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Surprise! College costs even more

A few (expensive) things to consider

After budgeting for the dorm or apartment, shelling out for a meal plan, paying tuition, activity and insurance fees, experts say you should plan for an additional $300 to $400 out of pocket each month to cover day-to-day extras. Here are some of the culprits most likely to drain your bank account.

Parking: Most universities charge to park on campus, even for dorm-based students. Expect to pay upward of $500 for two semesters of parking privileges at most major universities; less at community colleges and rural schools. And watch those parking tickets: An illegal five-minute parking job can end up costing anywhere from $2 (a no-parking zone at Brandeis University) to $75 (a handicapped parking ticket at Vassar College) in fines.

Sororities and fraternities: If your student pledges, then he or she (or you) will be on the hook for upward of $2,000 in fees and other Greek-associated expenses over the course of a college career. The University of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg estimates the average total new member cost for the first two semesters at $1,050.

Hidden apartment costs: Opting out of the dorm can be expensive in ways you might not realize. Most campus-style apartment complexes require 12-month leases, so you or your child will be paying for the summer months, even if he or she isn't enrolled in school. If you sublet, benefit from Haskin's unfortunate experience: He sublet his share of a home without a contract. When the renter didn't pay and trashed the place, "I had no recourse. If you're subletting, get a contract," he says.

Laundry: Mom won't be doing it anymore. If your kid has to pay to wash clothes, the costs of detergent and dryer sheets, as well as several bucks a load to use a community washer and dryer, will add up. Don't laugh -- doing two loads a week at approximately $3 per load (not including the price of detergent) could run college expenses up by more than $200 a year. It will cost even more if a student leaves his or her clothes unattended and someone walks away with them -- an unfortunate but not uncommon occurrence.

Computer malfunctions: As soon as the warranty on your student's laptop tanks, so will it -- or at least it seems that way. If available, buying a computer through the college can be a potential route to take. While it can cost a bit more, the college often offers free or reduced tech support, which can help cut college costs and reduce long-distance parental anxiety. Laptop rental may also be an option, so check in with the university to find out if this is an option.

Unless your student is comfortable handling personal finances, resist the temptation to plunk a semester's spending money on a debit card and trust it will last. Kantrowitz says that it's best to start releasing your hold on your child's funds gradually. Otherwise, you may find the money you earmarked for a bus pass has paid for a new iPod. And that's one unexpected college expense that you can head off at the pass.

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