My Ideal College shares all the costs associated with applying to college.

When we think of college planning, we think about saving for tuition, textbooks, or living expenses. What I am focusing on is when it’s time to actually identify, visit, and apply to college. I hear from parents who have been through the process who say, “I wish someone had told me how much money goes into just finding the right college.” Let me break it down for you.

College admission advisors suggest a child apply to 6 – 8 different schools. This is a combination of stretch, target, and safety. The costs can really add up when you start researching and applying to these different schools.

Here are the costs associated with identifying, researching, and applying for college.

Travel Costs

Visiting schools is crucial to help your child identify the best fit for them. You will want to visit schools when they are in session. It’s the best way to get a feel for the culture, campus life, classroom settings, etc. You also want to visit them during different times of the day. For example, what does campus life look like during the day versus night? Also, what is campus life like on the weekends versus during the week? Read my article here on making the most of your college visits.

With these visits comes the travel costs – gas, food, hotel, airline tickets, and car rental are just the basic costs. Let’s say your child is looking at six different schools. Two are local, three are a full day’s drive away, and one requires an airplane flight. When factoring in gas, hotel, food, airline tickets, and car rental for all these visits, you are looking at an expense of $3000.

Application Fees

U.S. News and World Report did a study and found that application fees range from $43 – $90. An average application fee is $50, so if your child applies to eight schools, that is a total of $400.

SAT/ACT Prep and Registration

Depending on your child, they may need help with getting their test scores up. There are free online resources like Khan Academy. However, if your child needs some one-on-one attention and could benefit from a tutor, you are looking at costs ranging from $2,500 – $3,500. Then there is the cost of taking the test. The SAT or ACT is $65, depending upon if your child is taking the essay or not. Then additional reports cost extra. Here are useful links about SAT costs and ACT costs. If your child takes a test twice, you are looking at a cost of approximately $130.

College Admissions Counselors

Some parents do not want to deal with the application paperwork and nagging their child to get it done. In these cases, parents will hire a College Admissions Counselor. This person will guide you and your child through the application and essay process. The average cost for this service is around $3,600 but can go up to $6,000.

Based on the scenarios and costs outlined, your basic cost in helping your child find and apply to college is approximately $3,500. If you add an SAT/ACT tutor, your price goes up to approximately $6,500. Include a college admissions counselor, and your total is approximately $9.500. This money is all for just helping your child pick and get into one college.

Before jumping into the college application process, your child should be confident with his or her chosen career path.  By seeking out and applying only to schools that offer majors in that career, you can better budget and plan for the high price of applying to college.  For assistance with helping your child choose their ideal college, contact us at