10 costs to expect in your freshman year of college
Freshmen need to think about more than tuition and housing when it comes to pay for college. A college budget should consider classroom supplies, transportation, medical care and more. Here are 10 expenses students can prepare for before move-in day:
- Books and supplies.
- Dormitory furniture and personal items.
- Study Abroad Programs.
- Grocery and restaurant meals.
- Medical care.
- Greek life.
- A savings account and an emergency fund.
10 costs to prepare for as a first-time student
Freshmen may be surprised when the bills for their first semester come in. To avoid sticker shock, create a budget in advance which represents all the costs of the university.
The estimated costs for each item below are taken from national averages, but your own expenses will vary depending on the school you attend, your financial situation and more. The cost of supplies, for example, is different for English majors than for engineering majors, and not everyone will choose to join Greek life or study abroad. To get the most accurate estimate of your costs, check your school’s website and do a financial audit.
1. Books and Supplies
Costs for necessary learning materials, such as textbooks, notebooks, calculators, backpacks, and more, can easily run into the hundreds of dollars per semester. However, college professors usually publish the course syllabus and book requirements ahead of time, so you have time to find cheaper options beyond the campus bookstore.
To save money on textbooks each semester, consider rent your books or buy them used. However, some courses require single-use online access codes, and these cannot be rented or purchased secondhand.
Estimated cost: $1,200 to $1,400 per year
While most libraries have computers available to students, it’s nearly impossible to go to college without a laptop or some sort of personal computer. Many teachers are now paperless, with assignments, essays and assignments being done entirely online. Some exams and courses are now even hosted online, so it’s important to have a personal device to complete your courses on time.
Some schools offer laptop rentals, so check with student services or the library before making a major purchase. To cut costs, you can also consider buying a refurbished or used device instead of a new one.
Estimated cost: $300 to $1,500 over four years
3. Dormitory furniture and personal items
Basic necessities like a desk, chair, twin bed, closet, basic storage, and utilities are included in the cost of room and board if you are staying in on-campus dorms. However, other necessary furniture is not included. Students are responsible for providing items such as pillows, bed furniture, personal decor, and basic appliances, such as coffee makers, water filters, mini-fridges, and microwaves.
While basic devices aren’t a must-have for everyone, they’re handy and useful for late-night study sessions or when the dining room isn’t open. Some schools have refrigerator and microwave rentals, so check with your housing and residence life department before budgeting for these items.
You will also need to cover the cost of personal items for your dorm, such as toiletries and cleaning supplies. Look at how much you spend in a month on toiletries to get an idea of how much you’ll need to set aside, and coordinate with your roommate on which cleaning supplies you’ll both bring to help split the costs.
Estimated cost: $50 to $300 per year
4. Study Abroad Programs
To study abroad is a unique and exciting opportunity to take university courses in another country. Most programs last one semester.
Although these international schools usually have a tuition agreement with your college, they incur additional fees on top of your regular tuition. You will need to consider accommodation and meals, meals, airfare, health insurance coverage, and tour or excursion fees. Although studying abroad can be expensive, there are ways to cut costs and many study abroad programs offer need-based scholarships. Speak to the study abroad office to see what it would cost to study abroad and how you can save money.
Estimated cost: $6,000 to $20,000 per semester
5. Groceries and restaurants
The campus dining hall is convenient, but most campuses don’t offer 24/7 service. If you have a meal plan, set aside some extra cash for sleepless nights and late-night errands. If you don’t have a meal plan, you’ll need to budget for more groceries.
When shopping for snacks, coffee or microwaveable meals, limit your budget by shopping at discount stores and be on the lookout for sales, coupons or rewards cards. It’s also a good idea to create meal plans and bring a shopping list so you don’t risk buying more than you really need.
Estimated cost: $200 to $400 per month
6. Medical care
Most colleges have health centers that offer basic medical services and over-the-counter medications for little or no charge, but you’ll often have to pay a mandatory “health service fee” each semester. If you need a prescription or have any costs that are not covered by the medical center, you will also have to pay for them yourself. In addition to this, some colleges require additional health insurance for students.
Colleges list health service fees, among other attendance fees, on their websites. Check the website or call your school health center if you have questions about what is covered and what is not. In some cases, you can request a fee waiver.
Estimated cost: $1,500 to $5,000 per year
Students who attend a school away from home and live on campus for the entire school year may want to budget for clothing, especially if they are moving to a different climate. For example, students living in California and attending school in the Midwest should consider the cost of snow boots and heavy winter coats.
To save money, shop at thrift and consignment stores or have a “clothes swap” with friends. During an exchange, everyone brings clothes they no longer wear and exchanges items. It’s a great way to update your wardrobe or get the seasonal clothes you need for free.
Estimated cost: $100 to $200 per year
8. Greek Life
For some, joining a sorority or fraternity is an essential part of the college experience. That said, application fees and annual dues could cost you thousands of dollars a year.
Membership fees are charged either per semester or per year. There are also fees for new members, which vary depending on the organization you join and the school you attend.
Before you rush out, check to see if dues are listed anywhere on your school’s website or if you can find the national websites of organizations on your campus. If you know the cost in advance, you can be more selective about which organization you join.
Estimated cost: $400 to $3,000 per semester
Every student should consider potential transportation costs, even those who live on campus full-time without a car. Those who choose to have their car on campus will be required to pay for a parking pass and gas charges. Your school’s parking and transportation services department should have the cost of the parking pass listed on their website.
If you choose not to have a car on campus, iron out all transportation costs before the start of the academic year, including the cost of home visits during holidays. Depending on where you live, you can always take a ride with a friend to save money, but if you’re traveling across the country, compare airfare costs with other forms of transportation, like a bus or a train.
Estimated cost: $1,000 to $2,000 per year
10. A savings account and an emergency fund
It’s never too early to open a savings account and emergency fund, and the sooner you start saving, the better off you’ll be in the future. Many banks offer student verification and savings accounts with decent rates and no fees. If you have a part-time job while you’re in college, putting even a small portion of your salary into savings will put you in a better position in the event of an emergency strike.
Estimated cost: Ideally 10 to 20% of your income