Comparing college costs may seem tricky at first, but financial aid experts say don’t be scared by a college’s “sticker” price. What’s important is the price you would actually have to pay to attend the school. That is, the total cost of attendance (including tuition, room and board, books, and supplies), minus the amount of scholarships and grants that the college will give you (and that you don’t have to repay).
The first step is to get an estimate. Most college websites have net price calculators to help you come up with an estimate of what it will really cost you to attend. Knowing this information will help you to compare the cost of various colleges. Once you consider the net price of various colleges, you may find that some that you thought were out of reach are actually affordable to you.
In addition, check out estimates within the net calculator of available loans and work/study aid that the college may offer you. Just remember to get a sense of what the loans entail (interest rate, repayment terms, etc.) However, be aware that these are just estimates. The amount of financial aid offered will vary from one student to another.
These estimates will help you make decisions about where to apply. Before you make your final decide where to enroll, be sure to talk with the college’s financial aid office about the specifics of what they can offer you, and carefully review the financial letter that you personally receive from the college.