If you have a student heading off to college, some college expenses are obvious and most likely already accounted for. But some expenses, in one way or another, tend to sneak up on the first-time college parent.

Here are some of those unexpected college expenses we’ve collected from some “been there, done that” parents.

Technology fee 

Even if you've already paid a combined bill for room and board, tuition and class fees, you may find some classes have additional class or technology fees. Many times, these will be listed in the course description.

Greek life 

There is an entire week called Rush dedicated to pledging to a fraternity or sorority during college. The benefits for belonging are appealing, but the fees add up – and fast. If it’s something you think your student will be interested in, plan to potentially spend hundreds to several thousand dollars on membership dues, organization merchandise, housing (if they move in to the house), gifts, outings and more. Outside of Greek life, there are many opportunities to join other clubs and organizations that may also charge membership and additional fees.

Travel abroad

Often, travel abroad (studying, excursions, research opportunities, etc.) isn’t on the budget-this-in-to-my-student’s-college-expenses radar. It's another great opportunity, but can also be pricey. Costs will vary depending on destination and length of stay. If you have the means to do so, it doesn’t hurt to have a travel abroad fund budgeted for your student. If they never go, the money can always be allocated elsewhere.


Another one of those curve balls parents tend to overlook. Graduation fees usually include a fee to register, and an additional fee for cap and gown. Check with your child’s university to know exactly what to expect.

Parking fees

Parking fees (and fines) may be a first for many students. While most campuses do offer parking, it is usually scarce, meter fed or timed – with monetary consequences for overstaying the welcome. Decide early on if your child will take a car to college, and be aware of the related fees.

Planning for college is a learning experience – for parents and students alike. Having a few inside tips is a great way to be better prepared, and to have financial peace of mind.

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