How To Shop For An Affordable College

Get The College Cost Report


This is the easiest way - by far - to shop for colleges that meet your budget. Since my mission is to help as many students as possible get through college without derailing their financial future, I’m offering a very economical way for you to do this shopping with the best tool available. Click HERE to find out about the College Cost Report. By considering your PERSONAL financial and academic information, it will tell you a close cost estimate for any given school, how much your family can afford to pay, the amount you'd likely need to borrow, your student loan payment, your starting salary estimate, a list of all available school-related scholarships, and much more.


Otherwise, you can go the DIY route….


Calculate your EFC


Read here about the EFC including how to calculate yours.


Locate where you are on the need/merit continuum


Very High EFC (Over $80,000) - You shouldn’t expect need-based aid from any school. Look for schools that offer a lot of merit aid.


Very Low EFC (Under $20,000) - You can expect need-based aid from many schools. Look for schools that cover a large portion of need. This includes many top tier schools.


Middle EFC ($20,000 to $80,000) - If your EFC is lower than the cost of the schools you apply to, you may get some need-based help. If your EFC is well below the full cost of a school, you may get a substantial amount of need-based aid, but if your EFC is not far below the full cost, you should still apply to schools that offer considerable merit aid and hope that you qualify for both need and merit aid.


Use the NPC to estimate your need and merit aid at each school you research


One way to locate a school’s NPC or Net Price Calculator is to go to the school’s website, locate the search bar and type in ‘NPC’.


See what scholarships are available


Scholarships can normally be found on the school’s admissions page. It should be noted that here I am referring to school specific scholarships and not outside or private scholarships that can be used for any school. Some scholarships are automatically given based on test scores or GPA while others are competitive. If your student is in the top 25% of students based on these measures, they are more likely to win a competitive scholarship.


Calculate your bottom line


Your estimated net price minus the amount your family can pay out of pocket equals the amount that you’d have to borrow to go to a specific school. Read more about the specifics of calculating this number here.