Mary Kolbenschlag
February 26, 2020

Part 2: Determining Your College Financial Fitness

Resources for Calculating Financial Fitness

Every school on your student's list should be vetted out so you know it's financial fitness for your family.  A financially fit institution can be assessed by utilizing the federally mandated Cost of Attendance (COA) and Net Price Calculator (NPC) posted on the website of each of the colleges of interest. All university’s’ COA sites clearly list the cost of tuition, books & supplies, and room & 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.

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 admission 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/test scores it takes to qualify. If their website does not show anything, we recommend a phone call to the financial aid department for clarification.

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 which colleges are deemed a good financial fit.

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Discover Pathwaze offers several programs aimed at career discovery, guidance through the college application process (including essays), and individualized help with creating your student's “Best Fit and Financial Fit” college list. See our website at for more details.

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