All over Andover, seniors in anticipation stride to their mailboxes after school in hopes of seeing a large envelope filled with the promise of their future. Starting in December and stretching all the way until April, college acceptance letters infiltrate the postal system. The year-long process of preparing for college begins in the spring of junior year. The year is filled with exam prep, visiting colleges, taking exams, applying to college, sending scores and transcripts.

But often overlooked during this exciting and pivotal time is the financial aspect of applying to college. In preparation, students often hire tutors or advisors, take classes and buy books in preparation for the dreaded SAT and ACT.

Ms. Carrick, of the Counseling Department, stated, “People anecdotally talk about them [SAT prep courses]. I get concerned when people spend a lot of money on it and I worry that it may not be the best use of money, when college is such a expensive endeavor.”

This initial step can dig a deep hole in your wallet, and ranges in cost from $30 to $4,000. Shalia Abbot, senior, said, “My dad wanted me to get a tutor. It was about a thousand dollars. It helped me.”

Students also visit colleges in faraway areas of the country, which, depending on the location, can cost as much as a tank of gas to thousands of dollars. Stephi Knepper, senior, said, “I waited to visit my university until after I got accepted. If the school is far away, it’s better to wait until you’re accepted. If you go there and decide you don’t like it, it is not a waste of money.”

After preparing for months, students start to take the SAT and ACT, which is $49 and $52 for each test taken. Students often take these exams more than once. Shalin Shetty, senior, said, “I took the SAT twice and ACT twice. I spent $300 to $400 on prep and it was very helpful. The test is like a game; you just need to practice a lot.”

Once the dreaded exams are taken, students begin the application process. Depending on the number of schools and which schools they apply to, students can rack up a large bill. At AHS students on average apply to eight schools. Application fees averaged around $40 in 2013, according to usnews.com. Carrick stated, “We tried to caution people to apply to schools that students really want to go to and not apply to a lot of schools that they don’t want to go to.”

Following the exam prep, taking the exams, visiting the colleges and applying to schools, students must send their exam scores and transcripts. The SAT and ACT allow students to send the scores to four schools before the test. But it costs $12 to send scores per school after the test. A student applying to eight schools can spend $192 to send SAT and ACT scores alone; depending upon how many schools a student applies to, cost can vary. In addition to sending scores, students must send transcripts to each school, at $3 per school.

Overall students can rack up a pretty hefty bill when applying to college. Ask the senior class how much they spent on the application process, and many may respond by saying, “Wait a second, I need a calculator…”

So your probably wondering, “How can I keep the cost of applying to college down?”

Well there are a lot of resources AHS has for students applying to college. AHS has a college prep club, offers prep courses and has the resource of the faculty. If applicable, there are SAT and ACT fee waivers. There are many great online websites, including collegeprowler.com, princetonreview.com, and naviance.com, which are great resources for research. Also seek help from the Counseling Department. Counselors are a great resource for advice and answers; they also make sure you aren’t applying to schools excessively.

For certain aspects of applying to college you can’t get around spending money. Being mindful of the expenses and doing a lot of research to inform you and your family is key when trying to understand where to spend and where to hold back. In addition, finding seniors or students in college to ask questions can be very helpful. They can give testimonials and advice when applying.

Carrick said, “It is very important to do your own research. Learning how to find resources, thinking about your future and what you want is very important. It’s stepping into the adult world. It really empowers you. When our seniors talk about their own experiences they have really grown a year later.”

By Anamika Bhattacharjee