Beyond Tuition – the Add-ons to College Add Up

You’ve written the BIG CHECK for college tuition, but don’t think you’re done yet — there’s more to come! In the following guest post Suzanne Shaffer, founder of Parents Countdown to College Coach, lists some of the additional expenses that often catch parents by surprise right before their child heads off to college

Beyond Tuition - the Add-ons to College Add Up  Parents: Get ready to pay! 

Your college-bound teen has made that all-important college decision and is headed off in the fall to begin his/her new adventure. You’ve got the tuition, room and board taken care of with scholarships, grants, work study and possibly some loans. You know that you’ve got to figure in some costs for textbooks, dorm accessories and possibly a laptop. But, is that all you have to factor in for expenses? It’s unlikely.

Here are just a few added costs that can tack on hundreds and even thousands to your college costs:

Health Insurance—Colleges require that your child be covered by insurance. You can keep them on your policy until they graduate, but if you don’t have family medical coverage, plan on spending $500-$1000 for this little extra. Be sure to notify the college of your coverage so they won’t bill you for theirs.

Gym fees—Some colleges include these in tuition, but some don’t. Michigan State and Penn State charge for the use of their on-campus facilities (up to $80 per semester).

Parking and car registration—Many campuses discourage freshmen from bringing cars to college. But if your teen is commuting, they are going to have to pay those fees to park while they attend classes.

Activity fees—These pesky little buggers appear on your bill every semester. They can start at $100 and go up into the thousands. What are they? Every college uses them to offset expenses without having to state specifics.

Dorm damage deposit—This fee will appear on your bill if your child is living on campus. Don’t EVER expect to get it back. College students are notorious for abusing their dorm rooms. Even if yours is a neat freak, odds are their roommate won’t be.

Computer insurance—If your child is bringing a computer to campus (especially a laptop), I highly recommend you purchase this insurance. It covers loss, damage and theft and it’s worth every penny you will spend.

Dorm contents insurance—Although most campuses say they are secure, students tend to leave their doors unlocked and let anyone into their dorm halls (even if they don’t know them). It’s worth the added minimal expense.

College campus cards—These cards are used for on-campus necessities (laundry, snacks, copies, class supplies). It’s like a debit card and you will need to put money on it for each semester.

Technology fees—Most colleges have computer labs, Wifi access, Ethernet connections and video equipment. Colleges charge these fees to offset their costs for maintaining these services.

Lab fees—In addition to tuition, colleges charge fees for the use of lab equipment. Fees vary but can easily top off to $100 or more.

Greek life—If you child is considering a sorority or fraternity, there are yearly dues involved ($100-$500), not to mention all the other costs involved (t-shirts, pins, formal attire, gifts for sisters/brothers).

Spending money—More than 2/3 of students report receiving funds from home each month. You can count on adding about $300 a month for this little extra!

Travel expenses—If your teen is traveling to a college away from home, don’t forget to factor in those travel costs: gas, airfare, and other transportation costs. You can count on at least 3-4 home visits the first year of college.

You can see that $100 here and $200 there can easily add up to thousands of dollars added on to the money you are already spending on that college education. Be smart and plan ahead for these expenses.


Suzanne Shaffer is founder of Parents Countdown to College Coach and developer of a unique, downloadable, toolkit to guide parents and students throughout the college admissions process. She is frequent contributor to SmartCollegeVisit and has been a featured expert guest on #CampusChat.

Author: Suzanne Shaffer

Suzanne Shaffer advises parents and students in the college admissions process and the importance of early college preparation at She is excited to share her knowledge with the readers of Smart College Visit.

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