Every student knows that paying for college can be expensive. College expenses include more than just paying for your tuition, housing, and textbooks. Once you arrive at school, you may be faced with more costs inside and outside of the classroom.
Here are 4 hidden expenses college students face and how to make them less expensive:
The majority of your college’s career counseling services will likely be free, but for services that take more resources there could be a fee. My school’s main career fair is held off campus at the local convention center and costs $10 or $25 depending on when you register. The smaller career fairs throughout the year that focus on a specific industry such as law or government careers are free, so look for smaller events. If the cost would prevent you from attending, inquire about the ability of need-based fee waivers. Another hidden cost is when you have to provide academic information when applying for jobs or other opportunities.
At my previous college, I can request as many official transcripts that I need for free. At my current college, I’m required to pay $15 per official transcript. It’s a good idea to ask any opportunity you’re applying to if they would accept an unofficial transcript due to cost. Then, if you are offered the opportunity and accept it you can send an official copy.
Spending a couple dollars at bake sales and buying club t-shirts may not seem like a lot of money, but over time it will begin to add up. Many student groups offer free events and free food, but if you want to be an official member of nationally recognized groups such as the Public Relations Society of America, you’ll have to pay a fee. If you decide to join a sorority or fraternity, you will also have new member fees and semester dues. If cost is an issue, remember to ask about scholarships to help cover the fees or look for sororities or fraternities without houses because they may have lower fees.
Course Expenses Other than Tuition
When I decided to take an online class one semester, an unexpected $90 fee showed up on my bill. If you’re taking a class that has special features such as online technology or a required lab in addition to the lecture, look for an extra fee. This can also happen if you take classes outside of your assigned college within your university. For example, business school courses may be more costly than the liberal arts college’s English courses. The extra fee for my online course was not indicated anywhere in the class listings. Take some time to look at your college’s financial aid website or contact the financial aid office if you think your course could require an extra fee.
Although you can find computers to use in your college’s libraries or in dorm building labs, it helps to have your own laptop. Many colleges will offer a one-time adjustment to your financial aid award to help you pay for a new technology purchase. If you’re majoring in a subject that will require you to use your laptop frequently, such as graphic design, your college may have specific recommendations for what type you should buy and offer you a discount.
Another option is to buy a tablet which can be cheaper and easier to bring along to your classes. Once you’ve gotten a laptop, you’ll need software to go with it. Many schools offer a free version of Microsoft Office, but if yours doesn’t you can use Google Drive with includes Google Docs and the ability to make online spreadsheets.
Don’t let finances stop you from making the most of your college experience. Never be afraid to inquire about expanding your financial aid award for expenses you truly need or looking for small scholarships to cover your extra costs. It is best to plan ahead for these extra expenses, so you don’t miss out on the many opportunities available to you in college.