When you think about the cost of college, the first thing that probably pops into your mind is tuition, but there are several other expenses to consider when preparing for your first year of college.

Room and Board

Some colleges offer dorms for students, which often have cafeterias and meal plans available. You will usually also need furnishings for your living space. The average annual cost for room and board for a college student is over $9,000 per year, and this total includes rent, utilities, cable TV and Internet, and meals. If you eat out frequently or attend a college in an area with a higher cost of living, this amount will be much higher. Consider living on campus or sharing an apartment or even a bedroom with roommates to lower your room and board expenses.


If you have a car, you will need to budget for auto insurance, fuel, and parking. Many colleges partner with local public transportation authorities to offer bus and train passes to students at discounted rates to alleviate the strain of transportation costs. The average annual cost for a student’s transportation is nearly $1,100 for those who have cars. In cities where public transportation is more readily available, this cost goes down drastically.

Books and School Supplies

Image via Flickr by John Liu

Textbooks are one of the most expensive costs associated with attending college, but there are ways to lower the price of books. You can shop for used books or even rent textbooks for the semester. Campus Books offers better pricing for many of the top textbooks used at schools around the country. You will also need to stock up on paper, ink/toner, notebooks, writing utensils, and other school supplies. Some courses, such as labs, will charge fees on top of the tuition to cover the use of scientific supplies and equipment. The average cost for this category is $1,137 per year.

Personal and Miscellaneous

You will need health insurance, clothing, and personal care items, so add those to the budget as well. Other expenses that you may not have paid for prior to starting college include prescriptions and other medications for when you are ill, other medical expenses, laundry fees, and a monthly cell phone bill. The average cost for students’ personal and miscellaneous items is nearly $2,000 each year.

Student Associations

If you have always had your heart set on joining a fraternity or sorority, be aware that these often come with fees as well. Some groups require annual dues, and if you join later in the year, you may end up having to pay for previous months as well. Many fraternities and sororities wear matching clothing items for events, and the price of these will come out of your pocket. Other student groups and clubs might require payment up front to join, whether to cover the costs of materials or other things that come up during your membership.

As you plan for your first year of college, look at ways to save money to lessen the burden while you are starting out in your higher education experience.