How to Use a Net Price Calculator 

White calculator over a paper.

Flickr user Friedemann W.-W.

Figuring out the actual cost of attending any particular college can be tricky. More often than not, students do not pay the published tuition fee amount or the ‘sticker price’. The actual amount they end up paying could be a little or a lot lower, depending on the scholarships and grants that they have been awarded by the school or government. This means the total cost of attending any one college could differ significantly from one student to another depending on how much financial assistance they have received.

To make it easier for you to determine the actual amount you have to pay, all colleges are required to have a Net Price Calculator on their site.

A Net Price Calculator—or NPC—is an online calculator that allows you to determine how much the college might really cost you (personally), after submitting the requested financial information.

Here’s How A Net Price Calculator Works 

A net price calculator is a special type of software that is set up to ask you questions about your family’s finances. They may also ask you questions related to your GPA and test scores, which may qualify you for financial aid. The software than processes all of the information entered to estimate how much money the college is likely to award you by way of scholarships and grants. It subtracts this figure from the full cost of attendance to give you an estimate of how much it will cost you to attend that college.

Net prices are better looks at what college will cost you. The sticker price can be large and intimidating, and actually scares people away from applying to “more expensive” schools. But the net price can reveal the true affordability of a higher education.


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Important Tips To Keep In Mind When Using NPCs

Tip #1: In order to get the best results, you must read each question carefully and answer as accurately as possible. The NPC calculates the estimated price using only the numbers that you feed into it. The more accurate your numbers, the closer the estimate will be to the amount you will need to pay to attend that college. Inaccurate numbers on the other hand can give you a false estimate and throw you completely off track.

Tip #2: You must keep in mind that the cost that the NPC provides is only an estimate. While this will give you a pretty good idea of how much you will have to pay, that figure may sometimes be higher or lower than the actual price you will have to pay to attend that particular college.

Should You Use A Net Price Calculator On A College Website?

Always! The NPC on a college website may not give you the exact amount that you will have to pay down to the last cent, but it does give you a pretty good estimate. Knowing this estimate will give you a more realistic view of whether or not you can afford the tuition fees of that particular college so accordingly you can refine your college shortlist further based on total cost of attendance and whether or not you can afford it.

Another unexpected benefit of using net price calculators is that you may find that a college that has a high published price offers its students a substantial amount of financial aid. When you feed your numbers into that college’s NPC, you may find that you have to pay much less than the published prices, making the college affordable to you.

College Raptor Makes College Cost Estimates Easy

College Raptor was founded on the idea of college transparency and bringing hope to people by showing them their net price estimates. College Raptor acts as one giant NPC, showing you your personal cost estimates to every college in the US. Instead of going to each college’s website on your list and entering your financial info every single time, you enter your info ONCE on College Raptor and can see what sort of financial aid each college might award you. Simple, easy, helpful, and most importantly: secure.

Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!


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