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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. According to a research report from Sallie Mae, 48% of students used need-based grants to pay for college. This means that the actual cost of college for these students is lower than the sticker price.
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
Jump ahead to:
- What is the Net Price Calculator?
- Where can I find the Net Price Calculator?
- How do I use the NPC?
- How accurate is the Net Price-Calculator?
- Net Price Calculator & Merit Scholarships
- Net Price Calculators by College
- Key next steps for students
What is the Net Price Calculator?
The NPC is an online tool that calculates the “net price” or cost after taking into account need-based financial aid of a particular college.
As a math equation, this is what it looks like:
Each college in 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 taking into account need-based financial aid (and in some cases, merit scholarships).
Also see: How many colleges should I apply to?
Where can I find the Net Price Calculator?
Each college actually has their own calculator! We compiled a list of Net Price Calculators 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.
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.
How accurate is the Net Price Calculator?
The Net Price Calculator is not an official financial award letter and some calculators are more accurate them 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 be considered 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:
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 receiver 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.
Note that only some colleges will allow students to estimate merit scholarships, 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:
- Arizona State University
- Brown University
- University of California at Berkeley
- University of California at Los Angeles
- Carnegie Mellon University
- University of Chicago
- Columbia University
- University of Connecticut
- Cornell University
- Dartmouth College
- Duke University
- Emory University
- Harvard University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- New York University (NYU)
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- University of Pennsylvania
- Princeton University
- Purdue University
- Rice University
- Rutgers University
- University of Southern California
- Stanford University
- Tufts University
- Tulane University
- Vanderbilt University
- University of Virginia
- Wake Forest University
- Yale University
Key next steps for students
- Complete the Net Price Calculator for every college on your list before you apply to that college!
- Submit the FAFSA and CSS Profile by the required deadlines.
- Remember to fund your college education through a wide variety of scholarships!
- If you are applying for any merit-based scholarships, you may have to submit additional materials.