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Using the Net Price Calculator

By Will Geiger

Will Geiger is the co-founder of Scholarships360 and has a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. He is a former Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Kenyon College where he personally reviewed 10,000 admissions applications and essays. Will also managed the Kenyon College merit scholarship program and served on the financial aid appeals committee. He has also worked as an Associate Director of College Counseling at a high school in New Haven, Connecticut. Will earned his master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania and received his undergraduate degree in history from Wake Forest University.

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Reviewed by Annie Trout

Annie has spent the past 18+ years educating students about college admissions opportunities and coaching them through building a financial aid package. She has worked in college access and college admissions for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission/Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation, Middle Tennessee State University, and Austin Peay State University.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: February 1st, 2024
Using the Net Price Calculator

Paying for higher education, unlike many other purchases, is odd because the sticker price means very little. Most students and families are not paying the full cost-of-attendance. The big problem for students and families is that colleges do not send official financial aid award letters until after a student is accepted. If you are a student who wants to maximize your financial aid options, this is not ideal. Luckily, there is a tool called the Net Price Calculator that can help you predict need-based financial aid and in some cases, merit scholarships!

Don’t miss: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

What is the Net Price Calculator?

The Net Price Calculator, or NPC as it is commonly called, is an online tool that calculates the “net price” or cost after considering need-based financial aid of a particular college.

As a math equation, this is what it looks like:

Net Price

Each college in the United States has an individual calculator that allows students and parents to enter personal financial information (income, size of household, etc.) and calculate an estimate of need-based financial aid.

This will show you the real cost of attendance after considering need-based financial aid (and in some cases, merit scholarships). 

Where can I find the Net Price Calculator?

Each college actually has their own calculator! We compiled a list of Net Price Calculators from many colleges and universities that you can find at the bottom of the post. However, you can also find them on the financial aid section of the college website.

Related: How to read a financial aid award letter

How do I use the NPC?

To get started with the Net Price Calculator, students will need access to basic financial information about their family. It can be useful to go through the NPC with a parent or guardian.

The NPC will take between 20 and 30 minutes to complete (some of them are more extensive than others). We recommend that students and parents sit down to fill out the NPC together. It can also be very helpful to have recent tax information available.

Also see: How many colleges should I apply to?

How accurate is the Net Price Calculator?

The Net Price Calculator is not an official financial award letter or application for financial aid. Keep in mind that some calculators are more accurate than others. That’s why there can be some variation between the NPC and your actual financial aid award letter (especially if any financial circumstances change). However, the calculators should be accurate within a few thousand dollars.

Students will need to submit their FAFSA, CSS Profile, and other required financial aid materials to apply for financial aid. Merit scholarship, which we will talk about next, may also require additional applications or essays.

Don’t miss: How to write a financial aid appeal letter

Net Price Calculator & merit scholarships

When it was first created, the NPC was designed to focus on need-based financial aid. However, since then, some colleges have added additional sections to help estimate merit scholarships for students.

Here is one example from Ohio Wesleyan University:

college net price calculator

You can see that Ohio Wesleyan asks questions about a student’s GPA and testing. This will help the admissions office determine whether a student may qualify for specific merit scholarships.

As with the need-based financial aid, this is just an estimate and students will need to apply and receive their financial aid award letter to officially receive their merit scholarship.

Nonetheless, this is a useful way for students to see what type of merit scholarship award that they might expect to receive.

Not all colleges include merit aid, so don’t be surprised if you don’t see that option on a specific college’s net price calculator.

Net Price Calculators by college

One misconception about the Net Price Calculator is that it is a single calculator. Instead, every college or university has their own calculator. 

While there may be other more general tools to estimate financial aid at a particular college or university, the college-specific Net Price Calculator is the most accurate resource for students and parents. 

Below you will find the Net Price Calculators by college or university:

Next Steps

Next Steps

  • Complete the Net Price Calculator for every college on your list before you apply to that college
  • Make sure you submit the FAFSA and CSS Profile by the required deadlines
  • Remember to fund your college education through a wide variety of scholarships! Next Steps

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • The net price calculator helps you predict the real cost of attending a college based on the amount of financial aid you will receive from the college. 
  • Each college has its own net price calculator usually located on their own website. 
  • The net price calculator is fairly accurate but some NPCs are better than others. 
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about using the net price calculator 

Does net price include student loans?

No, net price does not factor in loans. Rather, net price is the college’s cost of attendance minus financial aid scholarships or gifts students receive.

What is the difference between “sticker price” and “net price” for college?

Sticker price is the amount a college is charging students for tuition and fees. Net price is the college’s sticker price minus the grants, scholarships and education tax benefits a student may receive.

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