or credits) you plan to take each semester. What is the overall cost of a college education? The National Center for Education Statistics has conducted a study showing the differences between types of institutions so you can prepare for how much funds you will need annually. 


Your major and the classes you take may add to the cost of college. For example, resources, equipment, and supplies in computer, art, pre-med, or engineering classes may be more expensive than other majors. Taking labs or studio classes also may have additional fees. Additionally, other fees could include parking, library access, campus services, student government costs, access to certain facilities, etc. Fees charged can vary widely from college to college.


When you leave home, will you live at the college dorm, rent at a nearby place, get roommates, or live with relatives or friends? Before you decide, compare the costs for each as well as the cost-of-living expenses of that area. For example, check out the costs for food, utilities, and transportation. Most schools offer campus dining plans. Overall, costs vary by school, meal plan options, and dorm selection.


Once you’ve made a decision on what college you would like to attend, you may need to make a tuition deposit to hold your placement. Additionally, if you plan to live in the dorm, you may also need to make a housing deposit.


Textbook prices tend to be pricy. Borrowing books from the library or purchasing digital or used textbooks can reduce your overall cost. If none of those options are available, you may want to sell back your books to recoup some of your money.


Beyond tuition, books, and dorm, you will also have other incidental costs. These include local transportation, clothing, personal items, activities, and entertainment. Also, you will need a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. The devices you will need will also depend on your major. Additionally, you will need general supplies like paper, pens, pencils, etc.  You will also need to make other purchases such as bedding, towels, clothes or uniforms, furniture, small appliances, and kitchenware.



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