What Your Award Letter Doesn’t Tell You
The daily life of a college student brings along associated costs. Many of these are detailed in the financial aid award letters and packets colleges send out, but still others also add up. Use this list of 14 expenses not normally included in most cost of attendance information to help you budget better.
1. Class- or major-specific materials and fees. Your award package probably provides an average cost for books and materials, but depending on specific classes, you may need to budget more. For example, you may need to purchase specialty art supplies, specific software or even tickets to local performances for certain classes.
2. Social and pre-professional dues and fees. Fraternities, sororities, pre-professional societies, clubs and student organizations often have membership fees, as well as costs associated with special events, trips, conferences and clothing.
3. Printing and photocopy fees. While the world of academics is progressively moving toward electronic communication, students often need to print materials, signs, resumes and portfolios for presentations, interviews and other occasions. Students may have a number of printed pages included in the cost of attendance, but watch especially for limits on color, 3-D and other special printing.
4. Clothing. Besides an initial outlay for clothes appropriate for the weather and fashions at a specific school, students often buy new clothes for theme days or holidays, special events, interviews and jobs. Don’t forget to budget spirit wear for game days.
5. Extra travel. Many college award packets include an average amount for transportation. This may not cover your specific costs for travel to and from a faraway home or travel expenses for study abroad, internships or co-ops, conferences, service trips or even trips over breaks. Students with cars may have parking, insurance and maintenance costs on and off campus, and those without may end up paying for cabs, Uber, trains or buses.
6. Bank and financial fees. If your financial institution doesn’t have a branch on or near campus, you may be responsible for extra fees for using the ATM. Colleges may also charge fees if you choose to use a payment plan or to pay your tuition bill by certain methods.
7. Health and fitness expenses. If a college doesn’t include membership to a campus fitness center in its fees, students may need to budget for that expense. In addition, physical therapy or personal training services may be available only at an extra charge.
8. Health insurance. On a related note, consider whether there are extra fees for using your family health insurance in the college area. Many colleges offer their own insurance plans and automatically enroll students. Check with the college to determine if you are being charged for health insurance and how you can avoid paying for double coverage.
9. Parent travel. If a student doesn’t attend college close to home, parents may find themselves paying to travel to and stay in the college community several times a year, either for visits, special events or college functions like orientation and family day.
10. Renter or dorm insurance. Parents may need to pay for an additional policy or increase current insurance coverage in case of loss or theft of personal items at college. Insurance may cover contents of a dorm room or off-campus housing, bikes and computers, as well as other items.
11. Storage or shipping for breaks. If a student attends college far from home, items that can’t be reasonably carted home will need to be either shipped or stored when the dorm closes for the year or if the student is between leases.
12. Legal fees. Colleges may provide free legal assistance to students, but some cases may require outside counsel. Although student legal situations could involve drugs or alcohol, other situations include car accidents, personal injury, landlord-tenant conflict, theft and more. In addition, students who are over the legal age may want to provide power of attorney or other legal documents to their parents or other parties.
13. Entertainment costs. Sporting events, concerts, movies and other entertainment options can add up for students. In addition, students may need to pay for cable or another TV subscription service, dining outside of a meal plan, snacks, beverages and more.
14. Student loan interest. All student loans begin accruing daily interest from the moment they are disbursed to the school or the student. The federal government will pay interest on subsidized federal loans while the student is in school at least half-time, but all other student loans have that interest added to the total repayment amount. You can choose to pay interest during the school years to offset the accrual; otherwise, include anticipated interest in financial plans for the future.