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Predicting the cost of colleges can be tricky. When you’re making your college list and starting applications, you may be counting on financial aid or you may have only considered the sticker price. The problem is, sometimes students will fall in love with a school that doesn’t give enough aid to make it affordable. And other times, families won’t even consider schools that may give generous grants to lower the price. By utilizing college’s net price calculators, you can make informed decisions when choosing schools to apply to.

What is a Net Price Calculator?

The net price is the number you pay to go to college after subtracting scholarships and grants that you receive from the school. (Keep in mind, this amount is only for one academic year). Colleges are required by law to provide net price calculators on their websites.

Flaws with Net Price Calculators

Net price calculators vary from one school to another. Some may use updated financial information and others may use data from previous years. Some may ask specific questions to give you a more exact estimate and others may give an overall general evaluation. Because of these different distinctions, it can be really difficult to compare these prices. It may also be challenging to locate the net price calculators on college’s websites. If you experience trouble, try clicking on the admissions section or financial aid pages. These net prices are also typically intended for full-time incoming freshman, not necessarily transfer students or part-time students.

Net price calculators can be a great way to open up a dialogue about financial aid and affordability with your family. Though it has its imperfections, the net price calculator can be a useful tool in getting a sense of the price you’ll pay for your first year of college. Who knows, you may discover schools that you might not have otherwise considered!