You have been preparing for years to be able to help finance your student’s education.  You’ve probably already discovered some additional costs that you might not have anticipated: application fees, SAT prep courses, and the costs of visiting numerous campuses to find just the right one.

Once your student has been accepted and is about to head off to school, you’ll receive your first tuition bill.  The bottom line on the statement may have shocked you, but at least you thought, you knew what was ahead.  However, don’t put your checkbook away just yet.

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Most parents and students know that there will be some initial costs as they prepare for the first year of college.  There will be dorm furnishings, and perhaps additional funds for food and gas (if your student is taking a car to school), clothing and supplies throughout the year. However, there may be some additional unexpected or hidden costs.

These will vary by school, of course, but here are a few to think about and possibly anticipate.

  1. Many schools have Orientation sessions during the summer before freshman year.  If your student (and you) will be attending Orientation, consider the costs of traveling to the school and possibly staying in a hotel and paying for some meals.  Some schools charge a fee for Orientation and others do not. (But don’t skip Orientation because of the costs.  It is well worth every penny.)
  2. Many students and their families underestimate the costs of textbooks for classes.  Most courses will require one or more textbooks, and many textbooks may cost close to or well over $100.  If your student is taking 4-5 classes, these costs may add up quickly.  You do not want your student to “save” money by skipping the textbook.  Students may sell books back at the end of the semester, but at a fraction of the initial cost.
  3. Your student will most likely need a computer or laptop.  Although most schools have computer labs, and some students do their work there, this is often inconvenient as the hours of the labs may be limited.  Most students heading to college do so with their own computer.
  4. Depending on your student’s classes, she may be required to pay lab fees, have special equipment, or purchase specialized software. 
  5. Some campuses charge extra for parking permits or stickers.  If your student is taking a car to campus, he should check about the costs.
  6. If your student plans to join a fraternity or sorority or other social club, there are often fees or dues for membership.
  7. If your student is attending college a distance from home, she will need to anticipate the costs of traveling home for breaks or vacations. (Note: be sure to check College Parents Travel Center for discounts on travel and particularly hotels and car rentals) Often, students heading home at Thanksgiving or Christmas are traveling during the most expensive travel seasons and should plan accordingly. If you will be visiting campus during Family Weekend or helping your student move in on Move-in Day, don’t forget to include the costs of travel and possibly hotel and restaurant costs.

Although the cost of college tuition is high, the cost of college does not end there.  It is important that you and your student plan early for the potential additional costs that may arise. One last thing to remember – is don’t forget to protect your investment in college.  The most unexpected cost could be the financial loss your family would experience from a student withdrawal (due to an accident or illness) or from the more than 18,000 thefts on college campuses.  We know from experience, that these unexpected events can disrupt your students education.   Be sure to evaluate your need for tuition and renters insurance at

Being prepared will prevent “sticker shock” later.




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