How to Beat the Hidden (and Very High) Costs of Applying to College

Jaime Dalbke

"Squeeze Play 2010: Continued Public Anxiety On Cost, Harsher Judgments On How Colleges Are Run," a recent survey conducted by Public Agenda, reports that more Americans are worried about soaring college costs. Yet that survey never touched on the other college-related costs that can really mount up fast.

I am referring to the costs of applying to college. Let's take a closer look at how they can really add up.

  • $$$ for ACT and SAT test preparation - An SAT preparation class costs about $700. But if you opt for private tutoring for either the ACT of the SAT, get ready to pay $2,000, $3,000 or more.
  • $$$ for the standardized tests themselves - It costs $41.50 to take the SAT (plus $21 if you register late). The ACT test costs $29.00, plus another $14.00 for the optional writing test (plus $19.00 if you register late). And bear in mind, it is not unusual today for kids to take the SAT two or even three times, then report their highest grades to colleges. The total typical expense? If you take the SAT twice and the ACT/writing test once, that will cost you $126. (You didn't register late, did you? That will cost you even more.)
  • $$$ for college applications - Colleges typically charge between $40 and $80 per application. Sounds reasonable, until you realize that many kids today apply to 10, or even 20 colleges. That's why just the cost of applying is costing some families $1,000, $1,500 or more.
  • $$$ for college visits - Granted, you can get admitted to some colleges without ever setting foot on campus. But the fact is, students who visit campuses, and who register their visits with the admissions offices, have a big statistical advantage in getting in. Total expense? It depends on how many colleges you visit, and where they are located. But many families are racking up expenses of $2,000, $3,000 or more.
  • $$$ for private college counseling - Not every applicant hires a private college counselor. But many families do - especially if their children attend high schools where guidance counselors are overtaxed. Typical costs are in the range of $250 - $300 per hour of counseling. At that rate, the dollars add up fast.

All this puts wealthier students at a big advantage. They hire tutors. They take tests repeatedly to boost their scores. They hire private college counselors. They apply to lots of colleges to boost their chances of getting in.

Yet there is a way to simply start earning college credits - with none of the expenses outlined above. Straighterline offers a simplified way to open the classroom doors without emptying your pockets ahead of time.

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