Budgeting for College Applications

calculator and notepad placed over stack of usa dollars
Kristen Seikaly
Kristen Seikaly

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When most students and parents think of budgeting for university, they think of tuition costs, along with room and board. However, it’s important to remember that applying to university itself can come with a hefty price tag! Most importantly, remember that you should plan for that as well. The college applications may cost significantly less than the tuition of any school you’re applying to, but ignoring the fees can mean difficulties with certain purchases down the road. Don’t put your textbooks or a meal plan in jeopardy when budgeting for college applications can put you ahead of the game.

Fortunately, budgeting for college applications doesn’t need to be too complicated, as long as you’re able to spot the fees that will sneak up on you. Most people just think of the college application fees themselves in regards to the cost of applying to schools, but there’s much more to applying to university than the actual college application.

Standardized tests

Not only do standardized tests also have fees, the materials required to prepare for them can rack up the cost. Between books with practice tests, classes, and private tutors, doing well on the SAT or ACT can add up. Fortunately, there are simple ways to reduce the cost. For example, you can save on study materials by checking out test books from the library, or seeing if you can borrow any from your college counselor.

Additionally, you can use the practice tests in your book to get a sense of where you need the most help. This kind of identification will allow you to make the most of a class or a tutor, potentially requiring fewer sessions. You can also form a study group with some of your friends to limit your need for classes and tutors as well.

Make sure to also prepare as thoroughly as possible before taking a test. The better you do the first time around, you’ll reduce the chances of needing to take a test again.

College tours and interviews

While a university tour or interview may not cost much unto itself, travel can cost a lot. Therefore, you can reduce the cost of visiting schools through smart travel tips. If you can, add as many schools into one trip as possible, and travel with others if you’re driving to form a carpool. You can also save on lodging by splitting a hotel room, or finding a room share. Staying with current students at a university may even be an option if you know any. This will save you a sum of money and give you a more hands-on understanding of the university experience.

Additionally, as you are budgeting trips for college applications, you may only want to visit certain schools. For example, those that you’re likely to attend, and are likely to accept you. If you get accepted to a school you didn’t anticipate getting into, you can always visit later. This may be particularly useful if a college offers you a hefty scholarship, giving you a little extra money to take the trip.

Application materials

Although college applications themselves come with necessary fees, that doesn’t mean you can’t limit the cost here either. Applying through the Common App saves you from submitting separate application fees. Make sure to also give yourself plenty of time to turn in an application, especially if you need to mail any materials, so that you don’t have to pay extra for express shipping.

Once you’ve got a handle on where these fees sneak up on you, it’s not too difficult to see how you can also creatively and effectively lower the cost. But don’t be afraid to spend the money where it will really make a difference. It won’t make sense to not get tutoring for the SAT or ACT if you really need the help, just like it won’t help your chances of acceptance if you send in materials late.

You can do this!

It may seem frustrating to deal with this kind of budgeting now, but it will pay off – literally and figuratively – in the long run. Not only will you be well prepared to handle a budget in college, you’ll have a bit of extra money saved to get you started, too. Feel free to reach out to Empowerly for support while you figure everything out; that’s what we are here for.

Questions? Let us know!