Slash Your College Prep Expenses

You may not realize it until the time approaches, but the cost of attending college begins to mount way before freshman orientation. From standardized test expenses to college tours, prep classes, and application fees, some students –and parents– work second jobs just to take the necessary steps for higher education.

On average, families spend about $3,500 preparing for and applying to colleges, says Katherine Cohen, CEO of, an online admissions counseling company.

“While most families budget for attending college, they often forget to budget for the actual application process,” Cohen adds.

But this budget doesn’t have to break the bank. Check out these quick tips to defray costs.

Trim down on costly SAT prep.
Students looking for an extra edge when taking the SAT may opt for one-on-one tutoring, but this can costs thousands of dollars. “The most important thing is to practice.  The more practice students have, the more familiar they are with the exam, and the better their test scores will be,” says Cohen. Instead of costly courses, students can opt for SAT prep books or online programs, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Kantrowitz also recommends checking out free services, like, and free test preparation tools at

Choose your visit wisely. College visits are extremely important, however, after calculating travel costs, they can also become very expensive.  To save money on college visits: Focus your visits on top choice schools. Use other sources such as virtual tours, college fairs, and college receptions in your town to do preliminary research, says Cohen.

Don’t forget your waiver. It costs $45 to take the SAT. If you add in fees for sending scores to prospective colleges, as well as late and standby fees, then taking this test once can set students back. Check whether you are eligible for a fee waiver. Students will need to visit their guidance counselor for more information on how to apply.

Students can also apply for college application fee waivers. The average cost of a college application ranges from $25-75 per application, which can add up quickly, considering that students are applying to anywhere from 10-12 colleges these days.  However, some schools waive the application fee if you apply online, Cohen says.

Figure out your focus. Given that some students apply to 10 or more colleges, to cut down on application fees, narrow your focus. Students should try to figure out what it is they’re looking for in a school. Understand your preferred size, population, major, and extracurricular activities. If a school does not offer what you like, don’t apply “just to see if I can get in,” because it’s going to cost you.

Renita Burns is a staff writer at