Calculate your costs of college
Summary: This video tells you about all the big and little costs that add up to the total cost of college. And there's a downloadable budget sheet, too.
Video: 3 minutes, 45 seconds
Downloadable worksheet: 5 minutes
Who this is for: Juniors, Seniors and Parents
Things to know before you go
Tuition might be the biggest cost you face, but it’s not the only one. You may also have to pay for room and board, books, transportation, health insurance, and of course, your living expenses beyond those basics.
Some colleges put an estimated cost of attendance on their college web sites, called COA. The better you understand that, the better prepared you’ll be.
The real costs of college
Before you start packing those Twin X-long sheets, you need to know if your college will truly fit into your budget. Schools are required to show an average Cost of Attending, but you may wind up paying much more or even less. What can tip the scale are all the HIDDEN costs of going to college--and they can add up to a LOT. Here's an insider's peek at all the ways your money may have to stretch, so you can pick the school that's the perfect fit.
Míralo en YouTube para elegir subtítulos en español
How to figure out your real cost of attending collegeDo you know your COA – your Cost of Attending College? Schools put an average COA on their website, but it’s really just a starting point. That’s because no two students or their COAs are the same, even at the same school. Your COA could be pretty close to the average, but it could be way higher or way lower. And since we're talking big money here, even for state schools, you really need to know what your COA will be. Remember our mantra: the best college for you is the one you can afford. But you'll need to make a decision pretty soon after you get your offers, so let's stop wondering and get packing.
1. Know your major college expensesFour years of tuition is a given for everyone. So is room and board, even if you eventually move off campus. Those are usually your biggest expenses. And they’re the first place an average COA can get a little misleading, because between loans and scholarships and work study programs and grants, students at the same school can pay wildly different amounts. You'll see what you're working with when you get your financial package. That's when you need to ask yourself two key questions: Can you comfortably afford this school right now? And can you afford it if the tuition goes up? Because – spoiler alert – it will.
2. Consider the costs of books, laptops and living on campusBefore you even go a step further, you need to weigh the pros and cons. And you should know that there are lots of other expenses that go along with going to college. Just think about it. No matter where you go to school, you have to buy books and other required course materials. Those can easily run $500 a semester or more. And you need a laptop, you can't forget that. Plus, if you decide to take a course with a lab or field trips or even an art course, you'll need to pay fees or buy special materials. And don't forget there are lots of cool things to do in college towns, but they probably aren't all free. So go ahead and factor that in, because you won't want to be stuck in your room while all your friends are out having fun.
3. Transportation: What will it cost you to get to and from college?And speaking of being stuck, how far away is this dream school of yours? Because between getting there in the fall and getting home in the spring, there are lots of breaks in the school year – and you'll probably want to go home for some of them. Oh, and if you'll be going to school in a different climate, you'll want to budget for clothes and activities that fit the weather. Last thing on the list: spending money – to buy, you know, the important stuff.
4. Use our spreadsheet to estimate your college costsOur site has a super easy spreadsheet to help you estimate what your personal budget might look like, but even with all that planning, stuff can still come up just out of the blue. Things break, or get lost, or need replacing. Hey, maybe you'll get lucky, but you should be prepared. Don't let a surprise make the bottom fall out of your plans. You need to get that budget sewn up. The whole point is to make sure that you can afford a great college experience for your whole four years, without too much debt to carry down the road. It all comes down to knowing your personal COA before you pack your bags and go. But once you do, we know you'll be unstoppable! Check out the College Money Matters website for more great info on how to maximize your college choices and minimize your college debt. Just know we're here for you.
This video tells you about all the big and little costs that add up to the total cost of college.