Here is the Real Cost of Applying to College

We all knew college was going to be expensive but what a lot of us failed to realize (raising my hand here) was how expensive just applying to college was going to be. Sure, we realized that there were going to be application fees and fees associated with taking college entrance exams, but it turns out that these costs are just the tip of the iceberg.

With tuition costs rising astronomically and the additional cost of applications, paying for it all has become a huge problem for many families and parents are under increasing pressure to figure out how to meet those rising costs.

We reached out to Grown and Flown Parents  and got a true account of the cost of applying to college.

Just applying to college has become so expensive that some parents told us that those costs were a limiting factor on the number of  schools to which their kids were able to apply. One member of our group painfully reminded us that

I work with a local nonprofit that provides scholarships for high performing high school students to help them with these basic costs that many of us take for granted. Many teens give up on their dream of a college degree because they can’t afford the cost of the testing or the application. Or don’t want to burden their parents with any additional expenses.

family taking a tour of a college

Here is what the REAL cost of getting into college looks like:

Applying to College Includes These 12 Expenses

1. Application fees.

Just submitting college applications adds up. Most applications cost between $25 and $90 with a median price tag of about $40. Fully 35% of high school seniors applied to at least seven colleges so application fees in the hundreds are not out of the question.

2. Road trips or flights to visit colleges.

Almost half of all freshmen surveyed by The 2019 UCLA  Freshman survey felt that campus visits were very important in selecting the college they attended. But visiting colleges can be expensive. When you add up the cost of flights, overnight accommodations, and eating out, your costs can add up quickly.

3. College entrance exam fees.

There are costs associated with taking the SAT, ACT and any AP exams.

4. SAT or ACT test prep.

The cost of preparing for these exams can be anything from zero (free online tools) to tens of thousands of dollars for private tutoring. Many students buy books or attend classes to prepare.

5. Supplemental applications in the arts.

For students highlighting their involvement in the arts, drama and music, there can be the additional cost of producing films, photos, portfolios or recordings and in person auditions. There are additional fees at many colleges for submitting these extra materials.

6. Registering with the NCAA.

If your student intends to play a college sport they will need to pay to register with the NCAA. By this point most parents of athletes have already spent a fortune on college athletic recruitment for college on everything from camps to equipment to team fees and travel expenses.

7. High school transcripts.

Many high schools charge to send transcripts to colleges, a small but additional cost.

8. Application or essay help.

Many students write their essays without any help but others hire someone to work with them. Some hire a local high school teacher who may charge hundreds of dollars. Others hire independent college admissions advisors who typically charge thousands of dollars for essay writing help.

This is the final step before making a college decision (though some students who have already decided may choose to go as well) and the costs of these trips can include travel, meals and overnight stays. In some cases, colleges cover some of these costs, but for others it is up to students to shoulder this financial burden.

10. Student orientation.

At some schools the orientation process is conducted in the days before classes begin. Other schools require an additional trip to campus during the summer months which can include a fee to stay in the dorms, travel expenses and potentially costs for parents who are often urged to attend the programs as well.

11. Non-refundable housing deposit.

Some schools require non-refundable housing deposits, with the application. Students will lose these funds if they are denied admissions or choose not to attend these schools.

12. Financial aid applications.

If the college your student is applying to requires the CSS Profile as part of the application for financial aid, there is a cost to sending this to each college.

You Might Also Want to Read:

What to Know About the FAFSA and the CSS Profile These are the two important forms to understand as part of the college application process and Jeff Levy, our paying for college expert explains them both.






About Lisa Endlich Heffernan

Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan is the co-founder of Grown and Flown, the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author.
She started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and is co-author of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

Read more posts by Lisa

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