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Unexpected Costs When Applying to College or Grad School



Applying to college or grad school can be a stressful experience. Between the different application requirements, test prep, and deadlines, there can be a lot to cover. And getting all of your ducks in a row can take a bit of legwork.

Before you file your applications, you’ll want to do your research on the schools and programs you are considering. When it comes to college and grad school, tuition isn’t the only thing that can get expensive. As you go through the application process, there are hidden costs and unexpected fees that can add up to a pretty penny.

Here are some of the hidden fees that pop up when you apply to college or grad school. With this information you can create a budget to prepare for the costs that may arise during the application process.

Standardized Test Fees


One of the first expenses you’re likely to incur is the cost of taking tests required for admission. If you are applying to a university as an undergraduate, you’ll most likely be required to take either the SAT or ACT. Some students will even take both of these exams. Here is a look at standardized test fees as they were at the time of writing this (P.S., they are subject to change without notice).

The fee for taking the SAT is currently $47.50 while the fee for taking the SAT with Essay is $64.50. The current fee for taking the ACT without writing is $50.50 and ACT with writing is $67.00. And if you plan on taking the test more than once, you’ll have to pay the registration fee every time.

On top of the standard SAT or ACT, many students take SAT Subject Tests to bolster their application. Some programs require students take SAT Subject Tests , especially if you plan on enrolling in specific courses or programs.

Other students take SAT Subject Tests hoping to earn college credit for coursework they have already completed. To take an SAT Subject Test you must register for a test date, which costs $26. You can then take up to three Subject Tests on that date, each of which costs an additional $22, except the language Subject Tests which cost $26.

If you’re applying to grad school, it’s also very possible that you’ll have to take one standardized test or another. Many grad programs require students to take the GRE, which has a registration fee of $205 in the U.S. If you’re pursuing a more specialized education, say law school or medical school, you’ll need to take specialty tests. It costs $190 to register for the LSAT and $315 to register for the MCAT .

Test Prep


In addition to the registration fees for standardized tests, many students spend money on test prep books and courses in order to boost their scores. Kaplan Test Prep offers both online and in-person prep courses for the SATs starting at $899 for their basic options.

They also offer personalized tutoring starting at $2,599 . There are alternatives to expensive prep courses, for example, Khan Academy offers free online test prep, including online video lessons, practice tests, and interactive questions and feedback.

Kaplan Test Prep also runs courses to help students prepare for the GRE . They offer self-paced programs starting at $699, online programs starting at $999, and in-person programs starting at $1,299.

College Visits


Another item to add to your college expenses list: the college visit. College visits are a vital part of the college application process. When you visit a school, you get a taste of what full-time attendance would be like. You can take a tour of campus, meet current students, and in some cases, even sit in on a class.

In most cases, you can sign up for a free campus tour at a time that is most convenient for you. While the actual tour may be free, traveling comes at a cost. If you’re looking at schools locally, perhaps you just factor in minimal gas expenses for a quick road trip. If, on the other hand, you’re looking at schools that require a flight or overnight visit, the costs could add up quickly.

While it may seem easy to brush off a college visit until after you’re admitted, some studies indicate that a college visit could improve your chances of admission to the college of your choice. Many competitive colleges and universities consider “demonstrated interest” as one part of their admissions criteria.

Application Fees


You’ve put the time and energy into researching schools, taking the appropriate tests and writing rock-solid essays for college or grad school admissions. Now it’s time to actually apply to the schools you’ve selected. But college and grad school applications generally come with a fee. The average application fee in 2016 was $50 per college. In 2017, the average application fee rose 40% to $70 per school.

Many students don’t apply to just one college or university.

While the exact number of schools you “should” apply to depends on your personal situation, it could be good to have a good mix of reach, match, and safety schools. If you decide to apply to two of each type, for example, you could already be looking at paying six separate application fees.

There are a few ways to avoid paying the application fee. Some colleges offer fee waivers. And The College Board offers need-based fee waivers as well.

Covering The Cost of Applying to College


We know the college or grad school application process can be overwhelming. One way to help prepare for these expenses is by taking out a personal loan. For grad students who have a career, taking out a personal loan on their own might be a good option. For high school students applying to college, they likely don’t have the financial standing to take out a personal loan.

However, parents of students applying to college can look into personal loans as a way to help cover costs like application fees and college visits for their child. A couple of important things to keep in mind: Personal loans can’t be used for college tuition, but (as we mentioned above) they can be used for expenses related to looking at colleges. And you have to be 18 to take out a personal loan.

With a personal loan, you’ll have access to the money you need as soon as your loan is approved. Most lenders review your credit score and credit report, among other factors, to determine the loan amount and interest rate you qualify for.

For grad students or high school students’ parents looking to cover college application costs, a credit card may seem like the obvious solution. Even if you’ve been saving for your child’s college applications and visits for their entire high school career, the expenses can add up quickly and exceed your savings.

But it could be worth looking beyond the convenience of plastic. If you’re unable to pay off your credit card bill every month, however, the interest could be costing you some serious dough. When you take out a personal loan, you may qualify for a lower interest rate than most high-interest credit cards.

Applying for a personal loan with SoFi is easy. SoFi can do a soft credit check to determine your interest rate, which means it won’t impact your credit score*.

Learn how a SoFi personal loan could help you or your child cover unexpected expenses when applying to college or grad school.

Learn More


To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s Website on credit.
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