College Costs and Your College List

Resources to help you pay for college.

Building a strong college list is an important part of ensuring that you have several options to choose from when making your college decision. There are many factors to consider, including academics, campus life, and college affordability. In this article we focus on how to build a college list while keeping costs in mind.

Know the different types of degrees

When creating a college list, you should think about what kind of degree you want. Your degree isn’t the same as your major, but it might help give you a better idea of what types of colleges to add to your college list.

Bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, and technical degrees are some of the different kinds of degrees you might consider. In general, associate and technical degrees tend to cost less than bachelor’s degrees, due to the time it takes to earn them. Keeping a mix of colleges that offer these different types of degrees on your list can create room for financial flexibility. For students who want to pursue a four-year degree while also reducing costs, you can choose to transfer to a four-year institution after starting at a community college.

Diversify your college list

Diversifying your college list means including a variety of colleges that interest you, offer your intended major, and have different costs.

Getting colleges with different costs on your list can be as simple as adding both public and private colleges. Public colleges tend to cost less than private ones, so including a few of each on your list gives you more options when making your final college decision.

Use net price calculators

Calculating the cost is another crucial factor to consider when applying to college. A net price calculator can help you see how much it might cost to attend a particular college before applying. The net price calculator provides a more individualized estimate of how much financial aid you might be eligible for. Every college and university must provide a net price calculator to students. Just check out the financial aid section of the college’s website, or search for the net price calculator on the college’s homepage.

Net price calculators often require you to enter personal and financial information to better understand your financial situation. This information will help provide you with the most accurate information on financial aid that you could receive from a particular college. It’s also important to remember that these calculators may not include indirect expenses, such as transportation and educational supplies, so be sure to factor these into your cost as well.

Using a net price calculator for each college you’re considering will help you understand how financial aid might impact your costs. Net price calculators are just estimates, but an estimate can provide important context for how financial aid can differ between colleges. Knowing this information can help you build a diverse college list that factors in college affordability.

Think beyond the cost

When considering colleges to add to your list, it’s important to consider other factors that may help you succeed. You should ensure the college you choose to attend is worth the time and money you'll be investing.

Colleges often report certain statistics that provide insight into how successful students are at that particular college. You can find some of this information, such as retention rate and graduation rate on BigFuture college profiles. Colleges also may have additional information available on their website such as percentage of students employed post-graduation, and even average income for students who have attended. Checking for these factors at each college can help you feel confident about the colleges you add to your list.

Next steps

Now that you have some tips to help create a college list while considering college affordability, you can begin your search! Remember that college affordability is just one thing to consider when choosing which colleges to apply to. You’ll also want to consider other factors, such as your academic and social fit, to build a college list with the options you need to pursue your college and career goals.