According to the College Board, last year, the cost to attend in-state public colleges averaged $25,290 for the 2017-2018 year and private colleges averaged $50,900. Wondering what goes into those costs? It’s time to do the math on college and the means of getting there. Here are the 5 main categories to consider.

Tuition and fees make up the largest portion of the college budget pie.

This is what students pay to attend college. Tuition is the price for classes alone while fees encompass the student’s sports pass, technology costs, orientation and other fees as part of the cost of attendance.

Colleges often report a combined tuition and fees figure. The amount varies based on the number of credit hours taken each semester, the academic program and whether a student is in-state or out-of-state. Last year, the average cost of tuition and fees was $9,970 for in-state residents at public colleges, $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities and $34,740 at private colleges. Costs may not be itemized on your student’s financial aid award letter so speak to the Admissions office to get an estimate.

If your child is interested in going Greek, make sure to also consider fraternity or sorority dues in the college budget. Factor in potential room and board, entertainment and the required wardrobe, like the must-have matching t-shirts for Rush Week.

Books and supplies are another large expense to budget for.

Students will need textbooks and other course materials, like a scientific calculator or graphing paper. On average, books and supplies cost around $1,300 per year. However, students can save money by purchasing used books and consider finding them online rather than in the bookstore. Just be sure they buy the current edition!

Backpacks, notebooks, calculators, pencils, pens, etc. also fall in this category. If a student can recycle something from high school, we’d encourage it.

There’s also a few one-time purchases to consider such as a laptop and printer. While most schools have a computer lab, it may be a tad inconvenient and there’s usually a fee for making copies. That being said, your student also probably doesn’t need to splurge on an expensive Mac. Unless they’re a graphic design major, a more economical option should do the trick.

Surprisingly, room and board vary little from school to school.

The average room and board cost last year was $10,800 at four-year public schools and $12,210 at private schools. However, most colleges offer several dorm room and meal plan options, with varying price points. Living off-campus can also be a more affordable solution, just remember to include rent and meal costs in the college budget.

Additionally, don’t underestimate the cost of dorm room furnishings. There’s the essentials like bedding and towels, as well as luxury items like a tv or mini-fridge if your student plans to get them. To save money, students should team up with their roommate to avoid doubling up.

Most students have transportation costs.

Whether it’s going home for the holidays or commuting to campus, be sure to plan ahead for travel costs. Students should account for car payments, insurance, flights, gas or a budget for maintenance. Both federal and private student loans can go towards transportation costs but students should only take out what they need.

Don’t forget to include the cost of a parking pass on campus if your student plans to leave their car on campus. On larger campuses, consider how often your student will need their car when deciding how accessible their spot needs to be. Your student can save money by walking a few extra blocks.

Personal expenses can cost hundreds each semester.

Many students forget to budget for the little things they regularly spend money on. These expenses include laundry, cell phone, insurance, entertainment, toiletries, supplies, new clothes and dining out. Personal expenses can also be included in a student loan, but it’s important that students borrow responsibly.

Additionally, every student should have an emergency budget for surprises like unexpected flights home, medical bills or car repairs. If it’s possible to set aside as much as $1000 we recommend doing so.

Don’t give up on college because of the sticker price.

There’s over 5,000 colleges in the U.S., with a range of prices. Students should shop around for one that fits their college budget, and not rule out community college options. Most students are eligible for federal financial aid, including free money from grants. In addition to grants, the government makes work-study and a number of loans available, including the Perkins loan and Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loan. Making scholarship applications a priority can make a world of difference in covering the cost of college as well.

If that doesn’t fit the bill, keep us in mind. An iHelp Student Loan covers the gap between the cost of college and what a student receives in federal student aid. We offer flexible repayment options, like interest-only or graduated repayment, and payments are not required while the student is enrolled at least part-time.  Simply go to to learn more and to apply.