Now it is important to utilize two important resources to vet your student’s “Best Fit” college list for “Financial Fit”. As a reminder, universities are deemed “Best Fit” due to offering a location, major, activities and many preferences that match what the student is looking for in a college experience. Every school on this list should be vetted for “Financial Fit”!

“Financial Fit” can be easily assessed by utilizing the federally mandated Cost of Attendance (COA) and the Net Price Calculator (NPC) posted on the website of each of the colleges of interest.

The COA clearly lists the cost of tuition, books, supplies, and board.

After reviewing the COA, go the colleges NPC site and fill out this document completely. The NPC varies from school to school, but most ask families about their adjusted gross income, number of students in college, amount of family members and sometimes GPA/Test Scores to establish potential merit aid. The information requested is used to give an idea of what your particular student will pay to attend that institution.  (Just a quick disclaimer, some school’s NPC are more detailed and accurate than others. NPC is designed to provide a general idea of what the cost of that school would be to your family; however, is not an offer of financial aid.)

Now that you are able to assess whether or not you will receive financial aid and how much a school will cost your family, let’s discuss merit scholarships.

Merit scholarships are based on a student’s academic performance. When a student applies to a university they are generally put directly into the merit scholarship pool. If a student is accepted, merit scholarships and the admissions offer are usually presented at the same time. In addition to the NPC, a family can go onto the financial aid page to review if the university offers any merit scholarships and what GPA and test scores it takes to qualify. If their website does not show anything, we recommend a phone call to the financial aid department to clarify.

Since colleges change their merit aid offers year to year, there is no magic way to search this information with any confidence. If your family uses the FAFSA4Caster and vets the colleges on your student’s “Best Fit List” using the Cost of Attendance (COA), Net Price Calculator (NPC) and the school’s Financial Aid website tools you will be well on your way to understanding what colleges are deemed a “Financial Fit”.