4 College Costs To Understand Before Starting School

By Bethany Fischer on July 26, 2021

This article is brought to you by GradGuard. We protect college students and their families from the financial risks of college life, like providing a refund for tuition or replacing a stolen backpack when your school may not. When the unexpected happens, GradGuard’s tuition insurance and renters insurance can help you get back on track.

Preparing for college is exhausting. Understanding college costs can be so overwhelming, especially if you aren’t familiar with typical expenses that go along with earning a degree. There is so much more that goes into calculating college costs than many students realize.

When you look at your expected college costs, it may seem like you are reading a foreign language. However, understanding this bill doesn’t have to be complicated. Before you write off your college dreams due to costs, consider doing research into what you are paying for. Here are 4 common college costs to keep in mind when you are enrolling.

via Pexels

1. Tuition

Tuition is the amount of money that a school charges for teaching. This is what makes up a majority of your college costs. Tuition is the advertised price of a school but is usually not the full amount of what a student will pay in a year. Colleges charge tuition to run their facilities, pay their staff, and maintain their campus.

Tuition costs vary from college to college. Most colleges have different tuitions for students who live in-state versus students who attend college out of state. Public universities can be cheaper than private institutions. If you receive financial aid in the form of loans, grants, or scholarships, you will likely not pay the entire tuition costs at all.

2. Room and Board

Many schools have boarding options to help students transition into a more independent lifestyle. Some colleges may even require you to live on campus for a certain amount of time. However, room and board are not usually included in tuition and are an additional college cost to keep in mind.

Experiencing dorm life is a special time that can give a lot of valuable learning experiences to young students. College costs associated with room and board cover your living space and the maintenance of your building. Many times, a meal plan is also included, which gives students easy access to meals. Housing fees also furnish your dorm with common items such as a bed, shelf space, and a desk. College costs related to housing are there to ensure that a student can live comfortably while earning a higher education.

3. Supplies

After paying tuition and housing costs, you might think you are set to being classes. However, there are more college costs to consider before classes begin. You will need school supplies to be successful in a college-level class. These supplies will help you collect, study, and practice the information that you learn from your classes.

General supplies will be needed for most of your classes. These can be notebooks, pens, pencils, highlighters, notecards, and organizing materials like folders and binders. Some students may invest in a laptop to keep all of their information in one space. Some classes may require specialized materials. For example, if you are taking a science course, you may have to purchase lab equipment. Many classes also have required textbooks that must be purchased to complete coursework and learn information. These costs are usually separate from tuition and should be calculated into your overall college cost.

4. Fees

There are many miscellaneous fees associate with college that are outside of tuition, room and board, and supplies. These fees vary depending on your school, your area of study, and your financial need. Depending on your situation, these college costs can add up quickly and can be shocking if you are not prepared.

There are many additional fees that many students don’t think of when they apply for school. If you are taking courses online, you will likely be charged an online fee. Some colleges charge fees for on-campus tasks like printing and laundry. If you are part of a student organization, like a club, fraternity, or sorority, you will likely have to pay dues in the form of financial compensation. If you plan to park your car on campus, be prepared to pay a parking fee, or purchase a parking pass. These college costs should be included in your budget so you can make an informed decision about your attendance at a university.


The hard truth is that college is expensive. Even with financial aid, there are many college costs that add up to very large and scary amounts of cash. Costs such as tuition, room and board, supplies, and miscellaneous fees can make paying for college seem impossible.

The good news is that the first step to overcoming this obstacle is easy. To make college costs seem less daunting, it is important to understand what you are paying for and to prepare yourself for any and all expenses. Once you have the knowledge and are prepared, you can begin to make a plan.

College costs shouldn’t keep you from earning the degree that you want. Your education is an investment into your future and knowing the costs will put you a step in the right direction.

It’s no secret that college costs a lot of money. Make sure your investment in higher education is protected with GradGuard. Our affordable tuition insurance and renters insurance plans are specifically designed for college students. Customizable plans make it easy to protect your tuition, room and board, laptop, bike, and so much more.

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