Calculate how much college will (actually) cost you

Calculate how much college will (actually) cost you


Take a moment to think about your finances — are you feeling anxious yet? If you’re like most college-bound students, preparing for tuition and miscellaneous college expenses can be intimidating, especially when you start to consider the rising cost of higher education.

In-state and out-of-state tuition rates for four-year universities are on the rise, but really, you don’t need to stress! We’re here to help you get an early start on your plans to finance a college education by improving your understanding of the cost of both tuition and additional college expenses.

Determine how much everything will cost: financial tools to consider

Before submitting an application to the school of your dreams, consider the average cost of attending the institution and how their cost compares to other potential universities. There are a number of ways you can determine actual tuition costs, including:

  • Net Price Calculators. These tools are offered by several education-based websites, like College Board. They’re designed to help students and parents determine the average yearly rate of a specific college or university.
  • College Comparison Tools. If you are still deciding between a few universities, this is the tool for you! Enter up to three institutions and clearly see the differences in average tuition rates, financial aid opportunities, location, etc.

Additional financial factors to consider when applying to college

Understanding tuition rates alone will not reflect accurate college cost. Aside from the typical education fees, additional expenses are important to consider. Below is a list of costs that could occur at the beginning of your college career.

  • Room and Board: Whether you live on campus or commute from home, both room and board are calculated separate from course attendance fees and depend on where students decide to live (and how much privacy they want).
  • Books and Media: Laptops are required for homework assignments and even some in-class work. Books can be expensive, but there are several options for buying and renting new and used textbooks for an affordable price.
  • Meal Plans: Every student needs to eat, which is why most colleges offer a meal plan to pay for on-campus meals. Meal plans won’t always cover every food-related expense, so more money may be required. Colleges may offer a pay-per-swipe plan or a pay-per-item plan. Regardless of which one you receive, you can keep track of your plan by saving receipts and checking your balance online. You might also be able to reduce your plan if you don’t eat as much as the amount given.
  • Transportation: Getting to and from class is also an important element for students who commute to campus and/or visit friends and family throughout the school year. Both public transportation and a personal vehicle are going to require some money.
  • Fun Money: Occasionally, you may want to enjoy a night out with friends at the movies or purchase that new gadget everyone’s buying online. Opening a college banking account can assist students in budgeting the extra money used outside of school and improve spending habits. Save your receipts and keep track of statements on your bank’s website.

Take advantage of scholarship and grant opportunities

Between the U.S. Department of Education and the country’s higher education institutions, an estimated $46 billion in grants and scholarship money is awarded to college students each year. Additionally, $3.3 billion is awarded by private sources, including individuals, foundations, corporations, churches and more. Take advantage of scholarships and grants offered by schools as well as any independent or unique scholarships. Here are some sites to browse for financial aid opportunities:

Don’t forget to look at individual college websites for scholarships and other financial aid offers. Acting now can help decrease the cost of education down the road!

The rising cost of tuition can often be intimidating for future college students, but utilizing these tools can help you approximate your tuition fees. Budgeting for books, meal plans and other added expenses will allow you to practice smart budgeting, and applying for the FAFSA and various scholarships and grants can reduce the total cost of your college career. We hope you’ll take advantage of these tips and let us help you plan for a rewarding and less stressful education.