What Your Financial Aid Award Letter Doesn’t Tell You
The daily life of a college student is filled with associated costs. Many of these are detailed in the financial aid award letters and packets colleges send out, but other expenses can add up.
Don’t forget to plan for expenses like these listed below when estimating your cost of attendance. Having a clear idea of all your expenses upfront will allow you to better plan how you will pay for college.
Class or major-specific materials and fees
Your award letter 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 or lab supplies, specific software or even tickets to local performances or speakers for certain classes.
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.
Sporting events, concerts, movies and other entertainment can add up. In addition, you may need to pay for cable or another TV subscription service, dining outside of a meal plan, snacks, beverages and more.
Printing and photocopy fees
While the world of academics is progressively moving toward electronic communication, you may need to print materials, signs, resumes and portfolios for presentations, interviews and other occasions. You may have a printing allowance included in the cost of attendance, but watch especially for limits on color, 3-D and other specialty printing.
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.
Many college award letters list 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. If you take a car to college, you may have parking, insurance and maintenance costs on and off campus, or you may end up paying for cabs, Uber, trains or buses if you don’t have a car available.
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.
Health and fitness expenses
If a college doesn’t include membership to a campus fitness center in its fees, you may need to budget for that expense. In addition, physical therapy or personal training services may be available only at an extra charge.
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.
If you don’t attend college close to home, your 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. This may affect the amount your parents are able to provide for other college-related expenses.
Renter or dorm insurance
You and your family may want to consider 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.
Storage or shipping for breaks
If you attend 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 while you are between off-campus leases.
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 you are in school at least half-time, but all other student loans have that interest added to the total repayment amount, which can significantly increase the amount you must repay. Choosing to pay interest during the school years can offset the accrual; otherwise, you will need to include that added interest in financial plans for the future.
You may have additional expenses not listed here based on your personal situation. Remember, you will need to repay any student loans with interest on your starting salary after leaving school, so consider how you can pay for these expenses as they arise without borrowing too much.
Iowa Student Loan has several tools to help you plan for college and life afterward. View our smart borrowing tools here.