For many students and families the college acceptance letters have arrived. Some hang in the kitchen and others are locked under a pillow. But, one critical part of the equation is needed, the Financial Aid Award Letter. There coming!!

Financial Aid Award Letters outlining institutional, federal and state need based aid will be arriving over the coming weeks. This is part two of equation. With the arrival of the Award Letter students and parents are closer to understanding how much it will cost to attend the school of my choice. How affordable will my final choices be?

To assist with making sense of the numbers I created a very simple tool, the Magical Formula Worksheet. Using the Worksheet  students and parents can map out the cost associated with attending a specific college and most importantly why the Net Tuition Cost will be. The simple formula is Cost minus Aid = Unmet Need, the Net Tuition Costs.

By mapping the numbers for each institution, applied and accepted,  one can visualize the difference in the actual cost of education, the impact of scholarships and need based aid and what the Net Tuition Costs will need to mustered for a student to attend. The Worksheet shows where tuition assistance will come from, how much will be from the college, from federal financial aid and even resources like external scholarships. It shows how the Net Tuition Cost can vary from one college to another and why. Does College A offer more in “merit aid” than College B.  However, will College B offer more in “need based aid” and actually make it more affordable for a student.

Using the Magical Formula Worksheet to visualize the breakdown of cost minus aid = net tuition cost is a critical component to the process of analyzing choice. What college choice will be best? Academic and personal development is must! Affordability, for sure! A decision that lies with each student and family.