Published: Jun 23, 2022 6 min read
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Planning for college involves so many moving parts that it’s easy to lose sight of some details. From tuition to books, there’s no shortage of expenses. Add to that indirect and unexpected costs, and even the best budget can face challenges.

According to a recent College Ave survey, 80% of parents strongly agree that the cost of college is more of a financial burden than in past years. Scholarships and grants can be a huge help, but many families need to turn to private student loans, like those offered by College Ave Student Loans to cover their remaining costs.

And while most of the expenses listed below cannot be avoided, that doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead to properly manage them.

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Food costs

Parents can agree on one thing — college students have to eat! Food expenses are often one of the highest costs when attending university.

A college meal plan for an academic year can cost thousands of dollars and how much menu variety is offered depends entirely on your child’s particular school.

A possible workaround is to encourage your child to keep track of how they are using their dining plan. You may be able to reduce the plan if you find your child does not use it as often as you anticipated. Another option: encourage your child to learn to cook, budget groceries, and plan their meals ahead of time. This may help them save both time and money. If dining out, they can also take advantage of student discounts at local restaurants.

Electronics and school supplies

These days, students cannot get by without a laptop. Also, supplies for room and board and required textbooks drive up student expenses.

According to the College Ave survey, electronics is the category parents spend the most money on before freshman year. The average was $1,300, greater than that spent on books, travel, or dorm room essentials.

Find alternatives, such as a refurbished laptop. Students can also shop for used textbooks or rent online. For the dorm room, it can be exciting to shop for everything all at once. However, waiting to purchase some items until you get to campus and see what your child needs can help cut back on unnecessary expenses. Don’t be afraid to ‘shop’ around the house for items your child can take to school, too.


The dorm experience is synonymous with college life but it comes at a cost. Also, if you opt for off-campus housing, it may involve contracts of no less than one year, forcing you or your child to pay rent even during summer breaks.

Applying to a school that’s closer to home can save you these potential costs. That said, this may not be a viable option for everyone, especially students with their hearts set on one particular school.

Moreover, one big way to save – your child can become a Resident Advisor at their school. RAs often receive free accommodation and board as well as a stipend. The requirements for becoming a Resident Advisor may vary by school.


One of the top areas of unexpected costs? A child’s personal expenses, according to the College Ave survey. No student can be expected to study full-time without some leisure to recharge batteries. Unfortunately, those trips to the movie theater, dinner with friends, and weekend entertainment can rack up costs.

Encourage your child to find social events hosted by their campus, and to take advantage of student prices that look kindly on their budget.

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Travel and car expenses

If your child is studying out-of-state, you must factor in the costs of family visits as well as traveling back home for Thanksgiving, winter holidays, spring breaks, or any other family-related event.

A possible solution could be to buy airfare months in advance to take advantage of lower prices, along with flying on off-peak days such as Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

For students who live off-campus, a car may be required to commute to and from school. Maintaining a vehicle means gas expenses, oil changes, and parking fees.

One solution is to encourage your child to carpool with fellow students, use public transportation, and take advantage of possible student pricing. Any opportunity to save money can be a huge relief to their budget.

The bottom line

Of all the parents surveyed, 95% were currently helping or planning to help their child pay for college.

College life brings with it lots of unexpected costs that can add up. If you don’t have the funds to cover these expenses, private student loans like the ones offered by College Ave may help to cover the cost. Not only is the application process simple, but College Ave also offers helpful tools to make the experience even more convenient.

All it takes is one step in the right direction — take yours today.

To learn more about College Ave, just click here to get started.

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