Understanding the Cost of College
Lucas del Priore
Friday, March 29, 2019
Scholarship & Financial Aid
11th Grade Junior Year
12th Grade Senior Year

While most aspects of attending university are exciting, there is one that is more intimidating than anything else. Naturally, this is the price tag that comes with your degree. One way to help reduce the financial stress is to understand the breakdown of the cost and from there, create a game plan to come out the other side with as little student debt as possible. Now, each college is a little different, with the major difference being the cost of a private college vs a public one. If you are considering private colleges, make sure to understand your financial involvement by going on their website and looking at the Net Price Calculator that resides somewhere on the website (usually on the financial aid or admissions page). This calculator will help you determine if you can afford that particular option.

Now, let’s look at the general cost breakdown associated with attending the college itself:


Tuition is pretty straightforward and is broken down in one of two ways. The first is a flat rate per semester. The second is by unit hours. If it’s broken down the second way, calculate 15 hours per term to help you get a total cost.

Administrative Fees

Administrative fees vary and not just by college, but also by major. Science majors tend to have a lab fee that is particular to their degree. Some colleges may also have a student service fee for participating in different activities.

Room & Board

This can be pretty straightforward, but make sure you look through it carefully. Understand the different meal plans and what it includes so you know where your money goes and what it doesn’t cover.

There is more financial commitment needed than just to cover the ticket items listed above. Below is a list of things you might not have thought about or associated with college costs. It’s important to note that some of these things won’t be covered by financial aid.

Off-Campus Living

It’s easy to know the cost estimate of room and board when you’re living on-campus, but sometimes that’s not an option — or not the best option. Off-campus living can be cheaper, but you need to add up all the separate costs that are associated with it to know what you’re dealing with.


This cost can vary greatly depending on how far from home you are, how often you visit, if you decide to travel on your breaks, etc. It’s a cost worth planning for because trips can be a great part of your college experience! They’re even better when your bank account doesn’t feel the loss of an unplanned plane ticket.

Extracurricular Activities

You will not be able to predict how often you’ll go out, what sudden activities you’ll be wanting to do, or the perfect internship that comes up and eats into your work hours. Giving yourself a buffer in this regard can substantially help you as the semester unrolls.

School Supplies

Everyone knows how expensive textbooks are. But when you add the cost of notebooks, laptops, and backpacks, it can be a pretty penny. Plan for it ahead of time

It might seem obvious to you, but never underestimate the accumulation of costs that come in the form of transportation or school supplies. If you know ahead of time the proper cost to expect, you can plan accordingly. The recommendation by experts is that your total student loan debt should not be greater than you’re annual starting salary. By understanding the true cost of attending college, you can create a game plan that will allow you to diminish the financial stress and allow you to enjoy the overall experience of being a college student.

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