The Top 5 College Expenses Students Forget

David Sung | July 31, 2013

We don’t have to tell you that college is expensive. Tuition makes up the bulk of college expenses and it has increased at colleges, both public and private, across the country. During the 2013 – 2014 school year, the average cost for one year at an in-state public school averaged $22,826. The cost for a private school was almost twice that at $44,750. The other major college expenses are fees, room and board, supplies, and miscellaneous. That last category can catch a lot of students and their parents off guard because it involves many extra incidentals that can be hard to anticipate. We asked our team what were some of the biggest unexpected expenses they had while at college and discovered five common areas.


Transportation costs are often addressed in terms of gas and parking, but what about maintenance and repairs? Cars break down when you least expect it. If you rely heavily on your vehicle, then that could be devastating to your budget if you’re not prepared. Plan to have your car regularly inspected, including oil changes and tire rotations. Bicycles and motorcycles also need maintenance care and you should have a fund to make sure whatever you’re using to get on the road is in the best condition. Read: Preventing the Top 4 Most Expensive Car Repairs


Health may not be at the top of a student’s priority list, but living in close quarters with so many other people is a breeding ground for health concerns. Medical professionals have mandated in many states that incoming college freshmen get a meningococcal vaccination to prevent contracting meningitis. Many colleges have on-site clinics to handle flu or strep throat outbreaks or nearby hospitals for more serious emergencies, however, they’re not free.

A student may opt to stay on their parent’s insurance and that can prove very beneficial. If you’re attending college in a different state than your permanent residence, you should check with your insurance provider to make sure it has doctors within its network near your school.

If staying on a parent’s plan isn’t an option, you may be able to get a health plan through the school. Other options include the Affordable Health Care Act, purchasing a catastrophic insurance plan, or Medicaid.

Clubs and Organizations

Want to join an intramural club or participate in Greek life? There are hundreds of clubs and activities students join on their college campus, but they involve some type of financial responsibility. Annual dues for a fraternity or sorority can cost more than $1,000 and that doesn’t include the cost of social events or room and board if you live in one of the common houses.

Other organizations will also have dues and other miscellaneous costs for t-shirts, community service events, and conferences. The price of participation can add up fast if you’re not careful.

Vacations and Road Trips

Hitting the road is a tradition that is part of the college experience. Whether it’s a caravan to away games, a road trip to the best BBQ restaurants, or heading home for the holidays, they all cost something. The best way to plan for this area is to set money aside early on. This will allow some room for spontaneous adventures and give you a foundation for planning more complex trips – like doing a study aboard course in France.

Renter and Personal Property Insurance

Protecting your belongings can come as an afterthought, but it shouldn’t. For the most part, college campuses are secure, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry with so many people coming and going. Rental insurance isn’t something that you will have to worry about on campus.  But for off-campus students, it’s a great backup plan if there’s ever a fire or break-in to your residence.

Personal property insurance can come in handy regardless of where you live. It works just like rental or auto insurance to help you pay to replace items if they’re damaged or stolen. Plans vary by carrier so do some research to find a plan that provides the most value for your money.

If you’re wondering how you’re going to afford all these miscellaneous expenses, a part-time job is one of the most popular solutions. Colleges need to employ students to keep a lot of what they do up and running. There are also ways to decrease some of your out-of-pocket costs altogether – you just have to be savvy about where you look.

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