According to the College Board, the average cost of college tuition and fees in 2012 ranged from $8,655 a year for in-state students attending a public, four-year college, to $29,056 a year for students attending a private, nonprofit four-year institution. Yet, a September 2012 survey showed that a school’s cost was the student’s fifth most important consideration when deciding where to attend college. Students also indicated a need for support from a variety of funding sources; more than half of students surveyed borrow from the federal government or a private lender to cover their costs.
These statistics show that a school’s price tag is actually a very important factor when choosing a college. Accordingly, when comparing college costs, one of a student’s first steps should be filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Financial Aid). Then, in late March and early April, students and their families begin receiving financial aid award letters from the colleges they’ve applied to. These letters provide the details related to the estimated cost to attend the school, the expected family contribution, and your financial aid award package that includes grants, scholarships, work-study, need-based and non-need-based loans.