Unexpected College Costs: Readers' Edition

From career consultants to dorm furniture, expenses really add up.


As I was collecting ideas on unexpected college costs for my recent story on the subject, I heard about a lot of hidden expenses that aren't usually advertised in universities' marketing materials: Copying machines that eat cash. Mandatory gym fees. Formalwear for occasional Saturday night events. Some ideas didn't make it into the article, and readers added their own suggestions, as well. Here are some of my favorites:

  • A baby. Most college students don't go to school with the intention of starting a family, of course, but that's exactly what happened (unexpectedly) to one family I spoke with.
    • Career consultants. Some students benefit from the guidance of a professional who can help them choose classes that will help them reach their ultimate professional goals, but those services don't come cheap.
      • Health insurance. For students who are no longer on their parents' plans, insurance can be expensive.
        • Off-campus entertainment. While schools often host plenty of free events for those living on campus, many students attending college in big cities are drawn to the surrounding nightlife.
          • Birth control. The price of condoms and other forms of contraception can add up, but they help avoid the first expense on this list.
            • A loft bed. One reader suggested this item as a way of making the most of limited dorm room space.
            • Did you experience any college costs you weren't expected, or come up with ways to avoid them?