How to Use Net Price Calculators and What To Do If You Can’t Afford It

I’ve shown you how to narrow your school list, what to consider in choosing colleges based on money, and how to prepare for college. My goal is to help you maximize your opportunity and target your efforts strategically.

How to Use Net Price Calculators and What To Do If You Can’t Afford It

Now that you have a shorter list of colleges to work with, I’m going to show you how to use the Net Price Calculators (NPC) on the colleges’ website. 

First, you need to gather financial information in advance of using these calculators. The more info you input into the NPC, the more accurate your tuition price quote will be.

Then, you can take this information back to your family to confirm their ability to help you pay for your cost of attendance, and what it might cost you personally in terms of loans after college. 

 To use these (and other) Net Price Calculators, gather the following information in advance:

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)
Income losses
Untaxed income & benefits
Child support paid
U.S. income tax
Parent 1 wages
Parent 2 wages
Cash, savings, and checking accounts
Home value
Home total mortgage
Investments: (stocks, money market funds, etc. Net worth.)
Other Real Estate value
Other Real Estate debt
Business/Farm value
Business/Farm debt
Parental assets in siblings' names
Cash, savings, and checking accounts
Home equity, other Real Estate/Business Farm equity
Investment equity
Trust value

If you’ve gathered your information, give it a try -- here are a couple of example Net Price Calculators:

Occidental College

Stanford University

Remember that you’ll want to input your information into the FAFSA (and eventually the CSS profile at some colleges) as close to October 15 as possible to have your best shot at getting funded by the colleges themselves.

Did you find that you didn’t get enough estimated money from your colleges? Next week, I’ll show you how to find scholarships so that you can make up some of the difference.

Dr. Aviva Legatt

You can contact me by email or Follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I blog at and at Forbes.

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