The 10 Hidden Costs of College


The 10 Hidden Costs of College

So college is here and whether you are a parent of a bright young student heading into their first year at college, or YOU are the bright young student heading into that first year, you will surely want to consider some of these hidden costs of college while you budget your way through your first year.

When I went to college, first of all it was cheaper to attend the university that I went to, however some of the costs that you never expected did in fact add up faster than I expected and unfortunately, this led me into my first pile of debt that I certainly wasn’t expecting to get out of going to college.

Keep in mind that college costs vary drastically depending on what college you are attending, whether you are staying on campus and ultimately what kind of lifestyle you are looking to live while you are hitting the books.


Let’s start with tuition.   By the way, tuition keeps going up and up.   According to CollegeData, the “moderate” college tuition for in-state public college will set you back $24,610 per year and if you wanted to attend that private college, you are looking at something more like $49,320.


From lab fees to graduation fees, universities are finding plenty of ways to grab a little bit more of your cash before you level up.     Yup, even though you paid tens of thousands of dollars to attend your 4 years in that university, your cap and gown is not free.   It should be in my opinion!


This ain’t high school anymore.   You have to pay for your books in college and they are not cheap.  Be sure to be on the lookup for used books that you can buy for a discount.   Check out your local university bookstore and you can also find used books on Amazon.   Each book could range for a couple 20’s to several hundred dollars each!    Some schools and campus book stores even allow you rent your books.  It’s something you might want to check into to save money.


You might want to score yourself a laptop to take notes, lookup information and to write all those research papers that you are likely to be required to do.   Consider buying a refurbished model to save some money.    Keep in mind that electronics break down, get viruses and need fixed over time, so keep that in mind for your budget.     Of course you will need to grab yourself a bag to carry all your supplies in (pens, pencils, calculators, laptop, notebooks, etc.).

Room and Board

Certainly one of the more expensive costs of going to college, if you plan to stay on campus while going to school.   Dorm life can be fun, but it does come with a cost.    Be sure to ask around while you are touring universities to see what your options are for living on campus.

You could also consider living close to campus in a rental apartment or home.   Just keep in mind that it’s likely that you will need to sign a 12 month contract.   So if you are rooming with your buddies, you will need to make sure they are committed to sticking with it for 12 months or else you may be in a bind.


You gotta eat right!    The cost of food can certainly add up and with all the options these days on college campuses, you may loose track of what this is actually costing you until it’s too late.   Don’t let that regular habit of grabbing a latte every morning from Starbucks make you have to resort to Ramen noodles in the latter part of a budget month.

This is reported to be one of the more surprising unexpected expenses to college students today.   A latter here and a latte here can add up quick over a month or year period of time.   That summer job didn’t go too far did it?


While in college, it’s part of the experience to be able to close your book every once in awhile and go out and have some fun right?   Make sure you put some money aside to do that too!   Or else, while all your friends are out having fun you are stuck in your dorm room looking to find some money.

Clubs, Sports, Sororities or Fraternities

If your looking to join one of these organizations while at college, be prepared to pay for all the gear that you are going to need and don’t forget some of these organizations come at a hefty fee.   Some fees even range in the thousands of dollars, so be sure to scope this out before getting too deep into it.   Ask some of the organization members, what some of the average costs are involved in participating.

Be sure to understand the commitment in time that you will need to devote as well, because you don’t want to have to have too much of an impact on your studies.

Transportation, Parking, Travel

If you are going a significant distance from home, you will want to factor in travel expenses when it comes time to head back home for the holidays or other unexpected events that may need your attendance.   You many want to visit old friends, see relatives, attend weddings or funerals, maybe see a boyfriend or girlfriend, etc.   It costs money to get from point A to point B.   Factor it into the budget.  This may involve airfare, hotel stays, taxi/ubers, food on the go and more.

If you drive a car, you have to consider the cost of the car, insurance, gas money and of course if your school requires a parking pass, that costs money too.   Maybe consider walking and ditch the car if it’s not too far away.

Cost of the loans/Loan Interest

A large number of students today are taking out student loans.      You can very quickly rack up a huge pile of debt going this route and with debt comes interest.   This is basically the bank charging you fees to borrow their money.   If you spend the next 10 years paying that off, you are bound to pay a large sum of money just to interest.

Consider saving early on so you can avoid taking so many loans out to pay for your college.    You will thank yourself later on in life when you don’t have those nagging student loan payments hanging over your head.

What other college expenses have you run into unexpectedly?

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