How do I know whether or not I can afford a school?
The college or university you should apply to is: any one you want! There is absolutely no reason to make cost a primary consideration in choosing where to receive your degree!
What you need to focus on is cost of attendance rather than the tuition and room and board charges.
The cost to attend is not the amount of the tuition, room and board and textbooks; the cost is what you will pay out of your pocket. This is how it works.
First, you need to file your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). When you receive a reply, you’ll be given a number that represents your EFC or Estimated Family Contribution.
This figure is what you are expected to pay toward the cost of your higher education. If your EFC is $15,000.00, and the tuition at your local college is $20,000.00, the college’s student aid program could cover about $5,000.00 of the cost.
If you attend a prominent technical school that charges $40,000.00, your EFC doesn’t change! You are still expected to pay $15,000.00, but now the student aid might pick up $25,000.00. There is no incentive to go cheap on the choice of your college! Set your sights as high as you want!
If you get admitted to a prestigious institution that costs $75,000.00, your EFC stays the same. Your student aid would potentially cover $60,000.00.
Now, there is a caveat to these examples. Each scenario assumes that the college or university aid program will meet 100% of your financial need according to the FAFSA calculation. Most state run schools do not pay the full 100%, and whatever they don’t pay becomes your responsibility. That means that you may have to find other funding, such as taking out additional student loans.
Keep in mind that private colleges and universities are not in the same position as public institutions. Many private universities won’t require you to pay any percentage of the cost that exceeds your EFC. That means that you can get a more expensive education at a prestigious school for less than you would pay to attend your local college.
So, it’s crucial to look at the net cost of attendance after financial aid rather than at the initial cost of attendance of the college or university. That will give you a more realistic picture of whether or not you can afford to go to the college your looking at.
I learned all of this information through personal experience consulting with high-achieving college-bound students and their families. Many students can get a less expensive education from the most exclusive and expensive institutions in the United States than they could at a state school. It’s all because of how student aid works.